it don’t mean a thing

Last night Erin Rhode and I went to Ashkenaz for an evening with Lavay Smith and her Red Hot Skillet Lickers, an East Coast Swing/Lindyhop show. Ashkenaz is an odd venue in Berkeley — all sorts of world music, hip-hop, cajun, swing, klezmer, you name it and they play it, as long as it’s not rock-n-roll. The inside resembles a barn more than anything else, exposed rafters and everything. It’s not that big, but there was still quite a bit of room for dancing.

Erin managed to teach me the rudiments of a rock step and a few turns after dinner at home, but I was totally intimdated by the swing-savvy in evidence on the floor. She convinced me to dance one number before I (a) re-twisted my ankle badly and (b) stepped on some woman who looked like my 6th grade teacher and who proceeded to glare at me in a way that suggested detention was in order. I nearly fled the place but ended up driving around the block until my embarrassment faded. We spend the rest of the night standing or sitting and watching the other dancers (lame, I know).

Lavay Smith ended up annoying me more than entertaining me. She was very lackadaisical in her singing, preferring instead to do a few vocal nods in the direction of growling and wailing, and otherwise tossing off lyrics like she was too good for the place. What drew the line for me though was that she started the second set visibly intoxicated. Erin picked up on the slight slurring first, but once it was pointed out to me I could tell some of the band members weren’t sure how to proceed with the show while she waved at various people in the crowd.

All that aside though, I had a good time. Even if she was not so hot, the Skillet Lickers were hot enough to compensate. I was particularly impressed with the alto sax player. And they played Blue Skies, which is one of my favorite tunes. I’m still looking for the Brent Spiner version from that otherwise atrocious Star Trek movie — if anyone has a tip on that, let me know.