Swing Shift

The lounge set discovers the lindy hop

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Now that martinis are almost as common as Chardonnay, what's a hipster to do to stay ahead of the Cocktail Nation curve? Stash those tiki torches and the bubbly Esquivel lounge music and set your sights back a couple of generations, when grandpa and grandma really knew how to swing.

That' s right, after years of being relegated to the record collections of octogenerians, the classic swing jazz of the ' 30s and ' 40s is back. According to the trend watchers at Iconoculture (May/June 1997), classes in 'Argentine tango, Latin, and the various permutations of swing are jumping. Aviation dances??especially the Lindy Hop??are particularly hot, more popular now than when Lucky Lindy made the big hop across the Atlantic in 1927.'

Leading this rediscovery are bands like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, a North Carolina group that the The Gut (Spring 1997) describes as 'Louis Armstrong teaming up with Cab Calloway to play Jelly Roll Morton tunes at 78 rpm. Decked out in tuxedos and evening dresses, the Zippers whip audiences into a frenzy of acrobatic swinging and spontaneous conga lines.' With sales of half a million albums and a place on the HORDE tour, the Zippers are bringing swing (as well as their eclectic brand of rock) to a whole new generation.

So what's the appeal of this burgeoning new fogeyism? Gabrielle Turner, a Bay Area hipster who' s not even old enough to order a cosmopolitan, writes in Pacific News Service (May 12, 1997) that the latest incarnation of the Cocktail Nation 'isn't about partying as hard as possible. It' s about leisure and relaxation. Swing is about movement and releasing energy??but not so much that your makeup gets smeared.' Maybe it's also about injecting a dose of decorum into a sexually anxious era. According to Turner, part of the appeal of swing is that it embodies 'an almost forgotten era where gender roles were more clearly defined... I want to chill in a place where the men come on to the ladies in an old-fashioned way.'