Friday, July 27, 2007

Everybody loves swingin' with my baby


swingin' in a zoot suit
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
The storm was threatening, but I checked the calendar and last night was the only night I saw that I would be able to see the wonderful Swing-O-Matics this year, so I decided to risk it. Besides, the last time I went to Boerner Botanical Gardens, we were chased out by a ominous thunderstorm and I kicked myself for not having my camera with me to shoot it with the beautiful foregrounds the gardens provide. So I loaded up the car, and arrived in time for a short second set.

The "stage" at Boerner has finally moved to what looks like the permanent spot. It used to be in this northern clearing, and it moved to south of the main entry while construction on the new pavilion was taking place. That was weird those two years: the band would be at the top of this hill, with the audience drifting downward the slope. Now that the new pavilion is up and functioning, the concerts in the gardens stage is just northwest of it, underneath this curvy tent thing that looks cool, but apparently presents enough of a tripping risk that they have to chain off a 15-20 foot radius of the stage. Boo hiss. At first I couldn't figure out why -- it's not like they're featuring Christina Aguilera and they need to ensure secuirty. But the tent poles and reinforcement lines stick out way too far, and I'm sure some insurance company said, "Tripping Hazard! Rope it off!" And thus it ruins one of the things I loved about Boerner's Concerts in the Gardens (and the whole Milwaukee County Concerts in the Parks series in general) -- it widens the gap between performer and audience and shatters the intimate setting that makes it so special.

Nevertheless, the Swing O Matics were wonderful as usual. Lead singer James Victor, in striped pants (it was way too hot and humid for a full zoot suit) has a delicious tenor that pulls off the Sinatra as well as all the jump swing classics they make look so easy. Generation busting they are: one minute they're doing "There's Good Rockin' Tonight," the next they're doing "Fly Me to the Moon" and the rest of their setlist may have been lifted carefully from Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive. The population on the dance floor/grass bore this out: I saw folks in their 60s-70s and my generation, carefully two-stepping it on the grass, as well as gen x college kids, teenagers, and little boys and girls and toddlers swinging about.

Stella is at a point where she was happy to hang on the blanket; Sammy, my little ladies' man, wanted to dance. And on him, this was music where his kung-fu tai-chi angular moves fits. He wasn't one for cutting in, no, I was his dance partner all night. At one point, he was in my arms, where I could tango and fox trot with him (in that way a loving mom tangos with her almost-four-year-old) and he didn't even want to sit down for the slow songs. I serenaded him in my arms, singing along with Victor to Sammy on the chorus of "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" and suddenly Sammy got defensive. "I am NOT a baby!" he indignantly panted. "I'm a big boy!" No, buddy, I thought as I held him close, you will ALWAYS be My Baby. Even when you're a snotty adolescent embarassed to be seen hugging his mama, (even if she's wearing a Henry Rollins and X Tour shirt like I was last night to go see a swing band!). Even when you're a linebacker on your high school football team, getting your ass kicked by a would-be Deion Sanders. Even when you're on tour with some metal-hardcorepunk-skater-slam band. Even when you're 37 years old, out in your front yard, cutting the grass and wondering if your adjustable rate mortgage is going to shoot up. Sammy, Youse Is My Baby, and that's a fack, jack, a fact as timeless as the Swing-O-Matics and their music.

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