Le Bobards

Last week Swingconnexion started up a live music venue on Tuesday nights at a bar called Le Bobards. Now, I am all for live music, whether it is a general concert or a bar for dancing. However, I am not for live music that plays what it is advertised as playing poorly. Especially when it comes to dancing in our genre I am much more interested in dancing to a good DJ than even a mediocre band. The subtlety of a swinging rhythm section and soloist are important for such an intrinsically rhythmic dance; especially when the music gets up-tempo and requires a good chunky rhythm section which drives without feeling rushed.

Having heard good things about the band I went out to Le Bobards. I got there near the end of a set. Walking in you had to almost wade through the humidity. With the band jamming out loudly to my left I ventured to the bar and set my stuff down, ordered a drink and started changing my shoes. I didn’t really catch much of that first song, but once my drink turned up and my shoes were on I turned towards the band. They were all relatively young musicians, perhaps university students: a drummer, pianist, trumpet player, vocalist, bassist on an electric, guitarist and a saxophonist. They played off of charts, apparently directly transcribed from some recordings they were given.

I’ll start with their selling points. They were relatively new to swing jazz, doing a half-way decent job of playing the charts they had, and kept the energy high. On slower tunes they could sink into a sort of lazy groove, not necessarily swinging but definitely in a smooth lounge singer sort of way. Unfortunately, on anything even mid-tempo the bassist didn’t lay back and walk and the drummer banged it out straight without a good ride that shuffled between the beats; as the tempo went higher it squared even more. Now, this may not be the end of the world, but to dance to a fast tune that is straight time is a great deal more difficult without the swinging triple. It is hard in a figurative sense, without the looseness that can characterize a solidly swinging rhythm section.

A few words on the shading of the music. They had energy, I could tell the minute I walked in the door that they were energized to be playing for dancers, and the dancers responded yelling and giving energy back. However, the music didn’t contain the shading, the breathe in to the breathe out, the build to a repose; all of these when done well provide a dancer, even to a fast tempo, moments to lay back and relax. The music needs to contain dynamics to contrast the highs energy with the low and the loud with the soft. So, to add to the difficulty of the straight time, the consistently high energy made it difficult to vary the shading of the dancing itself, always on.

Lastly, the vocalist. It felt, unfortunately, that the vocalist belted out the words to most of the songs not in song, like a musical instrument (eg. Billie Holiday), but like a rapper. That space in between song and speech definitely has its place in jazz (eg. Slim & Slam) but for tunes like Sunny Side of the Street the nature of the lyrics should possess the rise and fall, punch and hesitation of a horn or other melodic instrument. Hopefully in time these fresh musicians will mature into the music and the genre, but for now it felt as if a bit of the neo-swing craziness returned with a twist.

My last note will be on the physical space itself. For most bars, we must admit to having limited space to dance, the potential for alcohol and the prevalence for slightly too-loud music. As a dancer, however, it is a must to have at least a decent floor. That means wood or something approaching the same sort of surface, with a bit of give and slip. Their floor, some sort of laminate flooring over concrete, probably designed to reduce people slipping spilled drinks. I danced perhaps six songs and left with a sore knee and tired feet. Lindy hoppers rarely take care of their body in the same way as professional dancers (stretching, warming up, cool down, etc.) and when you add in a poor floor muddled with high humidity it’s a recipe for injury.

I’ll dig out my Aris Allen’s out for the next time I drag myself to Le Bobards, but until the musicians grow into the genre, I’ll stay home and save my knees the pain.

Published in: on September 13, 2007 at 12:06 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] $5 cover. Of the two dances on Tuesday, this one is more appropriate for Lindy Hop. You can read a review on Carl’s […]

  2. Interesting post on the challenges of dancing with a band. It is so important that a band understand the style of dance they are playing for. It helps if they are dancers themselves. As you mentioned, stuff like phrasing is really important.

    One of my biggest gripes as a salsa dancer is that when you have a live band, they often get into a jam session that will drag a song out to ten minutes or so. This is awesome if you’re just standing there listening and freestyling on your own, or if you have limitless energy and are dancing with your favorite partner, but if you’re stuck with a dud partner it can be hell on earth.

  3. About Les bobards: I accept what you wrote..anyway it’s your blog and you can say what you want. Just a litle bit sad that you didn’t told me after that night. This is a new band, a new Swingin Night and we’re working as hard as possible to make it nice for Lindy Hop. Sorry to read that you didn’t enjoy it. Hope next time your experience will be better and if not… please tell me!
    Patrick Evans, Swing Connexion

  4. For the record all the other dancers I spoke to thoroughly enjoyed the band! And they were not just new dancers but people from the team as well. That goes to show that beauty is the eye (and ear) of the beholder. They’ll soon have videos up, so everyone can have their own opinion about it!

    For myself, my biggest rant about the Bobards is the dance floor, but with Aris Allen or slippery shoes, it’s less of an issue.

  5. I also spoke to a number of dancers about the night and they had similar feedback to me, although they attributed it to the musicians being very new to the style of the music. Which I mentioned in my review. I think a majority of people are just under the wow factor of a new night with a band.

    We also have less than spectacular live music in Montreal, so in comparison, the standards are not exceptionally high.

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