I have lived in Leeds now for about 6 and a half years, and in that time I have seen and done some very cool and wonderful things. I have had access to lovely venues (like Templeworks, Aspire and Loft), seen the coolest of bars after hours in lock-ins, and been to so many amazing, querky and enjoyable gigs I couldn’t begin to count them.
But every so often, I go to something or somewhere that makes me feel like I’m part of something really special – like I’m incredibly lucky to be in attendance at this Happening when the majority of Leeds doesn’t even know about it.
Like in my first year at LCM when I witnessed a crazy ‘free jazz’ gig in the upstairs room at The Adelphi (before it was beautifully done out and was still a down-and-out “old man pub”) having never heard or seen music like it before, or in my 2nd year when I got a ticket to watch a flaring contest in Zed Bar in Chapel Allerton and was mesmerised by all the spinning bottles and shaking boston tins. Ooo, or that time I went to the Beatboxing championships downstairs at The Wardrobe (weirdest Valentines evening ever..!) and heard things I didn’t know one single human voice was capable of!
This overwhelming feeling of gratitude and joy was most acute at one of the first James Hamilton Jazz Orchestra gigs in Seven Arts. James is an extremely talented composer and arranger (and band leader and trumpeter!) and I happen to be friends with him and the vast majority of his band – lucky me! Anyway, during this gig I found myself looking around at the audience, beaming. I literally couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Here we were, in a lovely little venue in Chapel Allerton, listening to some of the most beautiful original music I had heard, that so many people were missing out on! People literally minutes away had no idea of the amazing things that were going on in that room – but I did!
It’s not an arrogant “I know cooler things in Leeds than you do” feeling – it’s a “How lucky am I?!” feeling. I know there are hundreds of hundreds of things happening in Leeds all the time that I’m not privy to – but that makes it all the more special to have found one. Which in turn makes the possibility to find more even more exciting!
Which brings us to this weekend.
I realise I have banged on about Lindy Hop for weeks now, and yes – maybe it’s not your thing and you’re getting rather tired of my enthusing. But the scene is so brilliant and thriving that, once you’re aware of it happening, you can’t believe you never knew about it before!
Lindy Fridays is turning 5 next month, and I’ve only known about it 3 months! I can’t believe I’ve been in Leeds longer than it, sometimes even right next door to it, and our paths never crossed ’til Christmas.
As the lovely, supportive and talented folk who run and attend that class have been coming along to my Lounge (and other) gigs, I managed to find myself with a coveted ticket for ‘Future Sounds of Swing 2011′, in exchange for a singing a song or two with the band.
I’m not really sure what I expected to be honest, having only attended 10-or-so Lindy Classes, and no socials. The ‘real’ attendees would be at workshops and classes all Saturday (having partied on the Friday evening) then have a couple of hours to prepare for the big Saturday night party. Then they’d go back to more classes on the Sunday.
I guessed there’d be lots of guys in waistcoats, hats and braces (I was not disappointed) and many beautiful outfits from the ladies too (again, not let down there either!) There’d obviously be the band, and DJs to fill the gaps. And lots of dancing.
I believe that there were about 170 dancers in attendance. And they all danced. Amazingly well. It wasn’t like those old school discos where people sat and stared at an empty dance floor. People jumped and span and swung and triple-stepped all night (and I mean ALL night) until they could barely speak, and their feet hurt. And then they danced some more.
The support I got during (and after) my few songs was incredible. Whoops and applause from all my new-found friends (and even a hug mid-set!) settled my nerves and made me feel welcomed, even as a relatively new face.
There was a cabaret, which contained some hilarious acts – including ‘Aunt Flo’ and her walking-stick routine and a group of Charleston dancers dressed as ‘Lauren Cooper/Katherine Tate’-alikes, who cleverly combined the two eras of movement into one brilliantly funny dance.
I sat and watched the dancing in awe: the creativity of the leaders, the poise and energy of the follows. I dared to join in a couple of times (with some truly lovely gentlemen asking me to dance, as I still haven’t found the courage) and didn’t want to stop..
Then something amazing happened. More amazing than what was already going on, I mean.
Just as the band were taking their gear across the dance floor and out the door, everyone started clapping (on the 2 and 4 – a marvel in itself! 😉 ) and gathering in the middle of the hall. Then what followed was what I can best describe as a ‘Lindy Line Dance’, though Rob informs me it was the ‘Shim-Sham’. Everyone just knew what steps to do – for a non-dancer like me, it was incredible to watch.
A little later, some more clapping indicated something else amazing was about to happen. This time, a circle formed and couples took it in turn to dance a few spectacular bars in the centre before making way for the next 2 dancers. (I think this was called a ‘Jam’.. I guess, thinking about it in comparison to a musician’s ‘Jam,’ it makes sense.) It was a joy to watch and marvel at!
I know it probably all seemed pretty normal to the seasoned dancers in that room, but to me it was an alien situation. A wonderful one, and one I couldn’t tear my eyes away from.
I caught myself a little later just staring at the couples on the floor and smiling to myself – soaked in that feeling of luckiness that I had been witness to this event, and overwhelmed because of it. (I was then caught doing this, thus adding to the belief held by some Leeds Lindy folk that I’m constantly smiling!)
I guess a little in the spirit of the #HomeTourist, I hope that those people partaking realise how lucky they are to be involved in such a great event – though I’m sure they do – and the organisers in particular know how impressive and incredible a feat their event is – and consequently take a moment to beam about it 🙂 before carrying on to appreciate the other great things Leeds has to offer.
I certainly feel very lucky, and rather special, to have been invited to take part in it.
Oh, and there was a cake table too! – Could it have been any more perfect?!