Jive Junction picked a winner with a great band in a great venue.
A sell-out crowd packed into The Liberty Ballrooms near Newbury in Berkshire on Saturday 5 February 2000 for Jive Junction's night with The Extraordinaires. Although well off the beaten track, the event, the band and the venue attracted swing and jive dancers from the North, West Country and the South Coast - and even a few from London. Apart from the band, the evening featured cabaret spots from Graeme Puckett and Ann Peskett, Lindy Hop teachers from Bath, and Graham and Diane, jive dancers who had flown down from Scotland that day.
The experience began as soon as you entered the building. Organiser Rob McKim and his wife Sophie ensured everyone got a warm, friendly greeting at the door, and the custom shoe stall offered a great shopping opportunity. Rob believes in an open information policy, and leaflets for all kinds of upcoming events were neatly laid out for all to see. The Ballroom itself is divided up into a carpeted area with tables and chairs for the drinkers and chatters, and a wonderful wooden dance floor. Around the walls are pictures of aeroplanes, flags, and other images from the 40's.
DJ Andy Kale had no trouble getting leather on the wood from the start, with a good mix of 40's swing and more contemporary tunes for the jivers. Across the floor, Lindy Hop, modern jive and Cerocä mixed together quite happily.
And then came the band. For many, it was the first time they had seen The Extraordinaires, and Mark, Gabriel and Roy made sure they had a night to remember. A unique trio on the scene, the combination of doo-wop harmony, danceable tunes and show-stopping footwork means the boys really are a once-seen-never-forgotten bunch of entertainers. Their two sets featured many favourites like Don't That Prove I Love You, Who Stole The Chickens, Fools Fall In Love and Think. Their dancing was as spectacular as ever, especially when Gabriel stunned seated onlookers by launching himself at the wall and bouncing back into a split.
Between sets, the two cabaret spots kept the crowd well entertained. Graeme and Ann performed two numbers, the first a swing jazz routine with a chunk of The Shim Sham in the middle, and the second a more traditional Lindy Hop number with some crowd-pleasing aerials. Graham and Diane then showed off the jive style that won second place at last year's Modern Jive Open, with some slinky hip-swivelling as they travelled the length and breadth of the dance floor.
Another set of Berry Brothers-style dance moves announced the return of The XTs for a set even better than the first. It was Mark's turn to shine this time, with some acrobatic flips into splits. Then it was back onto the stage to join the band for some harmony vocal action. An unexpected bonus came when Gabriel announced the presence of one of the original Extraordinaires. In the audience was Lewis Swinley, one of the five founder members from nearly 10 years ago. Gabriel credited Lewis with getting the band started, and he joined them on stage for a wonderful acappella song, Do What Lovers Do. The crowd brought them back for more and were rewarded with The Pony, The Twist and Sixty Minute Man. "It's over, go home" shouted Rob at the end. "You go home, we're staying!" replied the crowd.
Jive Junction will be promoting an evening at The Liberty Ballrooms every other month, and have already booked Sugar Ray's Flying Fortress for their April No Fools Ball on Saturday 1 April. The intervening months have been taken by Complete Works Entertainment, who present the big band swing of The Antonians on Saturday 4 March. The hard work of Rob McKim and his team has now been well-rewarded with two sell-out nights at the venue following last year's King Pleasure gig, so the lesson is book early if you want to make the next one.
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