774’s Roaring Swing had all the potential for a glamorous night: amazing outfits, live bands and some thousand and a half eager attendees, determined to dance the night away.
Swing Patrol helped kick off the evening with an introductory lesson of dancing the Charleston, then the bands took over. While some people seemed to remember the moves, most of us quickly fell to improvising. The dance floor was busy all night, taking up half of the large Melbourne Town Hall lower level, as the bands played their sets in rotation. The other half of the hall was filled with empty seats serving as one huge cloakroom, strewn with bags and coats.
The delightful music makers of the night were Michael McQuaid and his Red Hot Rhythmakers, and Leigh Barker and the New Sheiks. From the Sheiks, vocalist and violinist Heather Stewart was a particular standout, her elegance and pizazz oozing off the stage into the smiling and swinging audience.
Yet there was something that kept dragging us out of the night, and as silly as it sounds, it was a simple as a very long, very cold queue for the bar.
I don’t know about you, but to me, jazz and dancing goes hand-in-elegantly-gloved-hand with wine – preferably red. The fact that we had to wait 20 minutes in a line for the single bar serving the entire crowd meant that all the good work done by the music and the moves was quickly wasted, as we stood shivering in the freezing corridor that lead to a side room where the bar was situated. When we finally made it to the bar and one of the harrassed attendants half-filled a tiny plastic glass with wine, I almost cried. “Do you sell by the bottle?” No, no they don’t. Our disappointment was so great that we didn’t think to buy two glasses each when we were there. So, an hour later, we were back. It would have been so much nicer to have a few small bars scattered around the auditorium, since we were free to take our drinks in with us.
The other main problem – warmth – would have been difficult to manage, given the number of people coming and going from the venue, but perhaps closing some doors would have helped at least keep it a comfortable temperature inside the auditorium, for all those ladies who didn’t wear their furs. We were all jealously eyeing the clever ones who did.
It was a delight to see how people embraced the 1920s dress code and strutted their stuff. It was also great fun to watch the dancers in their element, with the beautiful atmosphere within the hall. This made it all the more disappointing that peripheral things like the ghostly feeling of empty rows of seating, long cold lines and very limited beverages were allowed to mar the evening.