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January 2013

Everything Old is New Again

Was it the Wildey or Beale Street?

What a wonderful way to get back into the "swing" of things! (Shaddup, you've had six months off my puns.) My fiance was really on the spot Friday night: no money and it's his turn to pick something for date night. He was saved with an offer of tickets to hear Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers, a jazz/blues/swing band playing at the Wildey Theater in Edwardsville.

We were absolutely delighted, even Jimmy, who is not exactly a swing fan. The combo is high-energy and clearly having a ball up there, playing all the old saws and even an original piece or two. It's a wonderful throwback to see gentlemen in hats and ties rocking the bass and trumpet, hear a rocking guitar and rolling sax, and feel Miss Jubilee's energy as she belts out tunes from the '20s to the '60s.

Poor Miss Jubilee tried to get us all to dance, which is no small trick in the Wildey; there's a small space between the front row and the stage, but that's enough for a little delight. Halfway through the first set, the trumpeter offered a dollar to the first couple willing to dance. No one took them up on it, despite an entire audience tap-dancing and chair-swinging in their seats.

Seriously, no one could stay still. My calves will be sore for a week from all the chair-dancing I was doing. Even Jimmy was head-bobbing; it was simply infectious. (Why didn't we claim the dollar? We don't dance in front of people. It's unsightly.)

They didn't make the mistake of mixing in a torch song or two; that would have killed the energy. It was all big-band style, but the sources ranged from 1920s numbers straight from a smoke-filled club to Patsy Cline, who surprisingly adapts well to a jazz combo.

By the set break, I knew I wanted to snag their CD if it was anything like a sane price. To my shock, it was a mere $10. I've never seen a live-performance CD that cheap, and you better believe we snagged it. It includes several numbers they performed that night, with a couple extras that'll make you dance around your living room.

Miss Jubilee started out a little awkward and stiff; I wondered if she was actually nervous, playing a new town and new venue. If so, she loosened up by the third number. And after the set break, they were hot, folks. If you weren't there, you missed a gem of a show.

Extra credit has to go to Jacob the guitarist, who didn't get all the same showboat moments as the trumpet or sax, but has some serious chops. The bassist has some great showmanship, able to play and spin the bass with a wink and smile. The keyboard and sax players were awesome, and we were only disappointed that the drummer didn't get to do a real solo. We could tell he had the stuff.

It may have taken most of the show, but by the last number Miss Jubilee had finally broken through our staid Edwardsville composure and couples popped up to dance in the aisles and in front of the stage. It was wonderful and hilarious - such delightful energy I haven't felt since I was a twentysomething walking up and down Beale Street listening to the hot jazz and cool blues filtering out into the night air. Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers made me twenty again for an hour and a half, and that's a wonderful gift.

And the trumpeter made good on his offer: the first couple on their feet got a dollar.

An encore later, the show was over and more CDs were flowing. My only regret was that we were clearly the youngest people in the audience; this flawless performance was almost entirely witnessed by people old enough to have heard these pieces the first time around. When I think of the boring, talentless tripe my son and his friends listen to, I want to march them all back to the Wildey kicking and screaming to hear what real music sounds like.

No, this isn't a music column and I'm not really a music reviewer, as this probably shows. But everything old is new again, and watching popular culture is what I do. If the clear popularity of a group like Miss Jubilee is a sign that nostalgia is the new wave, it can only bode well for our entertainment.

Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers is based in St. Louis and performs every Sunday at Rue Lafayette; every Wednesday at Schlafly Bottleworks; and every Thursday at Thaxton Speakeasy. Their CDs are available at Rue Lafayette, Euclid Records and Vintage Vinyl. In fact, they play tonight at Beale on Broadway. You owe it to yourself to check out a show.