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December 27, 2009


A stall at the Salamanca markets selling used tupperware. Though the display was (as you can see) truly amazing, the prices were inflated. I wonder how the Tupper reps would feel about this?

"tupper" was posted by dogpossum on December 27, 2009 9:57 AM in the category | Comments (0)

December 22, 2009

Wicked Ink

Wicked Ink

Originally uploaded by dogpossum

I express my holiday rage with some ink from the Maritime Museum. Not sure whether the silver says 'full of righteous anger' or 'my other weapon is a bedazzler.

"Wicked Ink" was posted by dogpossum on December 22, 2009 1:17 PM in the category | Comments (0)

December 21, 2009



These little things are amazingly tasty. They're a bit time consuming (what with all the resting in the fridge), but it's worth doing all the steps (including the glaze) as the taste is so complex and rich.
While they have no butter or oil, they're mostly sugar, so diabetics beware!

450g plain flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp each ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground cardamom
(I used my spices from the Indian grocer and they're MUCH stronger/more powerful than the supermarket stuff)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2tbsp very finely chopped glace citron (cedro)
2 eggs
220g brown sugar
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1tsp instant espresso coffee dissolved in 2tbsp boiling water
60ml brandy

1 egg white
70g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
NB: combine 1tsp aniseed with the icing sugar and leave in a jar for a day, then sift icing sugar to remove aniseed)

1. Sift flour, almonds, baking powder, pepper, salt and spices into a bowl, then stir in citron.

2. using an electric mixer, beat eggs and brown sugar until thick and pale. Add lemon rind and coffee mixture and stir to combine, then stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough.
(my eggs were very small, so I added some extra water to get to the dough stage)

Divide dough into quarters, then roll each quarter into a 2.5cm diameter cylinder shape, wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

3. Using a sharp knife, cut logs into 1cm thick slices and place on greased oven trays, then leave biscuits for 8 hours or overnight.

4. Turn biscuits over on trays and brush moist undersides lightly with a little brandy, then place, brandy side up, on same trays and bake immediately at 160*C for 20 minutes or until golden, then transfer to wire racks to cool.

5. For glaze, combine egg white and icing sugar in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush top and sides of biscuits with a little glaze, adding a little warm water if glaze becomes too thick. Place biscuits on a wire rack until almost set, then dust generously in icing sugar to coat all over. Store biscuits in an airtight container for 1 day before eating, to allow flavours to develop and for biscuits to soften. Biscuits will keep up to 2 weeks.

Things you can do with pfeffernüsse:

  • Stuff halved and stoned nectarines or peaches with a mixture of crushed pfeffernüsse, soft butter, chopped crystalised ginger and an egg yolk, then bake or grill until golden.
  • Mulled wine makes an excellent accompaniment for pfeffernüsse - combine red wine, brandy, cinnamon stick, cloves and a wide strip each of orange and lemon rind in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then strain and serve immediately.
  • Coarsely crush pfeffernüsse, then scatter over cinnamon or chocolate icecream and top with roasted almonds.

"pfeffernüsse" was posted by dogpossum on December 21, 2009 12:23 PM in the category fewd and gastropod | Comments (0)

December 20, 2009

Happy Christmas!


I've been making popup cards. It got a bit fiddly and annoying, eventually, and I ran out of card long before I actually made cards for all the people I had on my list.

I've also uploaded (finally) some popups from the last time I did some popup work, which was about a million years ago. Last year... no, 2007 perhaps. Sheesh.

If you're following me on twitter, you've seen all these before. But it's nice to have them in my (poor, neglected) blog as well.

"Happy Christmas!" was posted by dogpossum on December 20, 2009 7:42 PM in the category crafty bastard and domesticity | Comments (0)

December 12, 2009

thinking about victoria spivey and discographies as historical resources

sp.jpg I've recently come across some Victoria Spivey songs quite by accident. I have quite a few by her, but mostly bits and pieces from various compilations. I haven't put any effort into collecting her, in part because my resources are limited and in the other part because my attention was caught by Bessie Smith. I also tend to prioritise 'songs for lindy hopping' in my purchasing.

I came across some Spivey songs in a Henry Red Allen JSP (I think) set from emusic. It's also on one of the Complete Jazz Series, and I think the latter versions are slightly better quality. On both it was just labelled 'Henry Red Allen and his orch' I think. I found the additional details in the discography at the library. Listed under Victoria Spivey, she did quite a few sessions in New York 1928 with Clarence Williams etc, and then in 1929 she did some stuff in New York again with some really big guns. Below are the discographic details for the sessions that caught my interest:

Victoria Spivey

[S10354] Victoria Spivey (vcl) acc by Louis Armstrong (tp) Fred Robinson (tb) Jimmy Strong (ts) Gene Anderson (p) Mancy Cara (bj) Zutty Singleton (d)

New York, July 10 1929

40252-C Funny feathers
Okeh 8713, Swag (Aus) 1267, 1310, Col C3L-33, Odeon (F)7MOE-2250, Par (E)PMC7144, CBS (F)65421, (Jap)SL-1209/10/11

402526-A How do you do it that way?
Okeh 8713, Swag (Aus) 1267, S1310, Odeon (F)7MOE-2250, Par (E)PMC7144, CBS (F)65421, Spivey LP2001, Jass 5, Biograph BLP C5, Book of the Month Club 21-6547

[there are details about where these songs were published]

[S10355] Victoria Spivey (vcl) acc by Henry "Red Allen" (tp) J.C. Higginbotham (tb) Charlie Holmes (sop) Teddy Hill (ts-1) Luis Russell (p) Wil Johnson (g) Pops Foster (b,tu-2)

New York, October 1, 1929

56732-1 Bloodhound blues (1)
[with recording details I can't be arsed typing out]
56733-2 Dirty T.B. Blues (1)
56734-1 Moaning the blues (1)
56735-1 Telephoning the blues

[there are details about where these songs were published]

When you go to the Henry Red Allen entry, you find him in New York in the same months (July and October of 1929) recording with mostly the same musicians. Luis Russell is the one that catches my eye, mostly because he's (one of) the connections between Allen and Armstrong, leading a band which starred both of them at some points in the 30s.

Here are the details of recordings from the Henry Red Allen entry:

[A1573] Henry Red Allen (tp,vcl) J.C. Higginbotham (tb) Albert Nicholas (cl) Charlie Holmes (sop, cl, as) Teddy Hill (ts, cl) Luis Russell (p, celeste) Wil Johnson (g, bj, vcl) Pops Foster (b) Paul Barbarin (d, vib), Victoria Spivey (vcl) and the Four Wanderers (vcl quartet) added: Herman Hughes, Charlie Clinscales, (tenor), Maceo Johnson (bariton) Olivier Childs (bass)

New York, September 24, 1929

55852-1 Make a country bird fly wild (tfw vcl)
[with recording details I can't be arsed typing out]
55852-2 Make a country bird fly wild (tfw vcl)
55853-1 Funny feathers blues (vs vcl)
55853-2 Funny feathers blues (vs vcl)
55854-1 How do they do it that way (vs vcl)
55855-1 Pleasin' Paul
55855-2 Pleasin' Paul

[there are details about where these songs were published]

I think the sessions under Spivey's own name were the best for blues dancing, though really it's a matter of taste.

FYI, if you're trying to find all the recordings by a particular musician, you use the Musician's Index (if you're using the books rather than the online or CD Rom version of the discography) to find all the page and recording session details for each song featuring that musician. When you're looking at someone like Louis Armstrong, that can get tedious very quickly. In his case, there're whole books devoted just to his discographies. But people like Henry Red Allen (and Eddie Condon) tend to ramble across dozens and dozens of bands and hundreds of individual songs. You tend to get a feel for a particular musician, and you realise that they played in a whole range of bands in a particular city at any particular time. This gets really interesting, particularly when they're using pseudonyms to escape restrictive recording contracts with particular labels.

Just looking up 'Henry Red Allen', for example, won't get you all his recordings. But it will get you the recordings which are credited to him, or recorded by bands with his name attached (eg Henry Red Allen and his Orchestra). This sort of attribution gets interesting when you look at artists like Spivey, who had some of the biggest names in jazz listed as her accompanists.

You can see how I get interested in the relationship between blues and 'jazz' or 'swing' when I'm doing this digging in the discographies. Surely accompanying these singers (and they were accompanying, particularly when it came to people like Bessie Smith) influenced their music in significant ways. And these big names in jazz influenced other musicians - particularly when we're talking about people like Louis Armstrong or Allen.

vspiveys.gif Spivey is interesting because she was not only a seriously famous singer in the 20s, she also managed to survive the declining popularity of blues at the end of the 20s. She did interesting things like play in the Hellzapoppin' stage review (not the film, lindy hoppers, the stage review from which material for the film was drawn) and found her own record company, Spivey Records in the 60s. It was with this label that she recorded Bob Dylan as an accompanist.

I'm fascinated by the idea that you can chart the relationships between musicians in a particular city by using the discographies. All you have to go on is the city, date, song title and musicians. Which is a surprisingly useful amount of information. My attention is caught by the names which turn up all over the place, in all sorts of bands. Zutty Singleton. Paul Barbarin. Buster Bailey. Peanuts Hucko. People I didn't know before I started looking through the discographies. Now I find that following these guys through the Chronological Classics or Complete Jazz Series gives me an overview of a particular city or style during a certain time frame. So if I follow Zutty Singleton through a particular year on CD, I'll hear a range of bands. And I can speculate about the professional relationships between bands and the way creative ideas spread between bands.
Of course, all this information is really only dealing with recorded performances. Though this does include a massive amount of recorded broadcasts and live performances (particularly in the 1930s), we're really only looking at formal recording sessions in the 20s. I always wonder what went on around these sessions. Who did they meet at the restaurant where they had dinner afterwards? Did they go for drinks with the band who'd been in there before? Who sat in on the following sessions to make up numbers or simply out of musical interest? Did these things even happen?

And of course I can't help but think about the race stuff going on. I notice things like particular bands having personnel with names of particular cultural backgrounds. German or European names in Benny Goodman's bands. Italian names in New Orleans bands. Anglicised names in Chicago. Certain names are more common in African American bands than in Anglo-American bands.
There are hardly any mixed-race recordings, so when they do pop up, my interest is immediately caught. And of course, when you get into the French recordings of artists like Bill Coleman, Coleman Hawkins, the remnants of Glenn Miller's band in 1945, you see familiar American names teaming up with French artists. Glenn Miller's former bandmates (Peanuts Hucko, Mel Powell, Joe Schulman, Ray McKinley) are joined by Django Reinhardt.
All this is super-interesting. And that's just the information you can gain from reading through the discographies. When you listen along with the discographies, tracing particular sessions and particular combinations of musicians, you can hear musical developments and experimentations expanding and changing an individual musician's style. Arrangers become much more important. Listening across bands (following a particular musician rather than a band), you hear similarities within a single year. And when you add to that the fact that many bands recorded the same songs in the same year, you hear each of these little moments in creative time explored within the framework of a single composition, arranged in countless ways, exploded by solos and improvisations.

When you think of the music that wasn't recorded, of all the live performances on stages and in back rooms and kitchens, you realise that music was not only everywhere, but that these were communities of musicians, complicated networks forged by the act of making music. And money.

And, finally, in all of this, if I do come across a female name anywhere other than in the vocals, I'm flabbergasted. This is a world of men. Or so you'd assume, if you relied only on the discographies. There were plenty of women in these pictures, just not dug into the grooves on the record. There were women playing and writing and recording music, women running offices, making dinners, washing clothes. It's just that you can't hear them on the records, unless you listen very closely.

Lord Jazz Discography
This is an interesting piece about Henry Red Allen.
Red Hot Jazz.

"thinking about victoria spivey and discographies as historical resources" was posted by dogpossum on December 12, 2009 11:17 AM in the category ideas and lindy hop and other dances and music and research | Comments (0)

December 10, 2009

blues djing

FYI: I've made a dodgy 8track with examples of the stuff I'm talking about in this post. I'm not entirely confident with some of my observations as I really don't know enough about blues music. So please just read this post (and observations) as my ideas and working-through stuff rather than as any sort of authoritative commentary. The discography details are below the post.


I've been listening to the latest Confessing the Blues podcast. It's interesting to read a blues dancing equivalent to the Hey Mr Jesse show, especially when I'm not really all that conversant with American blues dancing culture.

In case you're curious, blues dancing developed within (or at least in close proximity to) the lindy hop communities. In Herrang, there's been a Wednesday blues night for ages. At American exchanges blues nights would often follow evening dances or even the late night dances. Australia has a slightly different blues dancing history. I remember workshops as early as 2001 in Melbourne, and then occasional classes or sessions by visiting teachers. By about 2005 there was a sort of staggering blues sub- or developing culture in Melbourne.
It wasn't til about mid 2006 that Melbourne's blues nights were running regularly and flourishing. These blues nights were run by the large school in that city and featured classes with a side of social dancing. Interestingly, though, these blues classes were pioneered and eventually pushed through by enthusiastic teachers and dancers who'd been involved in blues events overseas. In contrast to the usual round of lindy hop fare from that organisation, this was much more a grass roots development. I think this has been an important factor in blues dancing's popularity in that city.
In 2006 MLX ran blues events as part of their late night calendar. In 2009 there were three annual blues 'exchanges' or workshop weekends. There are regular blues workshops in Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney. Moving to Sydney last year, I was struck by the very different local blues dancing culture. Melbourne's blues scene is firmly rooted in everyday social dancing and socialising. Sydney, in contrast, again with its blues scene organised by the large school, is centred on classes and has no un-class-related blues social events. The large school had, more or less, transplanted a Melbourne product to Sydney. The product, without that broader enthusiasm and firm social setting, has struggled in this particular market.
That's not to suggest that there isn't a great deal of interest in blues dancing in Sydney. There is. It is more that the events are managed and prescribed by the school, with the impetus from within a commercialised pedagogic model rather than a sort of groundswell of local popular interest. One of the consequences of this (which we see in one of that organisation's lindy social night as well) is an emphasis on using spaces which are suitable for classes and not quite right for social dancing. Blues in Melbourne used smaller, more crowded bar-like venues, and I think this emphasis on socialising is very important. Local teachers also used their own small studio spaces for social events, and I think this interest at a non-commercialised, local-interest level was also very important. It simply meant that the lessons and workshop weekends were serving an already existing market, and were meeting an already present demand. In Sydney, the demand is not so significant, and the classes have had to be marketed quite rigorously for their success. There is not the significant word of mouth promotion that was so successful in Melbourne.
It's been disappointing, as a blues dancer and DJ, to see the local Sydney blues scene struggle. They've been struck by difficult venue changes, by interrupted class and social schedules, and perhaps most significantly, they're also dealing with an organisation which is run from Melbourne, rather than locally. This has seen numerous problems in the lindy hop community, and has - I think - been partially responsible for the stunted growth of the local blues scene.
Blues is an interesting example of the power of localised, groundswell interest and creative and commercial development. In America, and in Melbourne to a more limited extent, house parties and private parties have been important in developing DJs' and dancers' skills. More significantly, dance in private spaces has contributed to the development of community of interest and creativity which is not necessarily mediated by larger commercial dance interests. Though blues in Melbourne has definitely been commodified through the class and workshop structure, it still resists with its emphasis on social dancing and socialising.

But of course, my information and experience is almost two years old now. And I don't have the close connections with blues that I do with lindy hop. Things might not be quite as I've described...

On another point, blues in Australia is largely without the interest in historical musical and dance forms that its American counterparts have been exploring in recent years. There are certainly individuals who are very interested in historical blues dance forms, but the predominant teaching and social event themes are not. One exception was a recent visit by an American teacher very interested in historical context. Brought to Australia by Australian teachers, this visiting teacher conducted workshops in a number of Australian cities. Unfortunately, either by coincidence or by design*, the large teaching school ran a large blues event the weekend after this international teacher left. One of the workshop weekends conducted by this teacher coincided with a large lindy exchange which is run by one of the more enthusiastic Australia blues dancers. Interpersonal conflicts and a generally disorganised approach to promotion meant that the visiting teacher did not receive the broader discussion the visit warranted.
In summary, the commercial interests and interpersonal conflicts which characterise the Australian scene were a direct impediment to the introduction and dissemination of this historical aspect of blues dance at that moment. This issue troubles me as a DJ and dancer. As a DJ, I found less interest in historical blues music and music for blues dancing, which was endlessly frustrating. As a dancer, I could not find local classes disseminating this historical content, and on the social floor I found a resistance to or intolerance for my own experimentation with historical steps and movements.

Since then, the broader interest in history and historical dance forms in lindy hop has seen a trickle-down or follow-on effect for blues dancing in Melbourne. This delights me, and yet I am unsure of its broader effects within the local Melbourne scene or national blues scene. I haven't been to the major blues dancing weekends for a number of reasons, even though I've been (most flatteringlly) invited to DJ at them. They tend to cluster in the second half of the year, right in the middle of the marking period of the semester. And my partner isn't interested in blues dancing at all.
This second point is particularly important to me, and I think, indicative of the national Australian blues scene in general. The Squeeze and I tend to go to exchanges with the thought that we are on holiday together. We both enjoy lindy hop very much. But The Squeeze isn't interested in blues dancing, and I'd really rather save our travelling money for combined trips. Just because I like to go on holiday with my partner. The Squeeze isn't the only lindy hopper with no interest in blues whatsoever.
I think that the popularity of lindy exchanges and of of 'groovy' or connection-centred lindy hop in America were important factors contributing to the development of blues dancing scenes in that country. The cost of flights and sheer distances between cities in Australia limited the number of annual lindy events for a long time. It was only in about 2005 that traveling for weekend events - let alone social weekends - became very popular and affordable here. The last couple of years in particular have seen social dancing weekends (exchanges) rise signficantly in popularity.
As we move into a culture which prioritises long weekends full of late night dancing and no workshops, however, we are also following America into an interest in historical lindy hop forms. It is as though we missed the broader, saturated interested in groove and connection-centredness. In Melbourne, though, this approach to dance did rise sharply in popularity. But a little later than the US, and with less lasting influence.
My doctoral research suggests that the sudden and more significant penetration of American lindy trends into the Australian scene is almost entirely due to the influence of online media. Youtube, discussion boards and lately Faceplant and (to a much lesser extent) Twitter. Youtube in particular suddenly gave us access to the dancing bodies of America in a way previously prevented by the cost and time of flights. We could actually see what was happening on the dance floors in other countries. The last year in particular has seen a massive increase in dancers' use of online media for the dissemination of images of dancing bodies.
Faceplant has not only connected dancers internationally, making it simpler to map the networks of inter-local communitas (and this glocal networking is something I wrote about quite extensively in a number of articles as well as my doctoral thesis), it has also connected their online clip-viewing habits. A clilp featuring a particular dancer or dance is suddenly right there in front of dancers on Faceplant, showcased and framed by the 'friend' relationship, by the tagging of featured individuals and by clip's placement in the 'live' feed of updated status and posted content.
Faceplant and other online social networking services and tools have not seen dancers necessarily adding more content to the intertubes. But it has seen them suddenly drawing connections between individuals, dance events, and online tools. Podcasts which previously existed only in the menus of discussion boards for some Australian dancers suddenly leapt to the front of their minds when linked from Faceplant. More importantly, individual dancers (and DJs) making contact via Faceplant began sharing their own online resources - lists of links, clips, audio files, music purchasing sites, comments or updates about their experiences at international or national events.

Faceplant has not changed the way dancers interact. But it has suddenly sped up connections between individuals, and tightened the relationships between them as a consequence. As I see it, the most important consequence of Faceplant has been its integration of a range of online tools, particularly YouTube and the hosting of AV content with individual blog-light or tweet-like content of networked friends. Dancers aren't doing anything new online. They're just doing it faster.
Though one thing they are doing now that they didn't do a few years ago, and which has far more lasting importance, is travel. Online contacts and networks do facilitate travel (and the Frankie95 event is the very best example of word-of-mouth promotion via online networks), but it is the actual, face to face interaction with other dancers in other cities that has effected the most substantial changes to Australian lindy hop and blues dancing.

But I've rambled off-track a little. What I had meant to say, originally, was that if we had had this depth and breadth of online contact in the early 2000s and late 1990s, blues dancing (via groove and connected-centredness) would have traveled to Australia earlier and been more substantially established here before the American interest in historicism had developed. But it did not, and so we sort of skimmed over the supergroove moment. Local cultural influences held sway, and the teachers who traveled internationally to their preferred destinations (Herrang, Camp Hollywood, wherever) continued to be the guiding influences in their local communities.

What, then, to reiterate, is happening in blues in Australia? I can't speak with any (convincing) authority on this. I can say that I suspect a greater interest in historicism. But I can't be sure - I haven't seen any local Sydney interest in this _at all_. Melbourne remains the largest blues dancing community in the country. I will try to get to some national blues events this coming year and comment further.

So, then, with all this in mind, what exactly am I doing DJing for blues dancers? In the simplest terms, there's often a shortage of DJs willing to do the late night sets at exchanges, and there's a shortage of blues DJs in Sydney. I'm no longer quite as willing to do the super late sets, but I have contacts who've seen me DJ those later sets, and seen and heard me DJ blues. These contacts are who help me secure gigs. I have no idea how good a blues DJ I am. I don't think I suck, but I'm fairly certain I'm not the most amazing blues DJ in the universe. At this point, I aim for 'don't break it' and am surprised if I manage anything more.
With that, I'm not sure if my comments about DJing for blues dancers are at all useful or even accurate. But hells, as if that'd stop me filling up the intertubes with _something_ other than pictures of kittehs.

Returning to that Confessing the Blues podcast. In the program someone had written an email asking a series of questions. The presenters answered in detail, with side trips for rants and other digressions. As to be expected and welcomed in any discussion of DJing.
One of the questions was:

What music do you play at a blues dance?

...or something to that effect. You can listen to the podcast for their answer. Mine is as follows.

What exactly makes it into my playlist depends on a number of factors. I don't pre-plan my set lists. Though I do make short-lists of songs I might play, I develop the actual list as I go, responding to what I see and hear and feel in the room. These factors are shaped by:

  • The scene. When I say 'the scene', I'm referring to the local community. The sorts of people out dancing regularly; the sorts of music played regularly; the venues used; the class content and teaching styles; the 'regular' DJing.
  • The crowd. This refers to the people who are actually there at that moment, at that event. This is affected by the context - is this after a class, is it a blues session at a late night at an exchange, is it a set at a blues event, is it a free-floating social event, is it band breaks, is it in a bar, a studio or a hall? These things all determine the type of people at the event, and the ways in which they interact.
  • The event itself. Is this a lindy exchange? A blues exchange? A social dance at a blues workshop weekend? After-class at a weekly blues event? After class at a monthly or fortnightly blues event?

In terms of the songs that are already in my 'maybe' list - the music that I actually own - I personally:
  • like stuff that's 'blues structured';
  • like stuff that's identified as 'blues';
  • but I also like slow drags and other musical forms which 'work' for blues dancing.

I tend to favour historical music, but certainly not exclusively. The 'blues' genre is mighty and wide, and still a living, viable music today. I do not stick to one particular historical period - I range from the 20s to the current day.
I look for a particular feel. As an example, in cataloguing my music I distinguish between 'kissing songs' and 'blues songs'. Kissing songs are ballads, or songs that make me want to grab The Squeeze and cuddle him. Or they make me think of nannas having polite slow-dances with their husbands [Moonlight Serenade - Glenn Miller = kissing song example]. Blues songs make me feel like dancing. I've heard other DJs talk about tension and release in blues dancing songs. I guess that could mean the difference between a kissing song and a blues dancing song. Kissing songs are polite, blues dancing songs demand your attention. But I don't think that definition is quite useful for me. I've also heard people talking about blues songs having a 'pulse', but that doesn't even begin to work for me, because I'm looking for that rhythmic 'bounce' in my lindy hopping music (and dancing).

I'm also sceptical of comments that a piece of music 'is slow lindy not blues'. I think that there is a range of dances which aren't necessarily lindy hop (slow or otherwise) but which are also more than a slow-dancing cuddle. When I'm blues dancing, I don't even bother thinking 'no lindy hop!' I think 'dance!' If some lindy gets in there, good enough. And, to be frank, I sure as fuck don't bother classifying each of my movements as 'lindy hop' or otherwise. I'm just dancing. Historically, lindy hop and other vernacular dances were all about change and cross-polination. There weren't terribly many rules about dancing beyond social conventions. Context, the music and mood shape the way I dance. So a shimmy can be either incredibly sexually provocative, it can be slightly silly, or it can be an incredibly macho shake of the shoulders. So I don't make any rules for what moves or steps I do where. But I look for a different feel in the music when I'm blues dancing.

I think that this is where I have to leave my discussion of how to define blues dancing music. The ways I choose and buy my music might be more useful.

My musical tastes are motivated by my dancing interests and by my musical interests. As a DJ, I'm very interested in historic musical forms, but I gather most of my music almost accidentally when I'm buying music for lindy hopping. Or when I'm 'going complete' with an artist (eg the lovely surprise of Herny Red Allen with Victoria Spivey [Moanin' the Blues by Spivey et al is on the 8track]). As an example, I bought the Mosaic 'Classic Columbia, Okeh and Vocalion' Count Basie/Lester Young set. This is, as the title suggests, a complete collection of recordings by a band leader/musician during a particular time period with a particular recoding label(s). Basie is an interesting example. He has his roots in Kansas, and he also has his roots in blues music. This set includes a number of songs that I think of as 'classic blues' including I Left My Baby [which is on the 8track]. These songs have been performed in many ways, at many tempos, and in many styles. On this set, the 1939 version of I Left My Baby is 86bpm, and the mood is slower, more introspective, more intense. We're encouraged to listen to the vocals and the solos by the slower tempo. There's an intensity that makes you want to move, but to move with meaning. And this song is along side a host of songs that are perfect for lindy hopping. Some of which are, incidentally, blues structured, but with a higher tempo and a different energy and mood.

The distinction between 'blues' and 'lindy hop' isn't fixed or definite - one set a song can set the room to lindy hopping another night it can get them bloozing.

I make musical choices when I'm compiling my 'maybe' list based on my musical tastes, and on what I would like to dance to. So my sets are subscribing to my tastes and preferences. I've tried buying music to suit general trends, but I find I end up with music I don't especially like and don't DJ very often. So I don't do that much.

My sets are, though, guided by the brief I've been given by the organiser. I like to talk to them about what they want, or to just have a couple of lines in an email outlining their preferences. I like this when I'm DJing for an unfamiliar lindy hop crowd. I like managers of regular events to give me updates on their preferences as well, particularly when they're as astute as some I've worked with in Melbourne. Canny event managers see when their crowd is changing and developing in its musical and dancing tastes, and asks the DJs to work with that. I'm happy to take that sort of direction. If I don't like their vision, I don't do the gig. I've been lucky enough to DJ in two cities with relatively healthy social scenes, and with a few different events to choose from. But I also put a lot of effort into developing good relationships with event managers, where I can ask what they're interested in, and I can make suggestions or speculations.

I choose the songs I'm going to play, ultimately, by what I see going on on the floor - who's there, how the room feels, and so on.

More specifically...
I tend to keep it below 160bpm. 160 is about where I'll begin my solid lindy hop. More probably, I'll sit below 120 with occasional forays up into the 140s. But the tempo will be dictated by feel. So I might add in some slow drag stuff at higher tempos.
There is no basement tempo - I will go low.

What moods am I looking for?
With lindy hop, I tend to look for higher energy music. But this isn't the case with blues.I tend to range across the energy levels and moods. Some of my favourites include:

  • upenergy, 'beer room party' music. I think of this as 'Andy' music. I remember having a revelation listening and watching Andy DJ - he came in loud and proud and didn't DJ down into the cuddle zone, mood wise. The crowd was lively and boisterous. I really like this. This energy can be found in soul, early RnB, etc. I am a bit keen on Chicago blues at the moment, and this stuff is really good for that party feel [Hound Dog is my current obsession and example of this style on the 8track.]
  • lowenergy, cuddly stuff. This sort of music encourages close connection and often sensuous themes. Stuff that encourages introspection and serious facial expressions. I won't play this at an after-class event first off. I usually work into this vibe later in the night/set. Unless I'm following from a DJ who was doing this stuff. As a DJ and dancer, I prefer blues events to work with more than just this vibe. I know that this feel was the primary goal of a lot of blues dancers in Australia at first, particularly at late night house parties. But I think I'd die of boredom if this was all I had to work with as a DJ or dancer [I Got It Bad by Oscar Peterson is the example on the 8track.]
  • humourous, medium to high energy. This is often vocal-driven. There may be sensual or even sexually explicit lyrics or musical elements, but the sex is subverted or sort of tipped on its side by humour. So you feel silly dancing sexily unless you're being ironic or otherwise adding layers of meaning to what you're doing. I put my dirty, salty nannas here [My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More is the 8track example.]

Generally, I think a song's a 'blues dancing song' when I listen and think 'this makes me want to dance slowly and it doesn't make me want to lindy hop.' I really like to 'solo blues dance' (whatever that fucking means), so I like that stuff.

Examples of songs/styles that I play:

  • big bands playing blues songs during the 30s, 40s and 50s. eg Basie with Jimmy Rushing singing I Left My Baby;
  • - small bands with vocalists singing blues structured blues songs. eg Victoria Spivvey with the Henry Red Allen small groups; Bessie Smith with small bands. These tend to be blues queens accompanied by badass musicians [Moaning the Blues by Spivey et al is the 8track example];
  • small bands with or without a singer doing blues structured songs [a Duke Ellington sextet doing Tough Truckin' is the 8track example];
  • Chicago blues, especially as it leads into soul. Big Mama Thornton. Blues structured. Important instrumentation. Can be massive big energy, or less crazy [see Hound Dog on the 8track].
  • New Orleans, slow drags and slower walking styles. I really like this style, and I tend to play quite a bit of this. It's very popular with dancers who are keen on old school lindy hop. I like to play slow drags for the long, sensual/miserable feels. I watch the tempos, and I don't tend to live here all night during a set. This stuff is important when I'm transitioning. I often find that I'm only one of a few DJs who play 'old school' blues sets at an event, so I feel obliged. [St James Infirmary and The Mooche are good examples by Aussie bands on the 8track]

How do I actually combine choose songs when I'm DJing a blues set?
Pretty much the same way I do when I'm DJing a lindy hop set. Except I sit down more. And wear a jumper because I tend to get pretty cold at those super late nights. I like to work a wave, energy wise, and often tempo-wise. But I worry less about working the tempos. The energy is more important. I'm also much, much more careful about transitioning between styles. Mostly because the music I might play is representative of so many different styles. But also because the range of styles means that you have a range of moods and energy types on offer. And you want to really bring the crowd with you, or work with the crowd rather than jolting and jostling them about.

I guess, what I'm saying overall about the way I DJ for blues dancers is:

  • slower than lindy hop, but not all slow all the time;
  • blues structured or blues identified songs and styles are good;
  • emotional range is far broader than with lindy hop (where I tend to DJ the 'crazy manic happy' vibe);
  • historical forms and songs please me, so I tend to favour them.

Songs I won't play:

  • Trip hop, hip hop, contemporary styles that I think of as 'dancing alone'. Because I hear this stuff at normal clubs and venues, and I dance 'normally' there. Also, those DJs know this stuff and I don't, and I'd much rather a DJ with those skills and that collection make this stuff sound good than I stuff one into my set as a sort of random tokenism.
  • Soul and Funk. I will play blues songs by soul singers, but I prefer not to play what I think of as solid soul or funk. I love that stuff, but it's not blues. I will and have occasionally dropped in a soul favourite, but often as a sop to popular taste. I don't mess with funk, I stick to soul. And I prefer earlier soul. Again, ultimately, I don't have much of this, I don't know it well, and so I'd really rather not embarrass myself trying to be 'cool' with it [the Etta James song is a soul song I do play].
  • Songs with male singers and sexist lyrics. I hate that shit. So I don't play it.

*I would suggest coincidence if it were not for the fact that this strategy has been employed time and again by this organisation. While I suspect that they are simply this clueless and disconnected from the broader national scene, I am also quite sure that they are disinterested in broader community development and good will.

8track set list
Moonlight Serenade Glenn Miller and his Orchestra 84 The Aviator 3:25 [an example of a 'kissing song']

I Left My Baby Count Basie and his Orchestra with Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing 86 1939 Classic Columbia, Okeh And Vocalion Lester Young With Count Basie (1936-1940) (Disc 2) 3:13 [an example of a big band with a blues shouter doing a blues structured song which works for blues dancing. Also, a song from a big chronologically ordered set by a particular artist, which also has a lot of great lindy hopping music on it.]

St. James Infirmary The Cairo Club Orchestra 109 2004 Sunday 3:33[An Australian band doing a song which I think of as 'New Orleans' and sort of like a slow drag (though not really...well, whatevs). It also has a slightly higher tempo and works for lindy hop]

Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton 76 Very Best Of 2:52 [A Chicago blues queen singing a very famous song. This is an example of what I think of as 'party music'. Lots of energy, lots of sass]

I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good) Oscar Peterson 55 1962 Night Train 5:09 [Cuddle music in the supergroove vein.]

My Handy Man Ain't Handy No More Alberta Hunter 76 1978 Amtrak Blues 3:49 [A small group with a female vocalist doing a humourous song that works for blues dancing]

Moaning The Blues Victoria Spivey acc by Henry 'Red' Allen, JC Higginbotham, Teddy Hill, Luis Russell 100 1929 Complete Jazz Series 1926 - 1929 3:02 [A 'classic blues' song by a blues queen accompanied by some shit hot musicians, some of whom had very high profile careers with big bands which recorded songs we play for lindy hop]

Tough Truckin' Duke Ellington Sextet 96 1935 The Duke's Men: Small Groups Vol. 1 (Disc 1) 3:09 [An instrumental song recorded by a small band which works for blues dancing]

The Mooche Michael McQuaid's Red Hot Rhythmakers 117 2006 Rhythm Of The Day 3:41 [An Australian band doing a song which I think of as New Orleans, though it isn't (I think it was recorded by Ellington in New York...). The instrumentation feels New Orleans - banjo, reeds, a particular percussive sound. The Ellington 1928 is of course the superior recording, but this version is very popular with dancers in Melbourne and the band itself is also very popular]

Please Please Please James Brown 74 Sex Machine 2:45 [A soul song from the 70s or 60s (I forget which) but which I will and have played for blues dancers... though with my tongue in my cheek]

I'm Gonna Take What He's Got Etta James 57 1967 The Best Of Etta James 2:35 [A soul track that I do play for dancers, and which works very well.]

"blues djing" was posted by dogpossum on December 10, 2009 5:54 PM in the category 8 tracks and lindy hop and other dances and music | Comments (4)

December 9, 2009



The image I used in my 8 songs from 1935 that I LOVE 8track was from Shorpy, home of wonderful Olden Dayes images.

"btw" was posted by dogpossum on December 9, 2009 11:37 AM in the category clicky | Comments (0)

December 8, 2009

8 songs from 1935 that I love


Spreadin' Rhythm Around Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra (Billie Holiday, Johnny Hodges, Cozy Cole) 195 1935 Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday On Columbia (1933-1944) (Disc 01) 2:56
Chimes At The Meeting Willie Bryant and his Orchestra with Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole 245 1935 Willie Bryant 1935-1936 3:01
Swing, Brother, Swing Willie 'The Lion' Smith and his Cubs, Willie 'The Lion' Smith vocal 231 1935 Willie 'The Lion' Smith 1925-1937 2:52
Murder In The Moonlight Red McKenzie and his Rhythm Kings (Eddie Farley, Mike Riley, Slats Young, Conrad Lanoue, Eddie Condon, George Yorke, Johnny Powell) 193 1935 Classic Sessions 1927-49 (Volume 2) 2:55
Chasing Shadows Louis Prima, Pee Wee Russell, Frank Pinero, Garry McAdams, Jack Ryan, Sam Weiss 170 1935 Louis Prima Volume 1 3:04
Truckin' Henry 'Red' Allen and his Orchestra 171 1935 Henry Red Allen 'Swing Out' 2:54
Swingin' On That Famous Door Delta four (Roy Eldridge, Joe Marsala, Carmen Mastren, Sid Weiss) 190 1935 All Star Jazz Quartets (disc 2) 3:00
There's Rhythm In Harlem Mills Blue Rhythm Band (Lucky Millinder, Henry 'Red' Allen, Buster Bailey) 207 1935 Mills Blue Rhythm Band: Harlem Heat 3:11

I love all of these songs a great deal. Why?
Billie Holiday is the best. And in this band, Wilson not only has her gun pipes, but also Johnny Hodges and Cozy Cole. omg orsm.
Teddy Wilson was freaking GREAT stuff and turned up in all sorts of bands.
Louis Prima was actually cool, once.
I especially <3 the vocals in Chimes at the Meeting: "Goodnight sister pork chop." Also: more Teddy Wilson.
Willie 'The Lion' Smith is foshiz. I like this tinkly version of a song we tend to associate with Billie Holiday.
Murder in the Moonlight pleases me with its silly, cheesy lyrics: love in the first degree and all. +1 for Red Allen.
The Delta Four are just one of a million bands featuring Roy Gun Eldridge.
That version of Truckn' is fucking GREAT. I DJ it a lot. I love the kind of lazy pathos matched with a song about a dance fad. Madness. +1 for Red Allen.
There's a Rhythm in Harlem is mo good. I've crapped on about versions of In The Mood, and this is one of my favourites. + Red Allen.

There's quite a bit of overlap in band personnel here, not only because my tastes are fairly consistent, but also because musicians got around. Which no doubt contributed to some musical and creative cross-polination. And some broader consistencies or at least repeating patterns in music in that year.
I could have picked multiple versions of the same song from the same year, but I didn't.

"8 songs from 1935 that I love" was posted by dogpossum on December 8, 2009 7:49 PM in the category 8 tracks and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music | Comments (0)

zoo born madness

Baby hippos creep me out, but baby rhinos rock.

"zoo born madness" was posted by dogpossum on December 8, 2009 4:02 PM in the category | Comments (1)


I cleaned the house and browsed the Spotlight catalogue. Good thing I also watched Stepford Wives.

Now that I've read the catalogue I know they have 20% off made to measure blinds, and that they'll come out and measure your windows for free.

If we didn't need blinds for our sitting room so seriously I'd think I was mad.


"today..." was posted by dogpossum on December 8, 2009 3:36 PM in the category domesticity | Comments (0)

December 1, 2009

Pacific House noms on Sunday

We did eat other things in Melbourne after the stupid eggs. Masses of seafood at Pacific House in Richmond. And salt and pepper fu.

"Pacific House noms on Sunday" was posted by dogpossum on December 1, 2009 8:41 PM in the category gastropod and melbourne and people i know and travel | Comments (0)

8 dirty nannas

I've made a little 8track of 8 of the women singers I played in my late night set at MLX9.


I tend to think of the women I like to DJ for blues as 'dirty nannas', and I've banged on about this here ad nauseum. This isn't quite 100% dirty nannas. Some of the women here were younger when they recorded these songs. But all of them had attitude. I tent to play far too many vocal tracks when I DJ for blues dancers. I think it is, in part, because I'm really not a very experienced blues DJ, and because I don't have a whole lot of music I'd play for blues dancers. But it also probably has something to do with the fact that I like my music for blues dancing to carry levels of meaning. More than just a straight out 'grab you partner and cuddle' imperatives. I like irony and parody and suggestion.

At any rate, this is only a small chunk of the stuff I played in that set, and when you listen to it here or on the 8track site it won't be in the order I played them. So imagine there are other songs in between them, cushioning the changes.

A note: that version of Fine and Mellow is about the most perfect performance on earth. You can (and really should) watch it here:


Hound Dog Big Mama Thornton 76 Very Best Of 2:52
Rosetta Blues Rosetta Howard acc. Harlem Hamfats 103 1937 History of the Blues (disc 02) 3:00
Jealous Hearted Blues Carol Ralph 80 2005 Swinging Jazz Portrait 3:48
Kitchen Blues Martha Davis 80 1947 BluesWomen: Girls Play And Sing The Blues 3:05
Fine And Mellow Mal Waldron and the All-Stars (Billie Holiday, Roy Eldridge, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Hinton) 79 1957 The Sound Of Jazz 6:22 best live on CBS TV 'Legendary sound of jazz' 1950s small female vocal Swinging blues 60 14/01/07 4:58 PM
3 O'clock In The Morning Blues Ike and Tina Turner 64 1969 Putumayo Presents: Mississippi Blues 2:40
Hard Times Mildred Anderson 67 1960 No More In Life 4:15
Gimme A Pigfoot Bessie Smith acc by Buck and his Band (Frank Newton, Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Chu Berry, Buck Washington, Bobby Johnson, Billy Taylor) 1933 Complete Jazz Series 1929 - 1933 3:30

"8 dirty nannas" was posted by dogpossum on December 1, 2009 6:25 PM in the category 8 tracks and djing and lindy hop and other dances and melbourne and music and travel | Comments (0)