The beat is barbaric. The lyrics are condemned as lascivious. Teenagers are drawn in hordes to dance halls to participate in what some believe to be the undoing of morality in America. This could be describing rap or even rock and roll; but in 1945, this description fit big bands when they ruled supreme. More than 50 years later swing is king again, and in North Idaho the Swing Street Big Band sits on the throne.
Since its debut in 1998, the band has played host to mostly sold-out concerts such as the Festival at Sandpoint's New Year's Eve Big Band Bash, which drew a crowd of almost 700. They also broke the 18-year attendance record for the Pend Oreille Arts Council's Concert-on-the-Lawn series last summer with an estimated crowd of 400. To many, the resurgence of swing is more than just a passing fad; it is a part of their lives' history.
"The older generation is hearing their favorite music again in a big band format that's what blows their mind," said Ed Brown who is the percussionist and one of the founders of the band.
Co-founder and conductor Tom Walton agrees: "There is so much enthusiasm in the community for what we are doing, some people wish we would play every weekend."
Speaking of history, several members of the 18-piece orchestra have performed with some of that era's better-known acts. Swing Street saxophonist Daryl Sprague played with the bands of Bob Crosby (Bing's brother) and Alvino Ray, while pianist Bob Domes has had the honor of performing with the band of Spade Cooley and many other notable acts.
The Swing Street Big Band will be heating up the dance floor again on Dec. 31 at the second annual Big Band Bash, a benefit for the Festival at Sandpoint. For more information and bookings call 208/265-5353.