The Best Local Bands to Swing Dance To

The California Feetwarmers at Union Station

Southern California has some great bands to swing dance to, from authentic 20’s and 30’s bands, to big bands, to jump blues and rockabilly bands.  We are spoiled!  Currently, it seems that 20’s/30’s Gypsy Jazz/Dixieland Jazz is all the rage (just look at the number of bands in that genre). Of the bands in this category, the California Feetwarmers (see photo above) seem to have some of the most devoted followers (and for good reason – they are excellent).

There are probably a lot of great bands missing from this list, simply because I haven’t got a chance to see them yet in person… Many apologies to those not on this list..


20s/30s/Dixieland/Gypsy Jazz/New Orleans Jazz

  • The Barrel House Wailers – New Orleans jazz, great for dancing to. Based in Ventura, CA.
  • The Benny Brydern Quartet – Led by jazz violinist Benny Brydern, this is one of my favorite bands playing 1930’s Swing classics. They don’t play very often, but make sure to catch them when they do, mainly at Joe’s Bar.
  • The Big Butter Jazz Band – Led by guitarist Conrad Cayman, this dancer favorite band plays New Orleans and Chicago jazz from the 1910’s to 1930’s. They always draw a lot of dancers!
  • The California Feetwarmers – A dancer favorite playing authentic 30’s, Dixieland, Bluegrass, and Tin Pan Alley classics.  Instruments consist of guitar, banjos, accordion, horns, and clarinet. Percussion section is a bass drum and washboard – no drum kit, but the rhythms are no less potent.  Usually draws a good turnout of dancers.  Highly recommended if you like Balboa. Look for them at Gorbals or Joe’s Bar. Voted #4 best band in Southern California in the 2013 LA Lindy Hop Desert Island Swing Band poll. (Their photo is shown as the featured image at the top of this page).
  • Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang at the Barkley
    Dave Stuckey’s Hot House Gang
    – Authentic 20’s and 30’s tunes with some great musicians.  No website, so the link goes to a YouTube video.  Excellent for Balboa, or just listening.  Look for them at the Culver Hotel. Voted the #3 best band in the 2013 LA Lindy Hop Desert Island Swing Band poll.
  • Ellis Island Boys – Quartet which includes John Reynolds, playing 1920’s and 30’s jazz. Look for them at Disneyland and California Adventure.  Voted the #7 best band in the 2013 LA Lindy Hop Desert Island Swing Band poll.
  • Fabus Four – Talented saxaphonist and singer Jason Fabus leads this talented young jazz quartet. Highly recommended!
  • Hedgehog Swing – Young Gypsy jazz band based in Long Beach. Popular at Joe’s Bar.
  • The Hi-Fi Honeydrops – Five members with three electric guitars playing 1930’s hot jazz. Look for them at Joe’s Bar.
  • Holy Crow Jazz Band – They play trad jazz from the 20’s and 30’s. Brush up on your Balboa. Good stuff!
  • Icy Hot Club – Along with authentic Gypsy Jazz from the 1930′s, they “re-imagine” modern songs in the 1930′s style. Imagine Depeche Mode’s “Policy of Truth” in a Balboa style. Or the Star Wars Cantina theme. Or “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”.  How about the Doors’ “Whiskey Bar”? Yes! Definitely check them out!
  • Janet Klein – They perform quirky, but really good and danceable, songs from the 20’s and 30’s.
  • Jennifer Keith – Another top-notch band featuring some of the best musicians in L.A.
  • Jonathan Stout and His Campus Five
    Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five
     – Great Django inspired tunes, great for Shag and Balboa. One of my favorites.  They play all around.  A good turnout of swing dancers is almost guaranteed wherever they play!  They are the house band at Camp Hollywood and many other dance camps.  Voted the #1 best band in the 2013 LA Lindy Hop Desert Island Swing Band poll.
  • Leftover Cuties – If you have a chance to see this band, just GO.  They are fantastic.  My favorite is their cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”, but with banjos and all acoustic instruments.  They are getting quite famous touring the whole country, so when they are in town, don’t miss them!
  • Mora’s Modern Rhythmists – Authentic music from the 20′s and 30′s. Great for Balboa.  Usually draws a good crowd of dancers.
  • The New Recessionaires – “Hot jazz for hard times” is their motto.  Featuring former members of Royal Crowne Revue, the New Recessionaires specializes in music from the 20’s and 30’s, although they play songs from all the way up to the 50’s as well as original tunes.  Very danceable, good for Balboa, although they do play some slower numbers to Lindy to.  Look for them at The Edison.
  • The Red Skunk Band – Hailing from the Central Coast of California, these musicians play Django-inspired 30’s music including their rendition of the Star Wars Cantina Theme.  Very highly recommended!  Definitely a dancer favorite when they are in town.
  • Strada Swing – I really love this French-influenced Gypsy Jazz band. You feel like you’re 1930’s Paris. They played at Grand Central Market in 2022.
  • The Swingsations – Jim Ziegler’s band devoted to classic jazz and swing from the 20′s to the 40′s. Great for Balboa and Shag.

40s/Big Band/Swing

Neo Swing

  • Phat Cat Swinger – An unapologetically “neo-swing” in a time when most bands of that genre are well past the height of their popularity. Plays high-energy originals and covers of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the Squirrel Nut Zippers, as well as vintage classics from Sinatra and others. See them if you’re tired of 20’s and 30’s music and want your guilty-pleasure fix of 40’s big band music done in a modern style. Lots of devoted fans!

Jump Blues

50’s/Rockabilly/Doo-Wop

Western Swing

  • Deke Dickerson – Quirky, fun western swing. Many songs have funny lyrics, but all are highly danceable!
  • James Intveld – Fronts a popular Western swing/rockabilly band.  Catch them at Joe’s Bar.
  • The Lucky Stars – Self-deprecating lyrics and danceable tunes make this Western swing band really awesome.  Check them out at places like Joe’s Bar.  They came it at #8 in the 2013 LA Lindy Hop Desert Island Swing Band poll.
  • Petunia and the Vipers – Western band complete with yodeling. Much darker songs than Deke or the Lucky Stars. From Canada, but they stop by LA on their tours every so often. Has a strong core of fans.
  • The Stagecoach Looters – Consisting of mostly members of the California Feetwarmers, this incarnation plays Western Swing accompanied by accordion on occasion.

Roots/Americana

  • Dustbowl Revival – Really popular large roots/jazz/Americana band. They don’t always play danceable songs, but they’re always good and have tremendous energy. The Dustbowl Revival were voted the #1 live band in LA by LA Weekly magazine (beating out bands from all other genres). WARNING: lately a trusted source has told me that they are playing mostly pop/rock now and now swing-danceable songs.

Electro Swing

  • Caravan Palace – French Paris-based electroswing and hot jazz band. Highly infectious and catchy! Find their videos on YouTube. The best electroswing band around, in my opinion.
  • Red Light District – A more acoustic take on electroswing, if that makes sense (i.e., they don’t sound like DJ’d loops).

Other Resources

Please leave a comment if there is a good band that I have left off! Thanks, Brian


Please Leave a Question or Comment

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

18 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Doppert
John Doppert
4 years ago

Flat Top Tom and his jump cats has been around forever.

Ian Whitcomb

Johnny Crawford

Chester Whitmore

Eddie Reed (now defunct) hopefully he comes back.

Jumpin Joz

Shanis Barnard
Shanis Barnard
4 years ago

Hi! I’m visiting LA and would love to get a little bit of dancing while here, I don’t have a car, and I’m staying in Venice. I’m free tomorrow evening (Sat) or Sunday… any suggestions? Thanks ?

Brian
4 years ago
Reply to  Shanis Barnard

Hi Shanis,

Welcome to LA! Unfortunately, the West Side (where I live also) does not have a lot of Swing venues around. Tomorrow I think Clifton’s in downtown would be best (not exactly a swing venue, but there is swing dancing on the third floor). On Sunday there’s gypsy jazz at Grand Central Market, also in downtown. If you can get to the Expo Line, you can take the train to either of these. Sorry, it’s kind of a quiet weekend for swing dancing.

Best,
Brian

Shanis Barnard
Shanis Barnard
4 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Hi Brian,
Thanks for your reply, I’ll see if I can go to one of those venues!
Best
Shanis

John de Vos
John de Vos
5 years ago

Please add Mama’s Hot Sauce (rockabilly) to your list. We are from the Antelope Valley, but are trying to play more non local gigs and create a larger fan base. We play very danceable tunes and put on a great show. High energy!
http://www.mamashotsauce.com
comment image

Tobias Pykles
Tobias Pykles
5 years ago

Fanny & the Atta Boys from San Diego play a very eclectic mix of Americana/Roots/Swing music. In my opinion, they are probably the most underrated band in Southern California. Their first album just wrapped up recording and should be available soon. Keep an eye out for them.

John Williamson
6 years ago

The Atomic Roots Orchestra Job Striles, John Williamson Scott Lambert and Peter Burke perform 1930’s 40’s 50’s Jump Swing Roots and Doo Wop;

boyzandthebeez
7 years ago

Boyz and the Beez Swing/Rockabilly band will be a Hip Kitty in Claremont on August 30th 8PM
Female Swing/Rockabilly Vocal Trio & Male vocalist with band!
Elvis, Stray Cats, Imelda May, Andrews Sisters, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and way more!!!
502 W First Street, Claremont CA 91711
21 and over
45 Cover Charge

boyzandthebeez
7 years ago
Reply to  boyzandthebeez

***CORRECTION*** It’s only a $5 Cover Charge (typo)

Ric'key Pageot
8 years ago

Don’t forget about award-winning local singer @DessyDiLauro and her Neo-Ragtime Jamboree. She’ll be at The Edison on June 19th 2014. She brings a flavor that has never been heard before called Neo-Ragtime by fusing 1920-30’s Harlem Renaissance Jazz with today’s contemporary urban Hep. Her album, This Is Neo-Ragtime is available on online and at Amoeba Hollywood. Here is one of her music videos, Jump ‘N’ Jivin’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4yXYh2DFuI

Juliette
8 years ago

Electro swing: Red Light District

Phat Cat
8 years ago

We don’t come around too often, but how about a little love for Phat Cat Swinger or The Barrel House Boys? ;)

Phat Cat
8 years ago
Reply to  Phat Cat

If you’d like to give Phat Cat Swinger a try, there’s some dancing to be had at the Cicada Club on Sunday, December 8th.

Jan Weil
Jan Weil
8 years ago

Stumbled on this page and thought I’d throw out another… I’ve seen Lost Dog Found come through town every now and again… I think they are from the SF bay area. Fantastic newer sounding stuff, really fun.