I can’t believe it’s already been five years since Lorenzo Rossi started his Happy Feet Mondays at Joe’s Great American Bar and Grill. Specializing in Hot Jazz, this event has gained quite a following with the L.A. Balboa crowd as well as regular Swing dancers – not an easy feat for a Monday night! I asked Lorenzo about the history of this event and music it features, as well as the special Five Year Anniversary event coming up on March 25th, 2013, which sounds like it will be a blast!
- Why did you start Happy Feet Mondays at Joe’s?
One of my main motivations was to promote certain artists and styles of music that I loved but seemed unknown to large portions of the Los Angeles Swing community. Back in February 2008, my friend Mark Tortorici started hosting a monthly night featuring the Gonzalo Bergara Trio/Quartet, an amazing local Gypsy Jazz ensemble. Their music was great for Balboa dancing. Thus, I joined forces with Mark and, one month later, “L.A. Balboa Night” was born! The event grew to multiple Mondays per month and evolved to the current weekly format and name: “Happy Feet Mondays“.
- How would you describe the music you showcase at this event?
In simple words, we showcase live swinging music with a strong crisp rhythm and an authentic old (pre-Bebop) feel. In more specific terms, the musical sub-genre for many of the acts featured at Happy Feet Mondays is Hot Jazz, the exciting and wild swinging Jazz that is antecedent to the Swing Era. In general, I book bands playing 1930s American Jazz, Gypsy/European Jazz, some 1940s and 1920s Jazz and once in a while 1940-50s Western Swing.
- Why did you choose those genres of music?
I feel the aforementioned musical styles are really fun for Swing dancing (Balboa, Lindy Hop), but also just listening. It turns out that Hot Jazz has been attracting many young and talented performers in L.A. and in many other cities in the U.S. and overseas. Therefore one positive side effect of our musical choices is that we get to feature many talented artists in their 20s, such as the California Feetwarmers, Icy Hot Club, Chloe Feoranzo and the Hi Fi Honeydrops, in addition to accomplished local masters such as John Reynolds and Carl Sonny Leyland. I don’t know of any other local Swing venue that has been so consistent in this aspect.
- Where do you find the bands?
I have been always very passionate about looking for and attending live music shows. So I already knew about many bands, even before I started producing the night. I also rely on a network of friends who are very knowledgeable about music and have introduced me to several good bands.
- You have managed to make Monday nights at Joe’s quite popular with swing dancers. Why do you think they like your event?
The consistent high quality of the bands, which always attracts many great dancers. There is also the very friendly vibe of the venue, which combines a sizable dance floor with sitting areas that are great for listening and socializing. Moreover, musicians generally have a lot of fun playing for the Happy Feet Mondays and this benefits the attendees. We consistently book the best musicians and attract top dancers, yet the environment is not intimidating at all; it is appealing for beginners as well as advanced dancers.
- Tell us more about your 5-Year Anniversary Event.
The 5th anniversary celebration is on March 25th and it’s going to feature an all-star band lead by Carl Sonny Leyland with Dan Barrett (a trumpeter/trombonist who played with Benny Goodman!), special guest appearances by John Reynolds, Big Sandy, Suzy Williams and Dave Stuckey and, during the breaks of the main band, some groups formed by young musicians .
- What other plans do you have for the future of Happy Feet?
Just keep on booking great bands.
- Besides Happy Feet Mondays, what are your other favorite venues to swing dance at?
In general, my main criterion to pick a venue for dancing, or just listening (if dancing is not an option), is the quality of live music. Lately I have been going to Viva Cantina in Burbank: they often have great bands on Saturdays.
- Anything else you want to tell our readers?
1) Become a fan our Facebook page. :)
2) The California Feetwarmers and the Hi Fi Honeydrops are playing at Balboa Rendezvous and Camp Hollywood respectively this year. These are two of the young bands who made
their debut to the Swing dancers thanks to the Happy Feet Mondays. I am proud of their achievements and because of occurrences like this, I believe that my event is really having a positive impact on the dance and music scene.
Cool, thanks Lorenzo! Best wishes for continued success with Happy Feet Mondays! – Brian
p.s. Judging by the photos on Facebook, the anniversary event was a blast! It was packed with dancers. Here’s what Lorenzo wrote afterwards:
The 5th Happy Feet Anniversary on Monday was definitely among our most successful nights in terms of music quality and attendance. Carl and his band were fantastic, Big Sandy brought down the house. Every guest was great. Many thanks to you all for having supported those nights for 5 years!
Here’s a video of Big Sandy performing that night: