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Swing Low

Has everyone's favorite retro-dance fad already faded?

According to Ron Cope of the Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra, the perception that swing is faltering has been largely perpetuated by club owners who lack the business moxie to make swing work in their clubs. "Swing will not just die and go away, because it is appealing on so many levels," he says. "It's not just moving around on a dance floor. You actually get to touch somebody. It's definitely a retro thing, but the steps are just as fresh as they ever were. It exudes fun, and people aren't going to just stop having that fun, even if some of the fringe drops off." He cites Mercury Cafe owner Marilyn Megenityas someone who's figured out the formula to keep the swing community alive. The Mercury, which has hosted swing events since 1991 and still hosts them three nights a week, is an all-ages, smoke-free venue that doesn't rely on alcohol sales for revenue. It's an appealing place for dancing -- visually, atmospherically -- and the food ain't bad, either, which gives swingers one more reason to don their wing tips and gingham dresses.

"I think what differentiates [the Mercury] from other clubs is that we don't have the bar-pickup vibe and we're all ages," Megenity says. "This dancing is a spiritual revolution for people under 21; they are rejecting corporate consumerism for something they are participating in, dancingto. They're rejecting the concert/ spectator type of music experience and seeking out something more authentic. Plus, we have the best musicians in town: David Booker, the Dalhart Imperials, Cathy Burns."

"This is good music," she adds. "It stands up like Beethoven."

Check that, Daddy-O.


Attention, ye of local bands: If you've ever fostered dreams of landing that million-dollar recording contract after bumping into David Geffen at a down-home barbecue joint, now's the time to submit your materials to the mighty South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas. Sure, the annual schmoozefest ain't what it used to be -- now more of a nonstop series of label showcases for already-signed bands than a real opportunity for unsigned talent to be heard by industry folks -- but it's still a heck of a party. You'd best get moving, as entries for the early-submission deadline must be postmarked by October 15; the "absolute drop deadline" is November 15. And why not get your materials in early? Fabulous as it is, your music will have a much better chance of actually being heard if it arrives before the deluge. There are three ways to obtain a showcase application: check www.sxsw.com, call 512-467-7979 or write P.O. Box 4999, Austin, TX 78765. Packages must include a CD or cassette of original materials as well as a photo, bio, press kit and $20 processing fee. Acts selected to play SXSW -- to be held March 15 through 19 -- will be notified by February 15. To the post office, minstrel!

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