Arts and Culture

Swallow Hill burlesque holiday extravaganza with Ukulele Loki's Gadabout Orchestra

This time of year, some things are meant to go together: mint and chocolate, Rudolph and Santa, Swallow Hill and spangles. Catch the belles of bump 'n grind Orchid Mei, Violetta Volare, Tatianna TaTa, Fannie Spankings, and more at one of Denver's least expected burlesque venues. Since the early days of Denver's neo-burlesque scene, there's been a mustachioed gent toting a ukulele while emceeing, organizing vaudevillian shows, and sneaking in songs between acts. Of late, Ukulele Loki has let the sideshow circuit take a backseat to his Gadabout Orchestra, collaborating on original music with a fluctuating cast of locals. Saturday, December 18 at 8 p.m., he festively reunites with Naughty Pierre and the Clocktower Clockettes at Swallow Hill Music Hall, 71 E. Yale Ave., whose stages are no stranger to the plink of a uke, but host far more artists in hippie garb than glamour queens.

"Swallow Hill has a huge community of folk-music appreciators," says Loki, who was raised on Joe Hill, Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, and the like by a family of music-loving ladies. "But they don't necessarily get to the punk clubs or burlesque venues. Shows like this help cross-pollinate and show what else performers in Denver are up to. Once they see it, people get that the classic style of burlesque is totally different from the oversexualization in lots of our culture. It's all about the tease, and much less about the strip." Expect a dozen dances, accompanied by the 6 piece ensemble of ukelele, tuba, clarinet, glockenspiel, drums and trombone. "We're only a doing few hokey holiday numbers, mixed with some great thirties songs. Our vocalist, Lizzie, has a voice somewhere between Feist and Snow White. She and the new tuba player, Leslie, do a gorgeous duet that totally captures the sisterhood of burlesque."

Despite his long-standing support of Denver's scene, of his current lineup only Loki and the clarinetist have yet seen a burlesque performance. Odd time-signatures and dissonant chords? It could be the band's unpredictable influences (early Modest Mouse to earlier Bertolt Brecht.) Equally likely- it's the drummer succumbing to the mesmerizing power of a sequined shimmy.