Fifteen years ago, at the height of the swing craze, Jesse Morreale opened Ninth Avenue West at 9th and Acoma and brought in some of the top bands of the day, like the Royal Crown Revue and the Mighty Blue Kings. But around the turn of the century, as swing started to fade, he changed the name of the venue to La Rumba. While Ninth Avenue West saw its share of swing dancers in the early years, salsa dancers soon took their place. Starting tonight, La Rumba will kick off its weekend-long fifteenth anniversary celebration with live salsa from Sabor De La Calle and DJ Zafiro. Tomorrow night, Los Lunaticos and DJ Ale will perform, along with a bachata dance competition, which starts at 11 p.m. On Saturday, Kizumba, DJ Gonzo and a Jack and Jill salsa dance contest, which also starts at 11 p.m. (doors open at 9 p.m each night).
When Morreale first opened the club, he says he regularly used to pop by to see how long the lines were. One night, he says, he remembers seeing a guy standing in line holding a guitar case. The guy, it turns out, was Brian Setzer, who was playing at the Paramount the following night, and stopped by to sit in with either the Royal Crown Revue or the Mighty Blue Kings. Morreale also recalls the night when London Swing Band the Big Six played. That was a wild night. The bass player jumped on top of the grand piano, poured whiskey down the front of his bass and then lit it on fire.
Since opening the venue fifteen years ago with a gig from Ben Harper, La Rumba has hosted popular dance nights like Lipgloss and Oxygen while also having one of the city's best salsa nights on Thursdays. La Rumba has recently started another Latin night on Fridays, which Morreale says has a bit younger crowd and casts a bit of a wider net than just salsa. "It's the one place in the city where people who like that community just go, and they know they're going to be with like-minded people and that it's cool," Morreale says. "It's not weird. It's not like you're in some bar downtown, where you're trying to have a Latin night."
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