A DCLX Recap

Why was there no April Southside Stomp? Because we couldn’t bear to keep all our friends away from this much fun at DCLX!

Friday Evening Dancing in Glen Echo’s Bumper Car Pavilion

Music was provided by Glenn Crytzer and his Syncopators featuring vocalist Meschiya Lake

and Jonathan Stout and His Campus 5 with vocalist Hilary Alexander

Plus late night musical guests, The Gordon Webster Septet, playing until dawn.

Saturday Night Dancing in the Glen Echo Ballroom

Jonathan Stout vs. Glenn Crytzer Battle of the Bands

(A Musical Chess Match Battled For the Ages!)

The musical highlight of this year’s DCLX was, without doubt, Saturday night’s Battle of the Bands between the Jonathan Stout Orchestra and Glenn Crytzer’s Blue Rhythm Band. Honestly, the crowd sounded lukewarm to the phrase “Battle of the Bands” because we’d never really seen something worthy of that title. But from the minute Glenn’s musicians walked out to join Jonathan’s on stage the dancers knew they were in for something they’d talk about experiencing for the next 50 years, the same way people talked about seeing the Battle of the Bands at the Savoy Ballroom 75 years earlier.

With that in mind, I’m sure there will be hundreds of tellings of that night, but here is mine as seen from the foot of the stage surrounded by some of the most inspiring dancers, musicians and DJ’s I know.

From the opening seconds, the contrast between the bandleaders was instantly apparent… even in their postures.

Jonathan bills his group as “the nation’s premier swing dance big band” and truthfully, his music is almost the soundtrack of learning to dance for many of us. In addition to his albums and the events he’s played, if you’ve read any of his writings or listened to him talk, you know he is THE consummate musician who believes utmost in the power of music. So through most of the battle Jonathon faced, not the dance floor, but his band members, who he knew had complete mastery at making things swing. Like a general he planned and shaped the battle to go his way.

In contrast, Glenn Crytzer, the newcomer to many, with his hair parted like Bix Beiderbecke, sat hunched awkwardly over his guitar with an ever growing maniacal smile on his face that made it seem like Chick Webb himself was grinning out at the dancer floor, feeding off its emotion. It left me thinking that we might see more showmanship from his side of the stage as the battle progressed.

The battle started with the bands trading songs and while I felt Jonathon’s song choices had a bit more “something” going for them, it was pretty much a draw. The bands then launched into a combined version of “Jumping at the Woodside” and it was amazing how seamlessly the 2 groups could throw it to the other side, as if the musicians had been playing together for years; as each band leader called out his musicians, no one missed a beat. Meanwhile, on the massive floor of Glen Echo, close to 500 dancers stood motionless crammed against the stage, pivoting their heads back and forth between the bands as if watching a musical game of tennis. Beneath their feet, the floor gently bounced and swayed.

On and on the band leaders battled in an even heat highlighted by both the drummers and then the upright bass players each soloing to a draw. Then Glenn’s trombone player unleashed a mighty solo and Johnathon responded, not with his trombonist but with his clarinetist, who had been the hardest swinging musician of the entire weekend… point to Glen Crytzer for superior trombone (but with an anticipation that the gentleman channelling Benny Goodman perfectly would soon even the score). But it was Jonathan Stout’s sax player who returned the favor and pulled it back even (although sax fan Beth Midavaine next to me argued Glenn’s man was just as stellar). Back and forth the bandleaders went, summoning players to outdo the other… and still not a single missed note. Just when it seemed that Jonathan’s trumpet section, which had been amazing all weekend, was about to pull his band ahead, Bria Sconberg and the two trumpets next to her blew an incredible combined trumpet line and the crowd went wild.

Jonathan went back to his main stay clarinetist and the crowd waited to see if Glen would match up his, who’d also shown moments of genius during the night. Instead, the sax players also picked up clarinets and a quartet blew a call and response that escalated the stakes and drew cheers from the crowd. Jonathan was clearly going to have none of it and quieted the crowd with a wave of his hand to signal his mighty soloist, who exceeded the foursome.

But Glenn’s masterful combinations started increasingly winning the crowd. His combination of trombones called out Jonathan’s again, who responded with his trombones and sax sections but the combination didn’t pack the same creative punch so he went back to his trumpet section, at which point Glenn and his bass player oddly, walked off the stage? Were they conceding?

They returned seconds later with a tuba and banjo and erupted into stripped down Dixieland that took the music and the dance floor to a wholely new place. The crowd riotously thundered it’s approval and from the front row I saw Jonathan take a step back, his arms pausing for the first time, and his upright bass player looked to him with an expression of shock or horror. At that moment, it was clear that Glenn, the David vs. the Goliath, truly wanted to win the night more than Jonathan, who must have thought that his previously unparalleled lineup of musicians, and the wondrous music they generated, would never be surpassed… and on any other night he would have been correct.

So, as the crowd roared, I wandered how Jonathan would respond and when he did, oddly with his sax section, it felt like the first time someone blinked… a minute later both bands roared back at full power, but the battle had been decided. On cue both bands combined for the final ninety seconds and 30 musicians lit up Glen Echo’s Ballroom like its never swung in all its years.

Many were already saying it must have been what Chick Webb vs. Count Basie must have been like at the Savoy and fans of each group were starting to stand behind their favorites. In the end, a decibel meter read the same volume of cheers coming from the audience, but those for Glen’s band were more sustained and he was declared the victor. But the real winner was those of us there to witness 20 minutes of music that will probably never be more perfect during our lifetimes.

Honestly, words or video will never be able to capture what those of us saw that night and will talk about for years to come; but here are excerpts for you just the same.

Jumpin’ at the Woodside

Honeysuckle Rose

Saturday Late Night at the Chevy Chase Ballroom

Do I have to mention another late night that lasted until 5 a.m.? This time with Blue Sky 5 +2 and a blues room with Stacy Brooks Blues Band.

Sunday Dupont Circle Dance

It wouldn’t be DCLX without gorgeous Sunday weather and a great day of outdoor dancing!

Sunday Night Dance at the Chevy Chase Ballroom

Finally, how does DC close out the best exchange in the land? With the Boilermaker Jazz Band of course!

Endless thanks to our friends, the DCLX organizers for throwing the best lindy exchange of the year! I’d like to also point out this year boasted the largest number of Hampton Roads dancers attending DCLX.  Particularly immense thanks to the photographers and videographers who’ve shared the images they’ve captured for us all to enjoy.

Way to get out to wonderful events and represent our Southside Stomp in style!


2 Responses to “A DCLX Recap”

  1. For a different perspective, check out the blog entry by Russ Reinberg, the clarinet player from Jonathan Stout’s band that night!


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