Saturday, May 26, 2012

Shaking Tailfeathers

It's not every night that a woman offers to be a man for me.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it happened at Balliceaux, where I met a couple of friends to see Miss Tess and the Talkbacks.

Their name probably isn't familiar, but Miss Tess said they just changed it two weeks ago.

Walking in, a bartender friend told me he'd heard their sound check and that it had been amazing.

Promptly at 11:15, the band (Miss Tess, guitarist, upright bass player and drummer) took the stage and began crooning, "Saving all my love for when my baby gets home."

They weren't two lines in when there were already four couples on the dance floor, always a good sign.

The bartender had been right about their sound. It wasn't just the musicianship, it was the three-part harmonies, the note-bending Miss Tess did, the eclectic and well-written songs.

According to one guy nearby, it was also the aqua blue Gretsch guitar being played so well, but I'd also give major points to Miss Tess, who was capable of "playing" the trumpet using her voice.

When she first began doing it, people craned their heads to see who had a horn.

Surprise, no one! It was just Miss Tess' vox trumpet.

"This one's for the ladies," Tess said before singing, "One for the money, two for the show, three to walk right out that door, Gonna leave that man," to an enthusiastic reception by those of us with two X chromosomes.

A good-sized group of dancers kept the floor busy as they did the Lindy, a modified Charleston and any number of swing dances that paired nimble feet in Keds and Converse with agile bodies.

Every now and then, a waft of honest sweat came our way from all the major effort being spent on the dance floor.

Meanwhile, a friend came back with the scoop.

"They're from a Swing/Lindy Hop group that meets on Saturday nights by Mekong," she shared. "Wanna do it some Saturday? I'll be the man."

I'm not sure how far she was willing to go to be my man, but I took it as a compliment.

Miss Tess and the Talkbacks' set ran the gamut from jazz to country to rock to swing with infinite variations and permutations, but the dancers knew all the right moves no matter where the music went.

During a Latin-influenced number, a tall, slender couple moved so beautifully in tandem, dipping and posing,  as to almost seem like ballet.

"They're gonna make me swoon," a guy friend said admiring them openly.

By the time Miss Tess and the Talkbacks finished their second set, many in the dancing crowd had abandoned the dance floor to the inebriated set who arrived late (and in five-inch heels, so perfect for dancing) and were trying their best to dance in spite of themselves.

We left them to it. They'd missed hearing a multi-talented vocalist/guitar player and her harmonizing band tear up Balliceaux for the last two and a half hours.

Even the non-dancers among us left practically in a swoon.

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