My First Taste of Kiwiana – When Big Band Came to Town

This past weekend, Christchurch’s social calendar was jam-packed. Between Festa and the annual Christchurch Big Band Festival, the CBD was buzzing with life.

As part of the music festival, bands were spread across town, playing big band classics by Count Bassey and Glen Miller on stages at the new Central Library, outside the Christchurch Art Gallery, and in various other public spaces. Everywhere you went you could hear the faint sound of trumpets blaring and bass thumping.

Pete used to play guitar in big bands and when we lived in the States, he used to take me to see some big band legends. I’ll never forget seeing Tommy Igoe playing a gig at Yoshi’s, a jazz institution in San Francisco, with a full orchestra behind him.

I knew we couldn’t miss the chance to see at least one musical performance over the weekend.

Luckily, one show was being held at the Cashmere Club, just a few blocks from our house. Tickets were only $10 to see the Mainland Big Band & Sideline Swing Present the Big Band Dance and from the second I walked through the doors of the Club, we were in for something special.

Spectators sit at tables watching a big band perform.

It felt like I’d traveled back in time. One of the bands was dressed in old-school red jackets and black bow ties, twinkle lights were hanging from walls covered in black cloth and a sheet was suspended from the ceiling in the hope of concealing the fact that we were spending our evening in a gymnasium. The music was loud and the wine was flowing.

Couples were whizzing around the dancefloor, confidently dancing to the waltz and foxtrot and some fun swing tunes.

We had a few wines and watched as some pairs purposefully moved across the dance floor, focused on every step; others lost themselves in the moment with their partners, stealing kisses each time a twirl brought them together.

Couple dancing to big band, twirling as spectators take in the scene

One of my favorite groups was a gaggle of older ladies who’d all dolled themselves up for the night. I dubbed them the big band groupies. There was so much hairspray involved I prayed none were smokers. The tiniest of flames might have set a head or two aflame.

The music, the atmosphere, they both came together to create this amazing night. It was like just like the American Bandstand scene from Grease…except we brought the average age down a few decades.

I was only sad that I didn’t know any of the steps, it would have been fun to dance the night away with Pete. Luckily we’ve got some dance lessons on the calendar as we prep for the wedding.

Next year, I’ll be ready!  #bringonthequickballchange

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