A Reelin’ and A Rockin’

25 Feb

Now all of the sudden, she started to knockin’
And down in a dips, she started to rockin’
I looked in the mirror, a red light was blinkin’
The cops was after my Hot Rod Lincoln. . .

In my quest for some high octane fun this weekend, snowy weather created an on the fly change of venue. However, a quick search led me to Fridays at The Ellington right down the block and a chance at danceable fun: the Bopcats, a rockabilly group from Richmond. Rockabilly is one of those musical forms that I began to love in college with the Stray Cats and then revisited this past summer in listening to Imelda May and JD McPherson. It’s revived itself as a genre among the vintage~tattoo~pinup crowd, and sparked my re-interest as well. So I was all kinds of excited to get dolled up starlet style and go boogie daddy-o.

About 5:50pm, I strolled into the Ellington, beaded, neck scarved, and carmine lipsticked ready to go. Almost immediately, I realized the atmosphere was not going to be the 40’s/50’s greaser~pin up gal crowd I had anticipated. First, upon a quick survey of the audience seated at their tables, clearly the youngest hepcat in the room was me. But I revved up my “let ‘er rip tater chip” determination and swore to have fun no matter what.




The atmosphere of the Ellington is actually quite open and laid back. The bar in the foyer is small, but offers beer, wine and mixed drinks at a fair price.The black and white parquet dance floor is huge and the stage, centrally located. This place is made for music and dance. Lights are lowered, but not so much people fall over each other and sound levels are kept at a tolerable decibel so that one’s ears don’t ring for days after a concert. Wait…that doesn’t make me old, does it?

The Bopcats began to play about 6:05 and the boogie- woogie beat was instantaneous. Dancing was desperately needed and not being shy, I have no problem wiggling with the band all by myself. Dying to get out there, I waited through the first song; however, the smattering of half claps from the audience induced a sudden dread. Uh oh, this is not going to be pretty.The music was fan-freakin’-tastic, but the audience was dead…stone dead…maybe even sleeping upright needing a large dose of Geritol dead. I felt so sorry for the band. Suddenly, they had been plunked down into Cocoon with no watery recourse. After song three, I couldn’t take it any longer and launched onto the dance floor, thinking to myself, “Dammit, someone has to get this party started . . . may as well be me”. So, I danced by myself on the totally empty dance floor for several songs and became quite possibly the ridiculous entertainment for nearly the whole first set. I’d had a little liquid courage and I figured “go big or go home”.

The Bopcats repertorie is standard rockabilly: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Stray Cats, Ricky Nelson, Chuck Berry. . . anything with swingin’, rockin’, and rollin’. It’s hard NOT to dance to Rock Around the Clock, You Never Can Tell, and a hot rendition of Little Sister (Don’t You Do What Your Big Sister Done). Praying all the while for Blue Suede Shoes, wiggling away having a grand time, I suddenly see everyone stand up and start to move toward the dance floor. “Hallelujah! I’ve started a general trend to merriment! The night is saved!”, I rejoice.

Wrong Mary Lou…good-bye heart.

Ever had a sixty something year old almost knock you down for chicken parmesan appetizers while you were dancing to rockabilly? It was like coupon day at the K&W cafeteria. I had known there were appetizers included with admission and thought it was a nice touch until the herd almost ran this little hot rod Lincoln off the road on the way to the drive-in.

During the first set break, I sat for a bit and tried to gather my thoughts. For a moment, I almost lost heart. “My god, these folks have already died. What happens to people?”, I thought. And I do realize that I’m making judgments here, but all apologies aside, it just seemed at that moment that the room had given up. Despite one older couple that I always see at festivals and such who are quite active, fun, and love to dance together, most of the couples I met seemed complacent to sit and watch, settled into their coupledom, content to listen…not even move a foot or tap a toe. Just sit. Why come only to sit and stare? For the first time I saw what I never ever want to be….old.

Do not misunderstand me here, I am not one of those gals who will have surgery after surgery to escape the effects of aging. I want to grow older…to mature, to become wise. I think though there is a huge difference in being old and being aged. Aged means seasoned, shaped by oak or salt or sugar, left to develop, to grow from the inside outward, to become better over time. Aging is the waiting, the keeping till the peak of ripeness and of fruitfulness and then the long enjoyment. Even after harvest, the fruit keeps and ripens further, becomes useful and creative before disintegration, before returning to the dust. This oldness I saw was a belief…not a reality. In the past was the best, now gone over, maybe ever a little soured, embittered.

The band members were all older than I and loving every second of the music, winding it up and lettin‘er loose. They reminded me of the great rock and rollers still alive and kicking it: Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant. Yoko Ono even turned 80 last week…80. There is no reason to accept the complacency of a boring existence, to not try and learn or grab life with both hands and squeeze it for all its worth. I understand about health, about being tired. Rest is necessary and the body does slow down even in the most prime athletes. But, I think it’s the mind that determines the attitude of doing EXACTLY what makes one happy no matter what anyone thinks. It’s as if there is this role that one has to play at a certain age…a way to be in one’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. Not in my world.

So during the second set, I boogied my little vintagey butt off, wiggling around in a half twist-pony-New Wave dive fusion and my new friend Mary, with whom I had talked in the lobby came out on the floor to dance too. Mary volunteers for the Ellington and she’s right about the change that will need to happen. The Ellington is maintained through community support and right now, all the supporters are older. A younger crowd will need to come to keep it going, ones that are willing to take a few more chances on music that’s a little different. That’s the only way it will survive.

As I danced more, people did make their way to the floor. The gift of the evening came when I felt a light touch on my shoulder. A gentleman, probably in his late 60’s in a vintage car shirt, asked me to dance. “Oh no”, I thought. “I can’t follow and he wants to dance old school. Sigh…do I really have to dance with someone, especially someone my mom’s age?” Something interesting happened, though. As we began to dance, he just let me do my thing at first, and watched me. Then, ever so slowly, he started to direct my movements. He only said one thing, very casually, “Watch me”. That’s it and somehow, I don’t know how, but somehow, I learned to follow. Within two songs, we were turning and twisting and I began to laugh. He was a crafty ole devil, a gleam in his eye as he laughed at me. I had denied his request at first, especially to a slow blues tune. But he taught me a lot about allowing and about what age can give a person. He wasn’t old…aged…not old. And still had those moves…like Jagger. That gleam said, “I haven’t lost it baby…don’t ever underestimate a coolcat”. He was the coolest cat and schooled me in more ways than one about dancing. As the night wore on, I twisted till I was aching and out of breath, but felt amazingly alive, and I have needed that for a long while now. The floor was never packed, but there were a few who had decided that the night and especially we were still young.

2 Responses to “A Reelin’ and A Rockin’”

  1. banished2theburg February 28, 2013 at 7:05 PM #

    Don’t be afraid to give the Ellington another try.
    The author’s description is mostly accurate, (and ever so well written, as always) but the lack of dancing is QUITE rare in my experience there. Prolly just a slow night?

    I would say, given the author’s stated hopes/expectations, that she would have a good time there on at least 8 of any 10 on-the-fly, venue-changing weekend.

    Yes, I am usually in the youngest 10% there, (The Wayfarin’ Lass and I are the same age). Almost always, however, the dance floor is rockin with older couples who can really dance, and there is usually a positive atmosphere of folks willing to dance with many partners with the “pick up” dynamic (mostly) absent. Last year they hosted a Gratefull Dead “tribute band” and probably 75% of the patrons were under 40….ish. (It IS a bit dark)
    The Ellington is a local treasure, a fun cheap date, (or solo destination.)
    But it is also one of Lynchburg’s most fun, safe, solo-lass friendly “wiggling destinations.”

    • *cyn* February 28, 2013 at 7:40 PM #

      Oh, I plan to go back for sure. Perhaps it was just the genre of band or particular evening. I have been previously (August) where the dancing was much more plentiful and I totally support the Ellington’s mission and efforts. We need more venues for live music in Lynchburg and its up to the community to support and cultivate these opportunities.

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