"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


far from the bright lights & the city's lies

Last night was Swang A-Go-Go 2007. Swang is one of the best parties around. A group of Austinites sponsor the party and get to invite 10 people each to a party at a dance hall way out in the Hill Country. There's a potluck dinner, a band, hours of dancing, a bonfire under the stars, and, if it isn't too cold, a very late-night swim in the Guadalupe, and after that, camping. There's also a dance lesson so the uninitiated can learn to two-step. There's lots of laughter and smiles. Everyone gets out of the city for a day or two. Dogs run through the dance hall and out the back door. It's family-friendly and fun, and 200 is just the right number of people for seeing old friends and making new ones.

Lucky me, Steve Not the Lawyer is one of the sponsors, so I get to go. It is more fun than you can possibly imagine, and the group of people there is so diverse that you're bound to run into someone you know, and to meet many others you're glad to know. The people who put Swang together are creative types, cool people who make movies and music, and lots of lawyers, dancers, and other random hipsters. We enjoyed dinner with Steve Not the Lawyer's friends, one of whom is a resident at Vanderbilt Hospital and who goes to Nigeria on occasion, so we talked about Nashville and African healthcare. I finally met the filmmaker for whom I was going to be a consultant until she decided not to make a movie about the Congo after all. I recognized someone who also recognized me and we figured out that we went to Baylor together (she subsequently introduced me to her fiance as "a non-Baylor Baylor person." I took that as a compliment.).
I also ran into my friend J, who introduced me to her friend Kai. While Kai and I were dancing, I asked who he knew at the party, and he said, "Oh, well, I know some people from Burning Man, and others from filmmaking, and, well, there's a few people here who are in my Lindy Hop class." "So you make films?" I said. Yes, he does, but at the moment he's being paid to follow a former presidential candidate's book tour to get it on film. Right. Or then there's E, who, when asked what he does for a living, said (with absolute seriousness), "I work for PBS and I'm a consultant and a clarivoyant."

Like I said, Swang is amazing.
The band for Swang is usually Two Tons of Steel, which is one of the best groups for dances in South Central Texas (you can watch a video of them here). They were on fire for three hours last night, playing all their signature songs, including "Red Hot," "One More Time," and their hilarious cover of "Secret Agent Man." For once it was a cool evening, so the dance hall wasn't hot at all. I hadn't been out dancing since getting back from the Congo last year, so it was especially fun for me. As the night progresses, the kids get tired, and parents take them back to the tents to put them to bed before heading back up to the hall to keep dancing.

And dance we did. By midnight, Two Tons had launched into a run that started with their amazing cover of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" then led into "Shake, Rattle, and Roll," and the Stones' "Not Fade Away," with "Heartache" as a much-demanded encore. I was spun and twirled and tossed around the dance floor so many times that it's all a bit of a blur. It was the most fun I've had in ages.

After the dance ended, we sat around and talked (amusing conversations: one with E (the PBS clarivoyant) about his thoughts on genocide; another with the Two Tons pedal steel player, who told me about his dream to surf in South Africa) and had a snack before heading outside to the bonfire. Actually, it's more of a campfire that everyone sits around while the musically inclined play their guitars and sing. Some of the Two Tons guys were there, and Jeff Hughes from Chaparall sang a couple of gorgeous songs. Everyone sang along to "For What it's Worth" and "Angel from Montgomery" and others I can't remember. (For reasons that are still unclear, someone also convinced me to sing "The Ballad of New Orleans" but that's another story.)

As the night got cooler, someone launched into "Dublin Blues." There we sat, a group of people who in many ways are complete strangers, and yet who come together once a year to eat and to laugh and to dance under the Texas sky. It was way too cold to swim and we weren't camping, so somewhere around 2 we left behind a chilly night on the riverside to head back to the city, back to Austin, back to life for another year.

Labels: ,


Anonymous kirstin said...

wow - that really does sound fun! it was so nice to see you last week. thanks for hanging out with me!

Monday, April 23, 2007 9:55:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

It was great to see you, too! How did the rest of your interviews go?

Monday, April 23, 2007 12:16:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely you meant Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" right?

Monday, April 23, 2007 1:29:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Yes, you're right, but the way they played it was much more reminiscent of the Stones' version of the song.

Monday, April 23, 2007 2:26:00 PM

Blogger Ann said...

sounds like fun!!!

Monday, April 23, 2007 11:37:00 PM

Blogger Frank said...

Gosh...how I envy you! I miss Two Tons of Steel, but I wear their album Vegas out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 1:50:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Vegas is great, but I LOVE Live at Gruene Hall. I wear that out when I'm in Africa.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 9:24:00 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home