The Show: Let's begin with the evening's most rousing surprise: The main event was an hour-long burlesque show, featuring four comely young lasses of the company Voodoo Dahlia's Burly-Q. With names like Sophia Sirena, Dahlia DeLust and Candie Rox, these girls, though diminutive, had curves in all the right places, and they masterfully shook and shimmied all that God gave them–as well as their tasseled pasties. This was done with the distinctive and empowering tongue-in-cheek showmanship you can't find in a strip club. Not having been to other burlesque shows, it was difficult to compare how Voodoo Dahlia's Burly-Q measured up.
There were a couple prop malfunctions, and the show's hosts, two women dressed like New Jersey drag queens, were painfully unfunny (though that wasn't the intention). Still, despite the show's minor blemishes, I was reminded of the old adage about looking a gift horse in the mouth. And for a $7 cover charge, this was quite a gift.
Bonebrake Syncopators were a surprise in and of themselves. It was a shock watching five men in suits and porkpie hats setting up gear that included a standup bass as well as a vibraphone. Playing standards of the swing era that included “Dinah” as well as the Count Basie favorite, “Topsy,” Bonebrake Syncopators featured X drummer D.J. Bonebrake on vibes. He was a sight to behold as he hammered away at the aluminum bars with deft precision and focus that can best be described as serene. Vocal duties were split between drummer Dave Stuckey as well as lap steel guitar player Jeremy Wakefield whose singing style called to mind jazz crooner Chet Baker. These guys were tight, played with aplomb and exhibited a palpable joy for what they were doing.
Coul-blues-jazz outfit Maison Derrière opened. As it happens, I've known guitarist Nick Sanchez for some time now and have shared more than a few drinks with the man in the past. Sanchez led his quartet through a series of jams which modulated between Doors inspired keyboard romps as well as vintage-flavored ska numbers. At one point a young lady named Carissa Valderrama of the Huntington Beach reggae band Roots Daughtah emerged from the audience and joined the band for a rendition of the 1957 tune made famous by Mickey & Sylvia, “Love is Strange.”
The Crowd: Not as salty as you'd find at a typical punk show at Alex's, but saltier than you'd find at many Orange County venues. During Bonebrake's set there was enough room between the crowd and the stage to permit a young couple enough room to swing dance. The same couldn't be said for the burlesque show, during which the now mostly male audience pressed incredibly close to the semi-nude dancers with camera phones clicking.