This Saturday and Sunday, Governors Island was again transformed into an oasis of 1920s and 30s era jazz, as Michael Arenella held his 5th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party for enthusiastic crowds of jazz lovers, lindy hoppers, and vintage hounds. I had already attended his Arenella's Lawn Party in July and had a fantastic time. So I was excited to return to Governors Island for a swinging adieu to summer.
As in past Lawn Parties, the principal entertainment was Michael Arenella's Dreamland Orchestra, a powerful and polished ensemble of jazz musicians who perform 1920s and 30s era ragtime and hot jazz, perfect for charleston and peabody enthusiasts. This year they were accompanied by Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society, a smaller but energetic band that was a nice complement to Dreamland's smoother tones.
In the past, I've not been a huge fan of Arenella's parties, since they aren't so conducive to lindy hop, at least how I dance it. Lindy requires a more syncopated beat, in contrast to the more military cadence kept by the drummer and tuba in earlier jazz. But I've learned to enjoy doing charleston and peabody, which are better for faster tempos and enjoyable in their own way.
Charleston in particular is such a fun, joyful dance that everyone wants to get in on it. You see folks of all ages doing their best approximation of the dance by themselves, in couples and in small groups. It's a very simple basic step, but with infinite variations and opportunities for creativity, as was on display this weekend.
More about the weekend's festivities after the jump…
Other highlights of the weekend included a "bathing beauties and beaus" fashion show, another display of vintage-inspired fashion, a pie contest, a boys versus girls tug-of-war, and dance demonstrations. Plus there were classic cars on display and vintage clothing and jewelry for sale.
At the Jazz Age Parties, there's always hundreds of people with cameras running around taking snapshots, some just for themselves, and others for media outlets like the New York Times, Time Out NY, Metromix and more. Bill Cunningham of the New York Times was at both days of the Jazz Age Lawn Party, clearly having a blast taking pictures in his customary blue jacket. When Mr. Cunningham is near you, you can't help but get a bit excited at the prospect of being in the Times!
Who can blame the shutterbugs? You can't beat the setting: a bucolic lawn amidst stately old houses, with a canopy of trees to keep down the temperature. Folks are dressed to the nines and eager to have their picture taken. My friend Voon pictured here must be in thousands of pictures from this weekend, the dapper bastard.
I love how everyone brings blankets and picnic baskets and just lounges around in their finery in between dances. I spend a good amount of time at these parties chatting with old friends that I rarely see, or new friends who I haven't had much time to get to know, while relaxing in the afternoon sun.
And then Drew Nugent or Michael Arenella starts playing a hot number, and we all get up and dance.
It's a glorious way to spend a summer afternoon.