When swing music experienced its unexpected revival in the late 1990s, Ventura wasn’t just a hotbed — it was the epicenter of the movement. From being the hometown of one of the biggest bands in the genre, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, to having a popular dance night at a local venue, Nicholby’s, taught by a relatively famous dance troupe, the Flying Lindy Hoppers, Ventura was swingin’. Pun very much intended.
The revival, though short-lived, had a massive cultural impact. Swing music and bands were featured prominently in television, commercials and film, most notably in The Mask and Swingers. Swing bands like the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies made it onto radio and the Billboard charts. Perhaps most impressive and mind-blowing of all, a swing band landed the biggest gig in the world when our very own BBVD performed at the Super Bowl halftime show in 1999.
It was in that climate that two swing dancing enthusiasts, Lance Bury and Paris Maloof, not only met at Nicholby’s weekly swing dance night, but fell in love and married. Bury even proposed at Nicholby’s at the same spot where they first met.
Over the years the Burys became a vital part of the swing scene, helping to keep it alive in the area by teaching in both Ventura and Ojai, and most recently being the organizers and instructors of The Starlight Swing Night for the past three years.
Originally at Golden China, the Burys moved the operation to Discovery at the beginning of 2016. The new venue was a great fit as Discovery was able to accommodate the live bands that often provided the soundtrack. One of those bands that frequently headlined was The Starlighters, for which Paris is also a singer. It was very much a throwback to the good ol’ days of the Ventura swing scene, when dancers could practice their craft through lessons and to the tunes of live musicians as well.
All good things must come to an end, however, and the Burys have decided it’s time to retire the night.
“Though it’s a weekly event, it’s really a full-time job,” explains Lance. “My wife and I have two kids that just started school. We knew something had to go. We looked at the last couple months and the numbers have gone down. We’ve been taking a really big hit. It made sense that the night was what we needed to cut out. It’s definitely bittersweet for us.”
The Burys are not going quietly into the night, however. For their epic finale they managed to land one of swing’s most popular acts, The Jive Aces.
The six-piece English outfit, considered to be “The Big Bad Voodoo Daddy of Europe,” puts on a show so energetic it would rival any band in any genre. Clad in matching yellow suits, the band has performed at festivals and events around the world and even performed for the Queen of England.
It’s the perfect complement for the final Starlight event as it is a band nearly impossible not to dance to. Even non-dancers flock to Jive Aces gigs just to watch some grade-A showmanship. Local swing dancers have been anxiously awaiting its return to these parts since they rocked The House of Magic at the Nicholby’s Swing Reunion in 2014.
While many local swing dancers are devastated at the news, the Burys, thankfully, aren’t leaving the swing game completely.
“We’ll still be dancing in and supporting the scene,” says Bury. “We’ve talked to the owners at Discovery about bringing in swing bands and having a few big events here and there in the future. We still love being able to provide dancers with the experience of dancing to a live band. That energy. That interaction. That’s definitely what I’ll miss the most, and we want to still be able to make that happen, even if it’s a few times throughout the year.”
The question remains: Will swing ever have a revival like the one that took place in the ’90s?
“Swing has its ups and downs,” explains Bury. “Right now it’s a little slow, but it’s still steady. I think when the 2020s come and the 1920s nostalgia starts, there’ll be another revival.”
When it comes, it’s safe to say the Burys, and Ventura, will be ready.