While on holiday in Maryland, I had the amazing opportunity to DJ at the Mobtown Ballroom in Baltimore. I had only visited Mobtown for the first time a few weeks before, so it was a real act of trust on the part of the organizers to let me in, but I’m so grateful to Michael and Nicole and all the other cool cats at Mobtown for making it possible.
As a venue, Mobtown is both beautiful and unique – it’s in a renovated church, so the outside is imposing stone, and the inside is only made cooler by the silks and hoops hanging from the ceiling for the circus arts classes they host! There’s also a bar and soft mood lighting, and people seem to love it – there’s a huge beginner lesson and a solid crowd starting at 9pm that lingers on the floor long past when most people would be tired out. My set started at 10:30pm, and I had such a great time watching the floor respond enthusiastically to each and every song that I ended up staying until about 1am – definitely the longest continuous set I’ve ever DJed!
This first half of my set features a lot of bouncier, faster tunes, as I was noticing that people really seemed to want to swing out. I fit in “When Lights Are Low” by Lionel Hampton, which is a poppin’ tune that at 200 BPM is perfect for balboa, although I also love doing solo jazz to it. My other favorite choice here is “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket” by the Boilermaker Jazz Band – it’s an energetic, fun tune, and it has the virtue of having a faster tempo and very clear instrumentation, so it’s accessible for newer dancers who are eager to experiment with the upper end of the speedometer.
With the way my screenshots worked out, in this latter half you can see that I slowed down the tempo flow a lot as the energy petered out and people began to spend less time on the floor and more time lingering at the bar. People were still swinging out when it got down to about 120 BPM, though, so I never really made the transition into blues – I just sank the energy down into a slower, comfier place that the dancers seemed to really appreciate. Ella Fitzgerald’s version of “This Can’t Be Love” captures that vibe really well – it’s a tune people know well from the version by Naomi and Her Handsome Devils, but in Ella’s rendition the vocals stretch out while the horns punch along underneath, making it fun to dance to even though it’s a lot slower.
I had such a blast at the Mobtown Ballroom – I would highly encourage you to visit if you’ve never been. It’s a rare and magical place that can make alcohol and social dancing play nice, and Mobtown makes it happen with remarkable class in a way that feels both safe and fun. I can’t get enough! And I’ll definitely be back the next time I’m on the East Coast – hopefully I’ll get to spin some tunes while I’m at it!