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Swing Time Newsletter — Monday JUL 7th 2008

Dear Swingsters,  Now that summer's in full swing, get ready to dance at the Gulfport Casino Swing Night!  We're making some major improvements to this every-Wednesday swing night, starting with a newly implemented acoustical sound setup (detailed at the bottom of this newsletter), plus much more to come in the upcoming weeks and months!  Come experience the dance excitement and the brilliant new acoustics for yourself this Wednesday, plus be sure to make a request or two if there's something you'd like to hear.  Sam now has a catalog of 4000+ songs available, which is growing by the week!  Enjoy the photos below, and read on for details on the Gulfport Casino Swing Night plus a full schedule of Swing Time events.  See you at the Gulfport Casino!  --Sam & Allison


New photos are up on the Swing Time web site from the Gulfport Casino Swing Nights!  In this new photo collection, photographer Gary Hufford captures the joy, art, and excitement of swing dancing at the Gulfport Casino!  All photos were freshly taken from March to June of 2008 at the Wednesday Gulfport Casino Swing Nights.  After viewing the photos, please visit Gary's web site and support his continued photography at our dances, by ordering prints or digital enlargements of your favorites.  Can't see the photos below?  You'll need to enable images in your email program; it's easy to do -- just look for the button.  Likewise, if you can't click the links below, you'll need to enable links in your email program.



Photos - Gulfport Casino Swing Night

PLEASE ENABLE IMAGES IN YOUR EMAIL PROGRAM ...Gulfport Casino Swing Night! Every WED @ Gulfport Casino

EVERY WEDNESDAY in Gulfport (St. Petersburg, FL)

The Gulfport Casino Swing Night is a high-energy social-dance event, happening in a beautiful retro-era grand dance hall -- the Gulfport Casino -- that beckons all who venture near to come inside and swing!  Now in its 10th year, this every-Wednesday Swing Night has become one of the biggest swing dances in the USA, attracting hundreds of dancers of all ages, both locals and often visiting travelers.

Swing Music & Dancing,  8pm-Midnight
Dance Lesson,  7-8pm  (no partner needed)

Shim Sham,  Dance Jams,  Prizes,  Mixers,  & More!

Beautiful & Historic Waterfront Grand Ballroom
Friendly Social Atmosphere
One of the World's Best Dance Floors!

*  All Ages  *  Smoke-Free  *  Full Bar  *  Free Parking  * 
Admission $7  (includes Free Lesson)

The Gulfport Casino is located in the St. Petersburg area at 5500 Shore Blvd. S., Gulfport FL 33707.  For more info, visit www.SwingTime.info on the web, or click the links below:

[Map & Directions]     [More Info]

A DJ's Quest for Nerdvana

Warning!  What follows contains actual WORDS.  Though it's not required reading, it's my hope that you'll find it enjoyable and informative.  Just like you read a magazine, feel free at any time to skip this article and proceed below to the Calendar of Events.

Back in 1996, I first discovered a unique and picturesque waterfront dance hall named the Gulfport Casino, when I went to dance to the Cajun band, Filé (an event hosted back then by local club, The Cajun Connection).  Looks like time flies when you're having fun, because I've now been either attending or running dances at the Gulfport Casino for 12 years!  Over the years, one thing I've noticed myself and heard from bands, sound people, and DJs alike, is that acoustics at the Gulfport Casino are difficult to manage.  Musicians would often notice a major echo on stage within the bandshell.  The funny thing is, everything sounded normal from the dance floor -- the dancers heard no echo.

Since bandshell technology was before their time, most musicians weren't prepared to deal with it, and the equipment they brought clashed to varying degrees.  If a band tried to run too many monitors (those wedge-shaped speakers musicians point at themselves so that they can hear themselves) into the bandshell, feedback and echo became a major issue.  If they used the overhead house speakers or brought in too much power, the sound would bounce into the bandshell and echo would again become a problem.  Some bands opted to set up on the edge of the stage or right on the dance floor, but that often brought the opposite problem where people in the rear of the hall couldn't hear them very well.

One day I talked to some old-timers -- musicians from the original swing era -- who used to play the Gulfport Casino's ballroom dances.  They said echo was never a problem for them, if you used the bandshell acoustically, the way it was intended.  In fact, what seemed to work the best for bands was to set themselves up in the bandshell and to bring a small sound setup, without too many monitors and just a couple of speakers.  The combination of the stage sound and the smaller speakers would fill the room with sound, without it being too soft or too loud or creating echo/feedback.

When I first DJ'd at the Gulfport Casino (about six years ago), I operated from the bandshell/stage using the Casino's multitude of huge overhead speakers.  Unfortunately, it was impossible to hear what everyone else in the hall was hearing and to adjust the sound for each song accordingly.  Even if it sounded perfect on the dance floor, what you heard on stage was a lot of boom and echo.  After many weeks, I moved on to the sound booth in the rear of the hall, where I could hear what was coming out of the house speakers.  This worked much better, for several years, the only problem being that the volume was quite a bit louder toward the speakers and stage than away from them, and was much softer in the back of the room where I was DJ'ing.  Add in a lot of crowd chatter coming off the dance floor and nearby tables, and it was still hard for the DJ to monitor and adjust the music.  Despite its challenges, this setup worked pretty well (more or less) for several years.  But with years of use and hundreds of different hands touching (and sometimes abusing) it, the Casino's built-in sound system started to experience intermittent troubles -- sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't.

Then one day at a private function at the Casino, some music jock pumped too much bass into the system for too long, and one of the subwoofers vibrated off its shelf and broke.  Unfortunately, it was wired to the other three subwoofers, so it took them all out with it.  It was very hard to get good sound after that.  I tried compensating using the other speakers, and the Casino eventually bought new subwoofers, but other parts of the system, such as the mixer connecting the sound booth to the stage, had since gone bad.  Three weeks ago, I had just spent days preparing a bunch of new music, and listening to the beautiful swinging sounds on my home system, only to arrive at the Casino and have everything sound like mud.  It was frustrating to say the least.  Adjustments to the system only made it worse.  When the headset mic started producing a horrible squeal, I knew it was time to abandon the Casino's sound system and start with a fresh system.

So I spent the next couple of weeks designing my own sound setup, and using the accumulated knowledge I'd gained from years at the Casino.  The idea was to make maximum use of the acoustic projection capabilities of the authentic vintage bandshell, to evenly distribute clear and brilliant sound throughout the hall, so that whether you were dancing next to the stage or whether you were sitting in the rear of the hall, the volume and clarity would be the same.  With clear music and evenly distributed sound, the music would not have to be loud anywhere to be enjoyed.

Recently, I had DJ'd a wedding reception at the Harborview Center, in a huge rectangular banquet hall about the size of the Casino.  Rather than subject the crowd to stacks of unsightly speakers, I decided to hide the speakers, one under the DJ table and another far across the room under the cake table.  Because of the tablecloths and clever cable hiding, there were no visible speakers, speaker stands, or wires running across the room.  But I also had an ulterior motive in this setup.  At prior dinner/dance events, even with music playing softly in the background, people near the speakers might complain they were too loud, while people in the back of the room might not hear much at all.  So the idea was to produce radiant sound -- sound that radiated throughout the room rather than flying straight across the open air.  The sound was fantastic!  Whether a person was at the DJ table, dancing on the floor, sitting and eating, or 100+ feet away at the buffet table, the sound was clear and constant.  So this motivated me to try and achieve the same results at the Gulfport Casino, albeit with different "technology".

You may already know that the Gulfport Casino is a huge vintage dance hall built in the 1930's with 5000 square feet of dance floor.  It has an original 1930's bandshell, which reflects and projects sound across the room as acoustic bandshells do.  But sound problems easily arise when the old dance hall meets the modern sound "technician", a person who's used to installing monstrous systems with thundering towers of speakers in modern clubs and other rectangular-shaped joints.  When the Casino was renovated years ago, along with the renovation came a huge & complex sound system, with giant overhead speakers.  It was not ideal for the hall, but nevertheless, it was there, so I took months learning how to use it, and was able to squeeze some decent sound out of it.  But that was back when the system was working.

My new plan brought in a small yet excellent sounding system, and used the acoustic properties of the bandshell to project and distribute the sound evenly throughout the room.  Placing the speakers at the focal point of the bandshell achieved the desired sound.  (The focal point is a very cool place in the bandshell where you can stand and actually hear your voice amplified and resonating across the entire hall!  Ask me for a demonstration at the next Swing Night.)  Last Wednesday, those who braved the torrential rainstorm outside were treated to the debut of the new system, and the sound was clear, brilliant, and beautiful!  I even got compliments from a singer/musician on how well it sounded.  Whether you were up on the stage next to the speakers, or in the very back of the hall, the sound was constant and clear throughout the room, but not too loud.  It blew away anything I've heard at not just the Casino, but at other dance halls as well.  Check out the new sound this Wednesday and in coming weeks at the Gulfport Casino Swing Night, and let me know how you like it.  I'm confident you'll enjoy it!  As always, I welcome your comments.

-- Swingin' Sam the DJ Man

Click the links below for details on each event

   EVERY WEDNESDAY: Gulfport Casino Swing Night

Jul 11, 2008 (Fri): Swing Time! at Centro Asturiano
                    featuring  The Juke Joint Kings
                    Hot & Jumpin' Swing Band!
                    Tickets: $11; purchase at the door

Aug  1, 2008 (Fri): Swing Time! at Centro Asturiano
                    featuring  Charlie Vegas & the New Blues Combo
                    The Kings of Retro Swinging Blues!
                    Tickets: $11; purchase at the door

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