Swingshift: Drawing a Crowd
Swingshift at Florida [NY] Family Fun Festival
Sunday, August 12th, 2001
Story by Kevin Robinson
Photos by Ellie Apuzzo [ more photos ]
Boyle had an idea. He wanted to put together a band that was
a little bit different...at least as far as New York bands go.
Married with children, Boyle has been playing guitar since he was 14
years old, and has probably performed just about every kind of popular
music there is. But what he really likes is Western Swing and Cajun
music...both a little difficult to come by here in the New York area.
But Boyle had an ace in the hole, Louisiana fiddle wizard, Frank
Urbanovitch. "My father's Polish," Urbanovitch told me, "and my
mother's pure Cajun. I started performing in public with my
grandfather when I was seven. Remember that scene in the Blues
Brothers where they were playing behind a chicken wire screen while
the patrons threw beer bottles?" When I nodded yes, he laughed and
went on. "We played lots of those joints. I hid behind my grandpa,
while he wiped off the beer spray and played right on."
Needless to say, Frank Urbanovitch knows how to party. And, as a 22
year veteran of the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra, he also knows how to work
the crowd. Now factor in Keith Slattery on keyboards and Robert Lobb
on bass, and you'd already have one hell of a party band called
SwingShift. But wait, there's more. Buried behind the drums, is
Michael Boyle's other ace in the hole, Jim Cawein. This cat is truly
impressive. Cawein is the primary vocalist, and my guess is that he
knows the words to every tune Bob Wills & the Texas Playboy's ever
performed. But don't let that fool you. From Hank Williams, to Brian
Setzer & the Stray Cats, to Lyle Lovett,& his Large Band, to a host of
modern-day rockers, if it swings, if it makes you want to get up and
dance, Jim Cawein can play it and sing it. And when's the last time
you saw a drummer jump in on harmonica?
We caught up with SwingShift at the Rusty Nail in Middletown, New
York, where they won over the room almost instantly. But, to be fair,
this relatively new band has a pretty hard-core following... a
following that really likes to dance! We were so impressed with the
show, we followed them to the Florida Family Fun Festival on Sunday
August 12th, and took along our cameras. The boys started playing at
3:30 p.m., and the sleepy little town of Florida woke up in a hurry.
By the second tune, the crowd had completely stopped up the main drag,
and folks of all ages were literally dancing in the street, and on the
sidewalks, and anywhere else there was room. And that's one of the
great things about SwingsShift, their audience demographic is one of
the widest in the Hudson Valley. While this band probably won't
attract too many grungers and hip-hopper's, the dancing fans we saw at
both the Rusty Nail and the Florida street fest ranged in age from
early 20s to late '70s.
Frank Urbanovitch usually handles the lead vocals on the Cajun end of
things, and he and Cawein take turns backing each other up as
necessary, so there's a great ebb-and-flow of musical variety
throughout the show. There are also some genuine showstoppers. When
Michael Boyle puts down his guitar mid-song, picks up his fiddle, and
goes head-to-head with Urbanovitch, the audience starts looking for
the flames... 'cause the stage is sure enough smokin'!
Robert Lobb (left), Keith Slattery (right)
Bottom line: If SwingShift doesn't get you dancing, clapping, or
tapping your foot, then you've already got your other foot in the
[ more photos ]
is a freelance writer/photographer, and
the author of three "Stick Foster" hardback mystery novels.
A former syndicated columnist for
the Detroit Free Press, his byline has appeared over 100 times in
national and regional periodicals. Kevin is a partner at
No Bull Productions,
and his PR credits include promotion and
booking work for several of Kansas City's top blues bands. Kevin can
be reached at nobull@NoBullProductions.com.
Ellie Apuzzo owns and operates
Ellie's Consider It Done.
"on-site oversight for absentee owners" here in the Florida
Keys; and so far, this lifelong New Yorker just can't seem to
get into "Keys time!" Ellie can be reached at
Posted on September 10, 2001