Fans of swing, jump blues and big band have a reason to stay up late on Sunday nights. Long Beach's Blue Cafe is well worth the drive across the county line, and a couple fewer Z's heading into the workweek.
Owners Vince Jordan and Ken McClintock have thoughtfully created a club for lovers of live blues, roots and swing-style music. And there must be a number of them, because that club celebrates three years this weekend.
Swing Sundays evolved a year ago after a successful evening featuring the Royal Crown Revue. Sunday also was, and still is, "Hot Rod and Harleys" day, when the proud owners of cherry vintage rides line up their two- and four-wheelers along the walking promenade in front of the club.
Since going to the swing and jump blues format on Sundays, the owners say their business has quadrupled, filling the club to near its 340 capacity. Many even show up after 8:30 p.m., when it's no longer free but $5 or more to get in.
What's more, another wave of vintage aficionados has entered the scene, many of whom dress the part in '50s and '40s duds, Jordan notes. But if you don't do retro, don't let that keep you from showing up; the crowd is still a stylish mix.
Before a luscious red backdrop, bands such as Jimmy and the Gigolos and the Royal Crown charge the air with their Golden Era sounds. The first Sunday of every month features the Eddie Reed Big Band, an 18-piece orchestra well worth the extra buck (it's $6) at the door.
Couples make due on a sliver of a dance floor before the stage, unfurling Lindy hop and East Coast swing moves as if someone were keeping score. The less adept take to the sides, including those who just want to wiggle and shake.
Pool is another reason folks flock here. Sharks, young and old, cruise in with encased cues under their arms, checking out the downstairs scene before heading upstairs to the billiards room. Tables are $5 an hour after 4 p.m., $2 before.
The bars (there is one upstairs and below) are a beer lover's paradise. There are dozens, most $3.50, including several tasty domestic, import and micro-brewery brands. For something different, try the Blackthorne Cider.
The menu is big on salads and sandwiches; portions are big as well, though most items are under $6. The kitchen closes at 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; it stays open an hour later on the weekends.
To celebrate its anniversary this weekend, the Blue Cafe has booked some of its favorite bands: the Blasters on Friday, Lester Butler and the Devils on Saturday, and the Rattle Brewsters on Sunday (a band that is more psychobilly than swing).
* SWING SUNDAYS AT THE BLUE CAFE
* 210 Promenade North, Long Beach.
* (310) 983-7111.
* The Blue Cafe is open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Entertainment begins at 9:30 p.m. on Sundays.
* Cover: $5 to $6.