Lounge and exotica fans pick up where the ’50s left off.

Stereo Fab 

Lounge and exotica fans pick up where the ’50s left off.

This Saturday, a Japanese DJ known as Fantastic Plastic Machine spins tracks from his recent album, Beautiful, at The Granada theater in Lawrence. A few years ago, it would have been ludicrous to think that this area would be a tour stop for a DJ who combines bossa nova, French easy listening, Japanese pop and vintage R&B. But lounge music and exotica are enjoying a mysterious resurgence in our midst.

When a New York City DJ known as The Meat Mistress came to Kansas City a few months ago, she was surprised at the community's enthusiasm as she joined DJs Nate Kelley and J.J. Heldmann for their monthly lounge night at The Pub.

People are taking interest in what they used to dismiss as kitsch, she tells the Pitch from New York. Today's lounge DJs are sampling old standards and taking influences from vintage vinyl -- but enhancing them with technologies developed for electronic dance music. These DJs are doing what arrangers have always done with standards: making them their own.

"It's what pop music would be like if rock had never happened, if there had been no British Invasion and no Beatles and we had moved straight from the music of the '50s into what we're listening to now," says Kelley, who established The Pub's lounge night last October.

And then there's the wardrobe. The Meat Mistress was floored by the sight of 25-year-olds wearing cocktail dresses and carrying pocketbooks. "It's almost a rebellion against their parents, who were fuckin' hippies and hated this stuff," she says. "Now their kids are flipping it back on them and saying, 'Wait a minute, your parents were actually cool.'"

But while Kansas City's lounge groupies tend to get decked out in polyester and platforms (one regular goes so far as to wear a pink beehive wig), for a lot of people, it's just about the music, which Heldmann describes simply as "music that it feels good to listen to."

Of course, when it comes to the lounge revival, none of the DJs interviewed could deny the contribution of the well-made cocktail.

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