Get your glad rags on and dance the night away to the retro sounds of super swing and jumpin’ jive bands.
What is a swing and jive band?
Swing and jive bands bridge the gap between the cool, laid-back sounds of jazz and classic rock bands, while performing some of the most iconic songs from the 1940s onwards. Swing and jive bands perform the best of retro classic music that everyone knows bang up to date with energy, enthusiasm and superb musicianship.
The style of swing and jive ranges from gentle lounge to irresistible dance floor filling sets that bring fresh energy and vintage fashions to any party, wedding or event.
What to look for in quality swing and jive bands
The best UK jive and swing bands share three essential qualities: extensive repertoire of music, excellent musicianship and an infectious sense of fun!
Most swing and jive performers have a deep-rooted affection for the music they perform and it shows in every moment of their performance. Many have a signature style of performance too, whether it’s pared-back skiffle versions of classic tracks or retro-arrangements of contemporary pop anthems.
Nearly all swing and jive bands will have a distinctive look, incorporating vintage fashions, authentic period instruments and some of the coolest haircuts you’ll see this side of London Fashion Week…
One of the key features of swing and jive bands is that their sound is immediate, energetic, almost raw, as opposed to the overproduced sound of carefully-tweaked pop album tracks. It’s this upfront, energetic sound that makes these kinds of bands so great for live events, as guests pick up on the band’s energy and your party suddenly gears up a notch or seven!
The best way to ‘get’ what a band does is to hear and see them in action. Many of the swing and jive bands at Alive Network feature both demo tracks and videos on their Profile page. This is a great way to discover the best band for your event, both in terms of look and sound. Try and listen to their demo tracks through quality speakers in a room rather than headphones or through your phone - it’ll give you a better feel for how the band will sound live.
What music do swing and jive bands perform?
These bands draw their music from the rich legacy of tracks from the 1930s onwards, including authentic 1940s arrangements, 1950s classic rock n roll, 1960s crooner classics right up to contemporary tracks with a retro twist.
For jive bands think:
1940s - uptempo Glenn Miller Band, Count Basie, The Andrews Sisters, Cab Calloway
1950s - Bill Haley, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee lewis
1960s - Nina Simone, The Rat Pack, Aretha Franklin
+ contemporary tracks reinvented by the band, from Miley Cyrus to Britney Spear, Kelis to Kings of Leon.
When putting the Blue Jeans together, we only wanted to play music that we LOVED and I think that's apparent when we perform. Many clients are looking for an alternative to the archetype of the 'cheesy wedding band', so the band’s repertoire appeals to all ages, with classic rock'n'roll, Motown and modern tracks with a vintage twist.
- Anna, The Blue Jeans
For swing bands, think of the legendary voices of the last 70 years, including Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole and their contemporary successors Harry Connick Jnr, Jamie Cullum, Michael Bublé.
Many guests are amazed they know so many of the songs we play at weddings and parties. They really enjoy hearing timeless classics from the Rat Pack to Michael Bublé played live, whether as gentle background to a drinks reception to party entertainment. Whatever their age, guests always want to get up and dance!
- Adam, Swing Stars
What format do swing and jive bands offer?
Swing and jive bands vary in size according to the style of music they play - and when they’re playing it.
- Swing singers, The Melodic Belles can perform as a trio of ladies and backing tracks for a product launch, or with a full 10-piece band for a charity ball
- Jive bands, The Jackpots and Whole Lotta Shakin’ are trio bands whose guitar, drum and double bass lineup has enough energy to entertain a roomful or a packed marquee with equal ease
The era of ‘rock and roll’ just seems to be one of those special times when the song writing planets aligned to create for a short period some of the best and most popular music in history. Rock and Roll is absolutely perfect to be played live for others to dance to - after all, ‘Rock and Roll’ was made for dance halls and for partying to!
- David, The Jackpots
Many swing bands can scale up from smaller, acoustic style line-ups suitable for receptions and afternoon events to a full band line-up in the evening. The Swing Smiths can adjust to venue sizes too, with a cool 7-piece format with vocalist up to a stunning, all out 12 piece band that turns any party into a real EVENT!
What equipment will a swing or jive band require?
Most small bands are self-contained, and will come with their own equipment. If you’ve booked an acoustic version for a drinks reception or a wedding ceremony, they may arrive with just their instruments. However, they might require a chair to sit on, and access to a 13 amp plug or two for a digital keyboard.
Larger bands will require a dedicated performance space (see below) and may require a stage to raise them above floor level. The large format swing bands may require a two-tiered stage so that the back row of instrumentalists are visible. If so, you’ll need to ensure the stage is deep enough for both rows AND a vocalist out front! If in doubt, just ask your Alive Network advisor who will be more than happy to help.
Large swing bands may want chairs to sit on. If so, these need to be sturdy, comfortable chairs such as dining chairs, with upright backs, no arms and seats that don’t slope forward. Plastic stacking chairs won’t be suitable.
For larger venues, some bands may need to bring a bigger capacity sound system, which will require extra power and extra space. Others will be quite happy to bring their own compact PA systems that may include vintage items such as amps and microphones, just to complete their onstage image.
Most bands do not provide lighting, so be prepared to provide this if required, especially in poorly-lit spaces like marquees. If in doubt, always check before booking.
If you want your band to perform outside, first check they are happy with this! The changes in humidity and temperature outside can play havoc with acoustic instruments such as double basses, and some bands might not want to risk taking their valuable vintage kit outside. If they are happy to perform outside, check their power requirements, and always provide a weatherproof (not just showerproof) covering that keeps the band dry and able to play on if there is a light shower or baking sunshine! The drummer and/or pianist may also require a level surface to play on, so that their instruments don’t slope down a hill or wobble about.
What space will a swing or jive band require?
Again, this really does vary from band to band, and will largely depend on the size of their line-up. The more kit they bring, the more space they will require (natch) but you’ll be surprised how little floor space some trios and four-piece bands require.
If space is limited in your venue, always check that the band you’d like will be happy to perform in it before booking, to avoid possible issues later. Some bands will welcome more space to move about, while other can be a bit more static if required.
As a three piece we don't require a Wembley Size area to perform in, we've played on large stages and in people’s houses and managed to fit our equipment in! An area 3m by 5m is perfect!
- David, The Jackpots
Always bear in mind that you need to create a small ‘buffer zone’ between band and guests, just to keep your guests’ dancing feet away from drum kits, mic cables, the vocalist’s ankles, etc!
It’s also worth bearing in mind that, without exception, swing and jive bands are great to watch and listen to, as well as dance to. So, make sure your space is arranged such that the band can be seen even if the dance floor is packed.
What performance length will a swing band or jive band offer?
Most bands are really flexible, and can tailor their performance timing to suit your event. For a wedding, for example, they might play 40 minutes of light lounge music during the drinks, take a break, then reappear to pack the dance floor at the wedding party.
Jive dancing can be particularly energetic for both your guests and the band members, so both will welcome a break if your swing or jive band are playing as the main evening entertainment.
Most swing and jive bands will perform two sets during an evening, with an interval in between when guests can catch their breath, have a drink or two, or tuck into the buffet! Sets usually last between 50 minutes and a hour, but they can be shorter if you want three sets during the evening. Or you can have one longer set of up to 90 minutes as post-awards ceremony entertainment, for example.
Whatever the length of performance, you’ll need to factor in sufficient time either side of their performance for the band to set up, and extra time if you want them to change locations between sets, such as from the drinks reception room to the main reception hall.
Check too if your venue has a ‘curfew’ time on live music, which may limit how late your band can continue to play. In most cases, performances that run past midnight will incur higher fees, as the band have to change, pack and drive home long after your last guest has departed.
What do swing and jive bands cost?
Costs for swing and jive bands do vary greatly, and take into account:
- How many people are in the band
- How experienced the band is
- How much kit they need to provide
- If they are local or need to travel long distances
- The date of performance (holidays and weekends may cost more than weekdays, for example)
Having said that, swing and jive bands represent terrific value for money, as you get that full on live sound and energy that other smaller format combos may lack. While you can book a solo swing or jive singer, you’ll usually create a better party atmosphere with a band of three members or more.
- Vocal trio, The Lily Belles can bring vintage harmonies to your event from as little as £690
- Most three piece bands costs around £800, with prices for some Alive’s best retro swing and jive bands starting at around £1000
- Once you reach £1200+, the number of players varies from four to six, so you can choose the style and line-up that suits your event best
You can also ‘upgrade’ the line-up of some bands to create your ideal band. For example, the popular 5 piece party swing and jive group, Blue Note Mitch and the Red Hot Jacks cost a little over £1300, with options to add the soulful sounds of a clarinet and/or punchy percussion. Megan and the Bourbon Boys offer a cocktail pianist for your drinks reception for just £90 extra.
Look out too for artists who sign up for our Carbon Offset programme. When you book these artists, they will offset the CO2 travel emissions created when getting to your event.
Is there anything else I need to know?
Most performers have very straightforward requirements, but all artists will appreciate the following:
Meet and greet: Bands will appreciate it if there is someone to greet them on arrival and introduce them to the event manager
Changing room: All bands will need somewhere private to change, rest between sets and leave their ‘day clothes’ and equipment boxes. (Please don’t insult the artists by asking them to change in a toilet!)
All we ask is that we are supplied with food, soft drinks and water, and a room for changing and chilling between sets.
- Adam, Swing Stars
We require a green room to change and store valuables in and generally get ready to put on a fantastic show. A portaloo in a field, although it will keep the rain off, is not ideal for three rock and rollers to get their game heads on in!
- David, The Jackpots
A proper meal and soft drinks: Performing is hard work, and your artists deserve a decent meal to sustain them through the whole evening and power them homeward too! A tab set up at the bar for soft drinks (not alcohol) will be welcomed. In addition, ensure your artists have a good supply of bottled water, especially during summer events. Feel free to offer tour band a cooling pint after their show but don’t be offended if they decline - they do have to drive home afterwards.
Generally we are treated really well and are lucky to be blessed with wonderful clients. However, the only regular gripe we have is ‘cheese board’ dinners, or (clients) serving the buffet while we're performing, so by the time we go to eat it's all gone. When traveling for hundreds of miles, and with 16-hour days, a good dinner is important for a good show!
- Anna, The Blue Jeans
Parking space: Most bands will need a parking space as close to the venue as possible, especially if they have heavy or specialist equipment.
We require parking for a van that is as close as possible to the performance area, as humping a full back-load of kit over a dry stone wall scares the cows!
- David, The Jackpots
Reliable/restricted power supply: We've already mentioned access to 13 amp sockets, but other venues such as marquees may have limited power availability.
We require 2 x 13amp plug sockets minimum, and if in a marquee and using a generator it's often worth checking with the venue or hire company that this is sufficient for a live band to plug into.
- David, The Jackpots
Sound limiters: Many UK venues use sound limiters. These are electronic devices that prevent sound levels exceeding decibel limits set by the local council. If these are installed, your band may be asked to route their sound system through this device. This will cut the power to their system if the maximum decibel levels are exceeded. Most bands can adjust their line-up and instrumentation for sound limiters to avoid this problem - but only if they know about them in advance! Be sure to ask your venue and tell your band of any restrictions imposed. Please read this blog for more info!
How to book a swing or jive band from Alive Network
You can search through our Swing and Jive artists by clicking on the left hand button. Take your time to read their profiles, listen to the demo tracks, and watch the videos of some of the UK's top swing bands and jive bands for hire.
Once you have found your ideal band, check their availability and get a quick online quote to see if they are within your budget (or if you’re willing to stretch it a bit!)
A money-saving tip here; if you like two bands and can’t decide which is better, opt for the one located nearer to your venue. Their travel time will be reduced and so will their costs.
Once you’ve chosen and booked a band via our online system, one of the Alive Network team will contact you to double-check details such as venue, format required and the timings of your event.
When your booking is confirmed, you simply pay a small deposit by credit card, and we'll email you a receipt and your contract. When your contract is signed and returned, you will be put in contact with the band’s manager three weeks before the event to discuss your final arrangements.