Not your grandma’s sock hop: cabaret celebrates 1950s tunes

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The music may have died on February 3, 1959, but the tunes of late greats Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens will be exhumed on Jan. 12 at the Bell House, at a modern-day cabaret tribute to the big three.

“The Day the Music Died” is a celebration of late 1950s music that harks back to the plane crash that claimed the lives of Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper, and sent shock waves through the country’s pop culture-conscious. But this isn’t your grandma’s sock hop: the show features aerial performers, fire dancers, acrobats, original musical arrangements, and sizzling burlesque.

“It’s brass bands covering the doo-wop and early jazz of that time, with aerial acrobatics with fire and dance numbers,” said Kae Burke, co-organizer and founder of Williamsburg art space, House of Yes. “There was so much music in such a small era.”

Burke and co-organizer, Francesca Hoffman of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, decided to focus on the music of the late 1950s as a lens through which to examine the changing social mores of a time considered to be a modern age of innocence.

“It’s pinpointing the ‘Day the Music Died’ plane crash as a turning point,” Burke continued, “when popular culture sort of switched from the American Dream to a new exploration of how people live in America.”

The show includes performances by the Good to Go Girls dance troupe; doo-wop covers by vocalists Vanessa Cronan, Nicole Tourtelot, Xavier and Joshua Lerner; a drag performance by Ariana Huffenstuff; acrobatics by the Lady Circus; and more.

“For those who died in the plane crash — these were the voices of America, and all of a sudden they were silenced,” Burke said. “So we’re exploring the underbelly of that age of innocence; maybe everything looks hunky-dory, but there was something going on underneath it all.”

“The Day the Music Died” at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510]. Jan. 12, 9 pm. Tickets, $10. For info, visit

Reach Arts Editor Juliet Linderman at or by calling (718) 260-8309.
Updated 12:01 pm, January 5, 2012
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