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Miss Li’s music makes you feel like swing dancing…and she knows it

Miss Li’s music makes you feel like swing dancing…and she knows it

The Driskill Hotel was built in1886 as the magnum opus of a Texas cattleman who wanted to build “the finest hotel south of St. Louis.” The fact that my last concert of SXSW, Miss Li, was at this baroque, antique gem (smack in the middle of the boozed-up and belligerent Sodom and Gomorrah that is 6th street, no less!) made me giddy with excitement. Finally, a velvet couch, instead of a curbside full of footprints, to sit on! Finally, a bathroom that doesn’t reek of vomit! Aside from my selfish personal delight at Miss Li playing this particular venue, it would also oddly turn out to be the perfect complement to her colorful act and musical style, which are an ode to a bygone era.

Miss Li is the stage name used by Linda Carlsson, a young songstress from Stockholm, Sweden who writes swingy and insanely catchy pop songs heavily rooted in jazz, soul, electro, blues, and even a little opera. She is enormously prolific, with four LPs and even a Best Of under her belt. Most artists who produce a lot of work quickly tend to have patchy quality issues, but Miss Li’s received both popular and critical acclaim. Her songs were featured in popular prime-time shows such like Grey’s Anatomy and Weeds, and she’s also received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Artist. At this point, she is currently one of the top five most successful Swedish female artists.

Partly, this popularity comes from her unforgettable stage presence. Miss Li, dressed in a bright gold, leaf patterned blouse, short black skirt, black stockings, and braided, gold wrap-around headband, looked like she just stepped out of a 1920’s swing club. The music itself is just about a decade or so after Li’s fashion look — it’s very Big Band meets jazz club with a stand-up bass, saxophone, and piano, in addition to guitar and drums.

Miss Li with her band

Miss Li’s music is supposed to make you feel like breaking into a Lindy Hop and she knows it. She takes over the stage ferociously with a booming voice that is both high-pitched and husky. In between some vocal showboating in the form of “doo-doo-doos” and “la-la-las,” Li took to hamming things up. The opera influence she talks about in interviews comes into play here as she loves grasping her chest, waving her arms about, and throwing the back of her hand to her forehead.

But as over-the-top as her on-stage antics were, they got a decent number of people in the audience excited enough to attempt something between tap dancing and swing. When Li & Co. finally ended their set with an extended version of the ragtime-romp, “Oh, Boy,” the Victorian room at the Driskill Hotel — with it’s luscious drapes and gold-painted ceilings — was vibrating. The ornate walls seemed to be thanking Li for a performance as stand-up and swanky as the venue itself.

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