Richard Halpern was there on the first night I went to Maxwell's. He is probably the best thing they had that night, especially in conjunction with Mora's Modern in it's 20's configuration. He can do a dead on perfect imitation of Al Jolson, among other talents. He also favors pre-swing era music which is what I personally favor over what unfortunately seems to be more popular these days.
The idea for his own independant venue originally came about when it was first announced the Argyle Hotel was going to remodel and the club I've been going to was going to have to shut down as a result. They went ahead with the new show despite the change in the Argye remodeling date. For a couple of months we will have both, it seems. As far as I know the Argyle will still remodel in June.
I've been trying to figure out what happened in 1998. Something made Swing return with a vengance and it then dominated everything in the retro scene. martes thinks it was some movie that cmae out that year but I can't remember what it might have been. Swing is starting to fade back out but it still dominates most venues. I won't miss it.
It certainly had wide ranging effects with this particular fandom. The really good 20's band has released four albums, dated 1996 and every two years afterwards (They are due for one at the moment I guess). The 1996 album is fantastic 20's stuff. Then comes 1998 and it all went swing, and everythign from that point forward is sort of ho-hum.
They are professional musicians, and have to play what the audience will pay to hear. But as far as I'm concerned, it may as well be disco.