DjangoFest Northwest is waking the sleeping ‘Dog’

The sounds of gypsy jazz will be awaking the sleeping dog this weekend.

Ron Roessler and Helene Chandler (left) groove during the Street Dance on Saturday. Langley will soon be full of music and bustling with audiences during the annual Northwest DjangoFest. The festival begins today and runs through Sept. 23.

The sounds of gypsy jazz will be awaking the sleeping dog this weekend.

After more than three years of being closed, the Dog House in Langley will open its doors for DjangoFest Northwest “djam” sessions for three days only, from noon to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

But before you head down to the historic tavern, be aware that this Langley Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event only allows for limited occupancy and no more than 49 people can be inside the venue, said Fred Lundahl, the chamber’s events committee chairman.

“This event is intended for the Djangofest musicians and guests — a place to play and get together,” Lundahl said.

The idea was born when Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, which puts on the gypsy jazz festival each year, was looking for more spaces for djam sessions while the musicians are in town. The Chamber of Commerce approached Charlie and Janice Kleiner, who bought the Dog House at auction in May 2010.

“The Kleiners kindly offered the bar area as a community service,” Lundahl said.

Chamber Executive Director Marc Esterly said that the chamber worked closely with the city of Langley and obtained a temporary occupancy permit for the front part of the tavern. The back of the house is off limits. Since the building is currently not outfitted for regular occupancy and there is no running water inside the building, it will essentially be run like a beer garden by the chamber, Esterly said. Portable toilets will be set up outside the building.

Organizers realize that the news of life at the Dog House caused some buzz around town, but they want to make sure that people know safety is a prime concern and that the occupancy limit will be strictly enforced, Esterly explained.

The Langley Chamber of Commerce will be selling beer and other refreshments as a fundraiser, but the bar will not be open.

Mo’s Pub will be hosting after-hour djam sessions for most of the week, and the Prima Bistro will be hosting musicians on Saturday. The South Whidbey Commons will also be open late for djam session. More spontaneous djamming is sure to spring up in various places around town.

Djam sessions at the Dog House were common before it closed. However, there is another special connection between the Dog House today and the pioneers of gypsy jazz, Lundahl said.

Charlie Kleiner’s grandfather, Charles F. Kleiner, was a trumpet player with Billy Arnold’s “American Novelty Jazz Band,” a band that played in Paris in the winter of 1921.

There, a young Django Reinhardt used to hang out in front of the restaurant where the band played. And so the grandfather of today’s Dog House owner may have inspired the man who is synonymous with the genre.

The Kleiners are proud of their connection to the Django legacy and are happy to open the doors for musicians and friends, Lundahl said.

The Kleiners bought the Dog House at auction in 2010, after the previous owners struggled to sell the property following long-time owner Pete Jacob’s death in 2006. The sale renewed hopes for many Langley residents that the 104-year-old tavern would reopen as a popular gathering space. However, no immediate steps to revitalize the tavern are known. It is public knowledge that significant work would have to go into the structure to bring it up to today’s occupancy standards. The Kleiners could not be reached for comment before press time.

Djangofest Northwest is celebrating its twelfth season of bringing gypsy jazz performers from around the globe to Langley. The festival, hosted by WICA, is considered by many to be the premier showcase for gypsy jazz in North America, having presented some of the biggest names in the genre.

This year continues that tradition with a stellar lineup featuring the return of Paulus Schafer and Tim Kliphuis, two of Holland’s finest players. Tcha Limberger of Belgium, together with Lollo Meier, another Dutch master, will also take the stage.

WICA also presents Joscho Stephan, a gypsy virtuoso from Germany. Returning again this year are Robin Nolan, John Jorgenson with his powerhouse quintet, Gonzalo Bergara Quartet featuring incredible new material, and the Hot Club of Detroit. Pearl Django returns again with Martin Taylor and other local favorites like Billet-Deux and the new Greg Ruby Quartet will be performing as well.

Jimmy Grant makes his Northwest debut with his young all-star quartet featuring Tommy Davy and Annie Staninec.

Zazi, a trio of Dutch performers, will be back. Making her Northwest debut is Cyrille Aimée with Brazilian nylon master Diego Figueiredo.

Whit Smith along with Matt Munisteri and Beau Sample will round out the impressive roster of performers along with the father-son duo from Paris, Antoine and Sebastien Boyer.

Following last year’s success WICA expanded the workshops and presentations being offered, not only to guitarists and violinists, but to the public.

The festival runs from Sept. 19 through Sept. 23. Evening performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinee performances are Friday through Sunday at 3 p.m. and a Sunday evening performance is at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $32 to $70 and are available online at WICA or by calling the WICA ticket office at 1-800-638-7631. For more festival details, visit

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