Monday, October 11, 2010

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: Kings of Swing

Being the curious soul that I am, I kept sneaking a peak backstage before the concert.  Eventually, I saw the band and my heart skipped a beat.  These guys were the real deal, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  And all at once, they rushed onstage and began to play.

“Go stand at the edge of the stage,” I advised a shutterbug woman standing next to me incessantly snapping pictures of the band. “Their faces are so expressive and you can nearly capture the excitement in the air,” I noted. And off she went.

Facial expressions? Is this the new gold standard for stage performance? Members of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (BBVD) shared countenances ranging from amazement to delight when they performed at the High Road for Human Rights: Cooler World Music Festival in Salt Lake City last Saturday. I first heard of the group when my daughter's skating team did a synchronized skating routine to BBVD's “King of Swing,” which, incidentally, I didn't hear them play on Saturday. 

Founding band members Scott Morris (lead vocals and guitar) and Kurt Sodergren (drums and percussion) were joined by Dirk Shumaker (double bass and vocals), Andy Rowley (baritone saxophone and vocals), Glen Marhevka (trumpet), Karl Hunter (saxophones and clarinet), and Joshua Levy (piano, arranger) for an amusing and amazing flow of tunes. Sporting near zoot suits (no tight cuffs on the pant legs), the band put together a New Orleans swing band sound, in spite of hailing from Ventura, California. Ventura? Really? I suppose if they'd instead pursued the local favorite sport of surfing, they'd have remained in obscurity and long since graduated to wine tasting and art walks on the beach.

The lineup for the BBVD first set was chock full of lively tunes that practically caused the trees in the park to sway with the beat. Eager fans in the front danced non-stop to “Zig Zaggity Woop Woop,” “Mambo Swing,” and “Boogie Woogie” under mostly cloudy skies.

Simple Songs” was dedicated to a band member's young daughter:

Simple songs about simple things
Is what makes my baby swing
She's got eyes like an angel, smiles like a devil
Man you know she’s the real thing
So when my baby's not around
The whole world hears my poor heart pound
Cause “man you know that she’s the one for me.”
The playful stage choreography and banter amongst the saxophones and trumpet kept the magic alive for over an hour. The band played a second set, but I could not stay. Another concert – Pink Floyd – was on deck for the evening.

BBVD was the total package – superior music, choreography, rhythm, passion, connection with the crowd, and yes, facial expressions. Definitely one of the best performances I have seen all summer, BBVD is amongst the tops in the swing band genre, and in spite of vast musical contrast, when it comes to putting down a flawless concert, they're right up there with The Scorpions.   We hung around long enough to hear a few words from former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, then walked through the park towards the car ... very reluctantly.  Even the dogs were sticking around for the second set.  And I don't blame them a bit.


Disclosure: Admission price for this event was FREE. I received NO compensation for this review.

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