Nineties nostalgia band returns to Waimea
Around 1996, a full-bore swing movement on modern rock radio quickly spread to American concert halls. Leading the pack were horn-tooting bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers, Royal Crown Revue, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, who emerged from Ventura, California, in ‘93.
Movies like Swingers and The Mask helped elevate their careers and reach a wider audience. While America signed up for swing dance lessons, BBVD raked in platinum sales and performed with Stevie Wonder at Super Bowl XXXII. The neo-swing thing was, ahem, in full swing.
Last Saturday (with a repeat show on Sunday), BBVD returned to the Kahilu Theatre after their Big Island debut three years ago. Sportin’ snazzy fedoras, finely tailored grey suits, and blasting tunes made famous by Cab Calloway for the hipsters who could remember “Minnie the Moocher,” BBVD made it a fine evening to relive the 90s swing revival and the music that inspired it.
Founders Scotty Morris (guitar/banjo/vocals) and drummer Kurt Sodergren were joined by Dirk Shumaker (double bass and vocals); Andy Rowley (baritone saxophone and vocals); Glen “The Kid” Marhevka (trumpet); Karl Hunter (saxophone and clarinet); and Joshua Levy (pianist, and arranger). In addition, Mitch Cooper on lead trumpet and Alex Henderson on trombone joined them for this show.
“They’re such an amazing band to see live, and we saw them when they were just starting out playing at Dodger’s Stadium,” said longtime fan Trisha from Kona. The positive sentiment was echoed by other concertgoers waiting to get in, like Kelly who drove from Hilo. “Their music is so upbeat, you can dance to it, and it reminds me of my youth.”
The Kahilu invited 50 people on stage to “cut-a-rug” to BBVD during both sets of their show in an area they set up behind the bandstand. It was quite a different scenario compared to a year ago when the venue was holding only reduced-capacity outdoor concerts at a resort with proof of vaccination and social distancing required.
“Come on up and dance!” announced bandleader Scotty Morris after the first song. “I know that’s where I’d be if I were you!” Morris was the ultimate master of ceremonies, engaging the crowd in scat call-and-responses and inviting various band members to take center stage for individual solos. Even if you didn’t dance, watching Morris’ slick moves or that Zen-like bliss look that covers his face when the band plays flawlessly was a show in itself. He was the hi-de-ho man, indeed.
In the show’s second half, we saw wildman Kurt Sodergren cut loose on a drum solo. He was seated behind several clear sound panels so he wouldn’t blow out Morris’ ears. It was also lovely to see the brass section turn around at one point and play for the dancers behind them.
The audience gave their best doo-wops on “Jumpin’ Jack” and sang along to “I Wanna Be Like You,” the song by King Louie, the orangutan character, made famous in Disney’s The Jungle Book.
After “Go Daddy-O,” Kahilu staff members came out to place leis on the band members while the audience (including the sweaty and exhausted dancers) shouted for a hana hou.
The lively energy from the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert was exactly what we needed after nearly two years of show cancelations, postponements, and unfulfilling livestream events. Let’s hope they come back to rock our socks off very soon.
Note & Links
Boogie Bumper | Mr. Pinstripe Suit | King of Swing | Come On with the Come On | Calloway Boogie| Oh Yeah | Diga Do | The Jitters | Minnie the Moocher | Reefer Man |
Jumpin’ Jack | Jungle Book (I Wanna Be Just Like You) | You Know You Wrong | Big Time Operator | Five Months, Two Weeks, Two Days | You and Me and the Bottle Makes Three | Zig Zaggity Woop Woop | Go Daddy-O |
Concert date: 15/October/2022
Photos: Steve Roby
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and Big Island Music Magazine editor.