They Came to Dance: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the Kahilu


Who needs a warm-up band when Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is the headliner? Not the eager-to-jive crowd at last Thursday’s sold-out concert at the Kahilu Theatre.

Kudos to the Kahilu’s Artistic Director Chuck Gessert for opening up an area at the rear of stage so folks could dance to the jumpin’ jive sounds of BBVD. It also served as a great visual backdrop for those who watched the show from their seats. Gessert also recently expanded the stage for Pink Martini and Leche de Tigre performances. Just before the BBVD show, I saw a young a lady carrying two different shoes. When she approached the stage, she separately scuffed each shoe on the floor, carefully noting which would work best on the surface. The Big Island has some serious dancers!

BBVD, the nine-piece swing group, made their way to the Big Island last night after wrapping up four shows this week at Honolulu’s Blue Note Hawaii. Based in Southern California, they’ve been together for over 25 years, and along the way have toured the world, sold millions of recordings, and their music has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows. Their sound is a blend of New York Swing, New Orleans Jazz, and Jump Blues, made popular by bandleaders like Cab Calloway and Louis Prima.

Scotty Morris

Concertgoers at Thursday’s show were mostly middle-aged and were likely exposed to this music genre during the late ‘90s neo-swing revival. Big bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers, Royal Crown Revue, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy left their mark on alternative radio stations. It was just the opposite of Grunge music that was shown the door toward the turn of the century.

BBVD band members were decked out in freshly pressed suits, and frontman/lead singer Scotty Morris sported a stylish white Fedora. He led the audience though a tight 90-minute set with only a wisp of air between songs. Morris has that smooth persona and theatrics like Cab Calloway. He even got the crowd to do the call-and-response “Hi-dee hi-dee hi-dee hi”at the beginning of “Minnie The Moocher.” Morris switched between a Gibson (ES-175) Sunburst guitar and a gold-rimmed banjo he plucked for the Dixieland sound.

BBVD’s cofounder Kurt Sodergren

The rest of the band was spread out over the stage on risers. Andy Rowley (baritone sax), Karl Hunter (tenor/alto/soprano sax), and Glen “The Kid” Marhevka (trumpet), were positioned stage right.  Behind them were Alex Henderson (trombone) and Mitchell Cooper (lead trumpet). Kurt Sodergren, the band’s cofounder and drummer extraordinaire, sat center stage and blazed through several jaw-dropping solos. (Read my interview with Sodergren here.) Dirk Shumaker (upright string bass/vocals), and Joshua Levy (piano) filled out stage left.

Andy Rowley and Karl Hunter

Unseen to the audience were several of the group’s sound techs and stage hands that made the show flow perfectly. The Kahilu’s top-notch stage staff and ushers monitored the dance floor area and made sure folks got on and off the stage without any problems. Bravo!

Several times throughout the performance the horn section stepped forward and joined Scotty Morris at the edge of the stage. The crowd went nuts. And even though the holidays are officially over, BBVD slipped in “Mr. Heatmiser,” a tune off their 2004 album Everything You Want for Christmas. Morris remarked that they started including holiday music in their sets back in November. “The rest of middle America is frozen during that time” said Morris. “All I could think about was coming to Hawaii… this is right where I want to be.”

The Kahilu crowd pounds the stage for an encore!

As the band left the stage at the end of their set, the entire front row audience stood up and pounded the stage with their hands to be quickly joined by the rest of the rowdy crowd, demanding an encore. This lasted for five minutes! When the band returned, they played “Oh, Marie,” a track on their eleventh album, Louie, Louie, Louie—an exciting tribute to jazz legends Louis Armstrong, Louis Jordan, and Louis Prima.

After the concert, the audience jammed the lobby, bought merch, and lined up for the opportunity to get an autograph and shower the band with warm aloha and mahalo.

Come On with the “Come On” | Mr. Pinstripe Suit | Diga Diga Do |The Jitters | Simple Songs | Mr. Heatmiser | Jumpin’ Jive | Jumpin’ Jack | I Wanna Be Like You| You Know You Wrong | BTO | Minnie the Moocher | Zig Zaggity Woop Woop | You & Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby) | Mambo Swing | Go Daddy-O

Oh, Marie | So Long, Farewell, Goodbye (w/ Sweet Home Alabama tease)

Check out BBVD’s website for the latest music and tour info:

Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.

Photos: Steve Roby


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