Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Covered Dish, Gainesville • 3.16.98
Like a pack of wolves in zoot suits, they attacked Gainesville, Florida with their swanky swingin’ music, hot live show, and saucy charm. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s show at the Covered Dish was a hell of a lot more than anyone expected, and the coolest show to hit Gainesville this year (so far).
The eight cats in suits known as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy started their career six years ago as a trio. Drummer Kirk and singer/guitar player Scott are the only “original members,” since they’ve been kicking it since those bluesy days. In ’94 they recorded their first album with horns for Big Bad Records, and sold an impressive 20,000 copies. Since then they’ve had a regular Wednesday Night gig at Derby’s in Los Angeles (the club featured in Swingers), and have been fine tuning their swinging sound. Their latest release, Coolsville, hit the streets on Feb 24, and premiered at number 64 on Billboard‘s charts in its first week! When I asked Kirk why he thought it got off to such a strong start, he admitted that “the movie” definitely helped. “Swingers really helped spread the gospel around the US. It acted as video calling card since it showed what our live shows were like.” And if you haven’t seen the movie, then you should give yourself a treat and check it out (and make sure you catch the band).
The ambiance of the Covered Dish was completely changed on the evening of the big bad show. You could feel this excited anticipation as you snaked your way into the club. The band had brought their own stage scenery, which consisted of a very theatrical-looking series of “flats” that had a Tim Burton-esque looking city on them. Tall curved buildings in gray and black with yellow windows. In front of the horn section were a few cool bandstands painted in mute colors. The lighting was smooth, dark, and smoky as the band took the stage and their sound man acted as announcer and worked the crowd into a wild frenzy (by the way, that sound man ROCKED! He totally had them down to a science and really created some perfect audible levels for awesome solos).
The band looked cool as shit in authentic zoots, suits, and fedoras. They also had a crazed excitement and enthusiasm for the live stage and looked really happy to be rockin’ it for us. With insane strobe lights set up on the drums and the fluid motions of the horn section and other standing members, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy looked more like a cartoon than a real band. Their colors were so cool, their motions so slick (they looked almost choreographed a few times), their demeanor and expressions so pleasant and happy. It was too fun to be real.
As for the sound… well it kicked too. Great arrangements done with the horns (including some very twisted chords being pulled out of their asses) and lots of good sounding energy with the band as a whole. They had a full clean sound (aided by the soundman) that wasn’t overbearing but really powerful. They of course played all their hits and then some more, and even rocked a little “Thirteen Men” by Ann Margaret and even a little Nirvana encore. I was a bit upset by the piano player’s weak left hand in his boogie woogie solo on “Big Bad Boogie Woogie” (but that is the severe music critic asshole talking in me), and thought their version of “GO Daddy O” (saved for the end of course) was boring, since it sounded exactly like it did on the CD. Oh well.
All in all, I have to say that the show was a great surprise, and I really think that it’ll take a lot for any band to beat the performance Big Bad Voodoo Daddy put on. I sincerely wish them luck as they “take America by the balls” and try to go all the way to the top. I think they’ll do it. Besides, it is bands like this that will keep swing going and really establish a new American retro culture that isn’t an embarrassment.