In the late 1990s, there was a sudden rebirth of swing music, with the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies scoring unexpected pop hits with songs that sounded like they were right out of the ’40s and ’50s. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was also at the center of that craze, and the group is still banging out its big band sounds.
The group will be performing at the Fox Theater this weekend, but this isn’t going to be your typical BBVD show. As part of the Spokane Symphony’s ongoing SuperPops series, the band will be backed by a full orchestra, giving such well-known songs as “Mr. Pinstripe Suit” and “Go Daddy-O” some extra musical heft.
Kurt Sodergren, the band’s drummer and one of its founding members, said Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has played with symphonies many times before. It’s an arrangement that perfectly complements the band’s style, he says.
“Orchestras tend to think of time a little differently,” he said. “We tend to swing our notes a bit more. But it always works out great. We get together and rehearse the day of the show. Usually I’m in the vicinity of the conductor, so we can coordinate the beginnings and ends of the songs. It’s pretty fun.”
Of the band’s nine members, seven have been with the group since the early ’90s, forming around the duo of Sodergren and frontman Scotty Morris. The band first experienced popularity in 1996, when three of their songs appeared on the soundtrack of Jon Favreau’s unexpected hit film “Swingers.” By 1999, the band was performing at the Super Bowl halftime show with Gloria Estefan and Stevie Wonder.
“ ‘Swingers’ really opened doors for us to play gigs across the States,” Sodergren said. “When things change that much – when you’re able to get a tour bus and there’s a line around the block every single show – it kind of does seem like it comes out of nowhere. In reality, we’d been at it for quite awhile.”
And as the band nears its 25th anniversary, Sodergren said they’ve developed a chemistry that’s almost preternatural.
“There’s a lot of trust involved,” Sodergren said. “We have some songs, some of our Latin numbers, where the timing is a certain way where we can just kind of live and breathe it. It’s pretty great.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be releasing a new record later this year, and Sodergren said it will be a tribute to three great Louises of jazz – Armstrong, Prima and Jordan. He also expects another album of original compositions to be completed by 2018.
But concerts are still the band’s bread and butter, and a live setting is the ideal way to experience the wild, hepcat energy of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
“It is a pretty energetic show,” Sodergren said. “We don’t always play venues with a dance floor, but I would expect to be dancing in your seat if you can’t get up. If you want to come out and have a blast, this is a really good place to do it.”
Over the years, BBVD has accumulated a devoted fan base that’s as enamored of swing music as the band’s members, and Sodergren said they see familiar faces in certain cities. They’re even on a first-name basis with some of the diehards.
“We have people we run into quite often,” Sodergren said. “It’s pretty nice to have an extended family around the United States and Canada that we can see on a routine basis. It really helps with the homesickness.”
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