Live review: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Disney Hall
As the first decade of the '00s drew to a close, jump-swing specialists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy pulled off the impressive trick of recalling both the prewar big-band era as well as the improbable swing revival of the late '90s it helped spearhead with an appearance in the cult film “Swingers.”
But while the days of Lindy Hopping Gap ads and young men reminding one another that they’re “so money” are well behind us, the long-running Southern California band has continued without missing a beat, as comfortably removed from its subculture-defining residency at the Derby as it is from its pop cultural peak of performing at the Super Bowl halftime show in 1999.
But today the group enjoys a fringe but larger-than-you’d-think following along the lines of fellow year-end favorites Pink Martini, a band that may not have a huge place in the mainstream musical consciousness but can always be counted on to deliver when a festive occasion demands.
And deliver it did. Performing for both an NPR simulcast and a multi-generational L.A. crowd dressed in New Year’s best ranging from business-ready pinstripes to fishnets and floral tattoos, the band burned through rambunctious favorites from its heyday as well as songs from its 2009 album, “How Big Can You Get?,” which celebrates the music of Cab Calloway.
While sharp-dressed frontman and guitarist Scotty Morris doesn’t have the same richness to his voice as Calloway (but frankly, who does?), he gamely led his charges through classics from the late bandleader's songbook, including a saucy take on “Minnie the Moocher” and “The Jumpin’ Jive,” which featured raucous solos from saxophonist Karl Hunter and trumpeter Glen "The Kid" Marhevka.
Though the band was joined at various times by a trio of tastefully bawdy burlesque dancers, something was lost in translating their tight, propulsive sound to the Disney Hall stage. As the band stepped on the accelerator to blaze through boisterous hits “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)” and the irresistibly driving “Go Daddy-O,” it was hard not to wish for a dance floor or at least a handful of swinging ringers who could provide context for the music with some of the genre’s signature acrobatics.
Still, as the evening progressed, Morris and the band proved expert showmen, encouraging the crowd through a variety of clap-alongs and Calloway-inspired call-and-responses, which kept Disney Hall in a variety of head-bobbing, toe-tapping and an occasional flare-up of dancing in the aisles.
As the end of the year approached, Morris stopped the band on a dime for a countdown, which at midnight sent bursts of shimmering streamers into the air and brought the room to its feet for a hip-swaying celebration as the band dropped into a swinging take on “Auld Lang Syne.” Another decade had officially marched on, yet for one gleefully anachronistic band and a room full of its fans, it was as if no time had passed at all.
-- Chris Barton
Photo: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's Scotty Morris with backup dancer. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times.