Friday, July 1, 2016

Relaunch of the Squirrel Nut Zippers - 2016 Concert Tour - Marquee Theatre Tempe, Arizona - Review

I saw the "New" Squirrel Nut Zippers last night and the show was wild. I had mentioned to a few friends that I was going to see the Squirrel Nut Zippers last night and they either looked at me with a puzzled look or they knew exactly what I was talking about. What the hell is a Squirrel Nut Zipper... well, that I can tell you.       Jimbo says, "Nut Zippers" is a southern term for a variety of old bootleg moonshine, and the band's name comes from a newspaper account which related the story of a highly intoxicated man who climbed a tree one night, refusing to come down even after authorities arrived. The article's headline read: "Squirrel Nut Zipper."     Now what does that have to do with a band and who are they? This band is absolute energy with as much animation as a 30's cartoon and as crazy wild as a drunk squirrel. Mathus is a terrific performer and this band of high level New Orleans style jazz musicians put as much energy into entertaining as they do playing their respective instruments... and that is a bunch!

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I have really become intoxicated with the music of Mississippi native, Jimbo Mathus, since first seeing him with Buddy Guy in the early 2000's. Mathus first formed the Squirrel Nut Zippers in the 90's with Mathus' now ex wife, Katharine Whalen, along with Tom Maxwell, Chris Phillips, Don Raleigh and Ken Mosher. Due to other projects and the breakup of Jimbo and Whalen, the project had gone idle. I've got to tell you I'd never seen a SNZ show nor had I ever really heard their music except in passing one weekend about 10 years ago. When I saw that they were playing in town and that Jimbo was leading the pack, I decided to check it out. The new lineup is Jimbo Mathus — vocals, guitar, slide guitar, tenor banjo, trombone, piano; Chris Phillips — percussion, contraption kit, drums; Ingrid Lucia — vocals; Tamara Nicholai — bass; Justin Carr aka Dr. Sick - fiddle, banjo and saw; Charlie Halloran — trombone; Kevin Louis; Dave Boswell; Henry Westmoreland - saxophone; Kris Takorski on keys; and Kevin O'Donell.

 This was a packed house of people who mostly knew every word of every song. They weren't obnoxious singing over top of the band but it was apparent when the lead vocalist would step back from the mic that the crowd picked up the  slack. Jimbo Mathus is the ultimate showman and blows out every bit of energy that he has on stage. Comes dressed in a wool band suit,  in dark burgundy, complete with gold trim  with a full vest and terrific boots and a derby and a wild black and white striped shirt. This outfit looks like it was bought right off of the back of a musician from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (sans the policeman's style bill hat). Ingrid Lucia is dressed in a period black dress with a lacy "flounce" and openings down to the waist. This show is pure vaudeville with Jimbo taking every opportunity to throw sly one liners in the very brief moments between songs and the music is punk. I mean high energy, raw and irreverent! I managed to get the play list so here it is:

1) Good Enough For Grandad
2) Club Limbo
3) Put A Lid On It
4) Got My Own Thing Now
5) Blue Angel
6) La Fitte's
7) It Ain't You
8) Suits  (video below)
9) Ghost of Stephen Foster
10) My Drag
11) Wished For You
12) Prince Nez
13) Bad Businessman
14) --- Hell
15) Memphis Exorcism
16) Plenty More

They also played a 2 song encore consisting of:

17) Bedlam Ballroom
18) I Found A New Baby

One of my favorites of the evening was the last song of the set, Plenty More, with lyrics like "They say all the boys are monsters, All the girls are whores, So when you lose the one you love,There's always plenty more". Mathus, who delivers the song with such sincerity, gleans in joy  with his eyes wide (Think Mantan Moreland , almost bugging)

Mantan Moreleand
and a mischievous grin revealing his famous gold tooth on delivering the punch line.

Mathus, the primary writer for all of the band's material is a veritable jukebox of musical knowledge, able to play in most any style. Last night I saw him playing with rich jazz chords and rag time strumming as well as neatly articulated riffs and fluid jazz runs.  Lucia's voice is solid yet unusual, adding to the band's "tricks" and complimenting their strengths. Each of the horn players took a number of solo's bringing out the flavor of New Orleans embedded deep in the roots of this band and Carr's strength on fiddle both in bowing and plucking is a showcase of it's own. He also strums it like a banjo, thumps it for impact and lets not forget his featured saw playing. Yes, this band has it all.

With a remastered twentieth anniversary edition of Hot slated for release July 29 on Hollywood Records and a reunion tour to follow, Billboard is exclusively debuting "The Puffer," a never-before-released bonus track written with the late Stacy Guess. The song, which is named for an old steam train, has a Duke Ellington feel and is "kind of a creepy and very typical Zippers," says Mathus.

Listen to Unreleased "Puffer" Jimbo also notes that he's working on new material in the Squirrel Nut Zipper motif so likely we will be looking for a new release altogether in the near future!



6/29/2016 Tucson, AZ RialtoBuy Tickets
6/30/2016 Tempe, AZ MarqueeBuy Tickets
7/1/2016 Flagstaff, AZ OprheumBuy Tickets
7/2/2016 Las Vegas, NV The Downtown Grand
7/3/2016 Park City, UT Deer Valley ResortBuy Tickets
7/9/2016 Montreal Jazz Festival M├ętropolisBuy Tickets
7/30/2016 New Orleans, LATipitina'sBuy Tickets
8/31/2016San Diego, CABelly Up TavernBuy Tickets
9/1/2016Los Angeles, CATeragram BallroomBuy Tickets
9/2/2016 Tuolumne, CAStrawberry Music FestivalBuy Tickets
9/3/2016 Sausalito, CA Sausalito Arts FestivalBuy Tickets
9/19/2016 Nashville, TN City Winery (Two Shows)Buy Tickets
9/22/2016 Atlanta, GA City Winery (Two Shows)Buy Tickets
10/18/2016 Alexandria, VA The BirchmereBuy Tickets
10/23/2016 Black Mountain, NC LEAF Festival Buy Tickets
11/11/2016 Cape May, NJ Exit Zero Jazz Festival Buy Tickets
11/12/2016 Englewood, NJ Bergen Performing Arts Center Buy Tickets

Jimbo Mathus is a regular southern gentleman, a great musician and songwriter,  a real card, and appears to be humbled and appreciative of every single face in the crowd and every clap of the hand.
I am extremely happy that I made the choice to go see this esoteric band of gypsies weave their magic. They are a fun group of talented musicians and their show is an absolute blast!


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  1. I saw them last night in Denver, and this is spot on. I've been a fan since the 90s, but this was the first chance I had to see them live. It was, hands down, one of the best live shows I've seen. When you say they put energy into their show, you aren't kidding.