Celebrating their 20th anniversary on the music scene, famed neo-swing outfit Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will hit Dayton this weekend to headline the Cityfolk Festival from 9:30 – 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 29.
Founded by lead singer/guitarist Scotty Morris and drummer Kurt Sodergren in 1993 Ventura, California, the band was at the forefront of the ‘90s swing revival. Much of the credit for that craze—which suddenly found horn-heavy bands like the Brian Setzer Orchestra, the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Royal Crown Revue, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers selling millions of albums—can be traced back to the indie cult film Swingers, Jon Favreau’s 1996 character study of throwback lounge lizards in modern-day Los Angeles. For years, BBVD played every Wednesday night at Hollywood’s Brown Derby, and Favreau tapped the band to lend some tunes to the soundtrack and cameo in the film. The band shot to nationwide fame, and their songs from the film, “You & Me and the Bottle Makes Three” and “Go Daddy-O,” were being blasted by teens, seniors, and every age group between.
The band never looked back and maintains a busy schedule, releasing numerous albums since (including the platinum selling Americana Deluxe and their most recent, 2012’s Rattle Them Bones), making television appearances, and touring constantly, playing more than 150 dates a year. They’ve played for three of the last four presidents and at both Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Other highlights include halftime at Super Bowl XXIII with Stevie Wonder and Gloria Estefan in 1999, sellout shows at Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Bowl, stints with symphony orchestras all over the country, and, since 2008, an annual performance at Walt Disney World’s Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. The band is currently working on its second full length Christmas album, a follow up to 2004’s terrific Everything You Want For Christmas to be released later this year.
“Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is a great live show band,” said trumpeter Marhevka. “The tunes are great all by themselves, but the band live onstage takes it to a whole new level. Every member of the band is a great performer with lots of energy. We’re not just bunch of cats behind music stands. We’ve got wireless mikes and we’re all over the stage. It’s a really fun, uplifting, high-energy show.”
California native Marhevka picked up the trumpet in fifth grade, playing in marching and concert bands and majoring in classical trumpet in college (“Because they didn’t really have jazz majors yet,” he said) and landing in Big Bad Voodoo Daddy soon after.
“Our original trombonist, Jeff Harris, is the only member who’s not still with us,” Marhevka began. “We played together when we were in school, in a Jamaican band and a ska band, actually. When this band was getting started, they needed a trumpet player, and he mentioned my name. I met the guys and we hit it off. It was 19 years ago, and I was in my early 20s but I looked about 19 myself. I went on a road trip with the guys and we headed up to Northern California. We stopped before the gig at a pretty nice restaurant, and everyone else got fancy food and I ordered a hot dog and fries, and Scotty looked at me and said, ‘Wow, you really are the kid, man.’ I started calling myself that onstage and people would yell it out, and the audiences loved it, so it kind of stuck.”
Of the newly formed swing bands that went big during the 1990s, only BBVD and the Brian Setzer Orchestra remain prominent in exposure. Marhevka attributes the band’s staying power to the integrity of the musicians.
“I think you can imagine it’s pretty hard,” he said, “to keep any group together, and to do it for this long with a band this large feels pretty amazing. We have a group of guys who wanted to play a certain style of music and kept playing it, but even when we were super popular and selling big and playing movie premiere parties and on all the late-night shows, it was never about wanting to become the ‘next big thing’ or even get as popular as we were during that period. We’ve dedicated ourselves to honoring the music from the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, that great, rich period in American music. It turns out we have something cool and maybe even special, and we just want to get better and better at what we do—keep touring and creating new music and having fun without rehashing the same thing over and over.
“I don’t think we’ve really thought about it any more than that,” he said. “We just finished 20 years with the same guys that started together, and we want to do 20 more.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy plays the Main Stage Cityfolk Festival from 9:30 – 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 29. The Cityfolk Festival takes place at RiverScape Metropark (111 E. Monument Ave., Dayton) from Friday, June 28 – Sunday, June 30. Daily admission is $7 for adults, $3 for children 2-12, and free for children under 2. Discounted weekend passes are available for $17 per adult and $6 per child. Purchase at the gate or at cityfolk.tix.com. For more information and complete festival lineup, visit cityfolk.org.