It Was All About Christmas At The Ritz
The commercialization of alternative music in the ’90s resulted in many strange one-hit wonders, but few were quite as unpredictable as Squirrel Nut Zippers. During a time when hipsters were obsessed with swing music in its relation to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin’s Rat Pack, the Zippers were fascinated with big-band swing and Harlem, creating a tongue-in-cheek salute to ’20s and ’30s jazz.
On a cold, rainy night in Jacksonville at the historic Ritz Theatre, the Squirrel Nut Zippers held their Christmas Caravan Concert for 10 minutes to give late arrivals time to settle in to the theatre. This is just one reason why I love the Squirrel Nut Zippers, their integrity. They want to ensure that the audience enjoy not only the music, but the entire experience at a Squirrel Nut Zippers concert.
The concert started slowly, as people shook off their doldrums from the rain. Also, Ingrid Lucia, was noticeably absent from the lineup this year. The new singer, Cella Blue, put all qualms to rest with her version of “Put a Lid on It.”
Squirrel Nut Zippers did a fine job of mixing songs from the 2008 Christmas Caravan Album with other hits such as “Hell” and “The Ghost of Stephen Foster.” It was easy to see Jimbo’s roots from Louisiana and North Carolina (and plain on talent) when he played the mandolin during “The Gift of the Maji.” This was definitely a must see Christmas tour with great musicians, audience sing a long participation, and pick me up music that made you get up and dance. No traditional Christmas music in hearing distance.
After the show was a meet and mingle with the band. Jimbo and Dr Sick were amazing to talk to! I have listened to the Squirrel Nut Zippers since 1996 and was happy to learn that there will be a new album in the Spring of 2018. For those that have not heard the Squirrel Nut Zippers I of course encourage you to see a show, and buy an album or three!
For younger listeners familiar with the style but not the content of classic hot jazz, the band was good fun, but purists found the group’s vaguely campy sense of humor and amateurish technique off-putting. This debate would never have even been a matter of consideration if “Hell,” an incessantly catchy single from their 1997 album Hot, hadn’t been able to sneak through loosened alternative airplay to become a novelty hit. “Hell” became a crossover hit on the strength of a bizarrely theatrical vehicle, and Squirrel Nut Zippers quickly became one of the hottest alternative bands of the first half of the year.
Ryan Palmer was there with my9oh4 and Rp Productions & Services keeping You #LockedIN. Stay #active with LockedIN Magazine.