It's nearly impossible to go to a swing concert featuring a band of size of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and not have a great time, and the audience at Headliners was not afraid to have one dancing. The floor was as packed as expected with swingers of all ages, which made both the bands and Headliners happy.
The lead singer, Steve, has the stage presence of a telethon host trying to keep up the energy level of the audience by entertaining them with song-and-dance. His demeanor shows nothing but smiles, and his positive attitude is no show for the stage. "Zoot Suit Riot" was obviously the crowd favorite (due to its regular radio play), but anything the band pumped out was performed well enough to get the crowd into it.
The music itself is based around basic swing rhythms, with the addition of a modern, retro feel. Steve dances well enough to make the ladies crazy; there's a very tall and talented bassist; a great drummer; a keyboard player who really fills in the songs with some cool effects, and a guitarist who captures a great vintage sound. Then, of course, a swing band could not live without a terrific horn section. In this case, the band has two saxophonists and a lead trumpet (plus other horns) player. With eight "daddies" in all, it is amazing to ponder their togetherness on and off-stage.
The group has had a long history in music, spanning 10. Life on the road has been hard at times, but that has much improved. They tell their "Texas chronicles" of "massive" crowds when there were fewer people in the club than band members on the stage, plus stories of having various objects thrown at them while touring in Australia.
I got to talk to the Daddies after the show, and they agreed the night was an overall success. This was especially true because this was the first gig that wasn't on a dry college campus.
The opening act was Stretch Princess, hailing from overseas (two from London; one from Australia.) They gave me the scoop on their recent tour in Europe with Eve 6 and Third Eye Blind. They also enthusiastically exchanged some pretty personal stories with me (I learned the meaning of the English word "knickers.") and gave me some background information on their fast-paced two-and-a-half-year history together.
"Melodic rock" would be the easiest way to describe the band as a whole. The audience was somewhat surprised to see someone other than a swing band to open for CPD, but nonetheless they still responded very well to the group's performance. Stretch Princess not only succeeded in winning the affection of a swing crowd, they also faced the mishaps of the dreaded "monitor feedback monster." If you are a musician of any sort, or you have been to some sort of speech in which this phenomenon has hit, you know exactly what I am talking about. It always seems to hit towards the end of your set, and it hides and moves around a lot so that your soundman will never know where it will be coming from next. The lead vocalist/bassist, Jo, did a wonderful job of keeping things rolling and not letting this technological difficulty get in the band's way.
One audience member described Jo's vocals as carrying overtones of Annie Lennox; I thought she sounded more like Jewel. Her bass lines (on a classic Fender Precision bass) did much of the work of supporting the song's direction. The drummer, Dave, added a heavy emphasis to the rhythm, while the guitar player, James, colored the music with his interesting licks and backup vocals.
They play very few solos (despite the talent and desire of James) because their emphasis lies on the writing of "good songs," which is what the band is after. You may have heard their single "Sorry" on the radio in Louisville, but the band is just now starting to surface in the United States. Look for a CD review of Stretch Princess in upcoming issues (my copy is autographed! Thanks guys.)