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Squirrel Nut Zippers At The Beachland


May 18th, 2018

“Let’s make America weird again!,” vocalized Jimbo Mathus and the crowd, almost on cue, went crazy.  Squirrel Nut Zippers, who played Waterloo's Beachland Ballroom the other evening, is no normal band to which you can calmly listen. Hailing from New Orleans, the three-decade old outfit teleport you to away from the norm of your everyday life, one that makes you embrace the, um, weirdness that they exude from every musical pore. And such wild weirdness from this jazz, swing, and exotic sounding outfit makes for an experience that even those who don't embrace, um, weirdness may savor.  


The show began somewhat abruptly. Normally, a band opens the show on stage where we would expect. But expectations aren’t any fun, right? In grand fashion, the Zippers appeared from behind the audience through the entrance to the ballroom. Dr. Sick, the violinist and frontman, led the Zippers with his bass drum, banging out a loud tempo  to rile up the crowd as they marched up to the stage with the audience going certifiably nuts.


Jimbo Mathus, Dr. Sick, and the beautiful Tamar A Korn entertained us with a night that the audience will never forget. And this audience was made up of many unique people. Even elderly women came to see the Zippers and they too enjoyed the wild weirdness. It’s surprising and delightful to see all kinds of people enjoy this swing revival band that is so loved for their unique onstage performance.


Jimbo, chock full of charisma, cracked jokes in between songs. The show would turn into comedic banter between him and Dr. Sick. as the rest of the outfit watched with smiles on their faces.  Jimbo's performance style is like that of a magician, entrancing the audience into his music. At one point during the show, he stood on top of the cellist’s upright bass, towering above the band.


Dr. Sick doesn’t only get romantic with his violin, but with the audience too. He playfully teases his audience, jumps up and down, throws his legs up in the air, and fiddles like a madman with his violin. It’s his theatrics that enthralls people, such as bowing a saw to create gypsy-like tunes for an exotic, anachronistic feel.


But it was the female singer, the chanteuse, who stole the show every time she came on stage. Tamar A Korn graced the ballroom with her effervescent beauty and charm. It was like the 1930s again when she sang; jazz and swing that she emulates so masterfully came to life. Her voice was truly amazing; she made the upbeat energetic songs sparkle with sweet swinging synergy while dancing with her bandmates. 

The other band members get a little love, too. The upright bassist plays with pizzazz, spinning her huge instrument in circles to show off. The pianist played great passion for his friends, and the drummer laid down great syncopated rhythms for the swinging songs. The horn line was phenomenal; the saxophonist got to be in the spotlight too. In true jazz fashion with his purple dress shirt and tie, he took the microphone and sang like SInatra, basking in the intimate stage light.


And after the encore, the band marched down to the ballroom floor but instead of leaving, they danced with the audience. In the middle of the ballroom floor, they did a crazy call-and-response song with the fans, with Dr. Sick once again on the bass drum. 

At the end of the evening, the crowd left the Beachland, smiles everywhere.  What else could you expect from a band with such a moniker?

Review and Photos by Kevin Ng

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