Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will bring some swing-band mojo to Park City | ParkRecord.com
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Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will bring some swing-band mojo to Park City

Drummer enjoys spending time in town

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy returns to Park City on Friday. The swing band from Ojai, California, is happy to be back on the road after a year-and-a-half forced "sabbatical," says drummer Kurt Sodergren.
Photo by Andy Rowley

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy co-founder and drummer Kurt Sodergren is jealous of his band’s manager’s schedule in Park City.

“The band is flying in on the day of our show, but he’s coming in a day early to load in,” Sodergren said. “I want to come in a day early, because if there is any place I want to spend time in, it’s Park City.”

Sodergren isn’t just giving lip service. He knows how special Park City is, because the Ojai, California-based swing-revival band has played the mountain town many times in the summer and winter during its 30-plus year career.



That’s why he’s looking forward to the Friday, July 30, concert at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, which marks the recent string of post-pandemic shutdown gigs that started this month.

“Our first show was on July 4, and then we were able to play a local show, which was amazing,” he said. “It was sold out at an outdoor amphitheater, and the energy was amazing. Everyone had so much fun. And while we’re not out of the woods yet, we felt relieved that we were starting to get busy again.”



Keeping up the energy during live performances is important for Sodergren.

“We’ve all seen bands where the performances were kind of like being phoned in, and while the songs are there, the enthusiasm isn’t,” he said. “The kind of music we play does have excitement built in. There are a lot of solos, and it’s fun to play, but you have to keep in shape to make sure you give it 100%.”

To keep his chops up, Sodergren practiced every day during the pandemic.

“I have a studio, so I was able to work on technique and try out some different styles,” he said. “It was still interesting, though, when we got back on stage together, because practicing at home isn’t like practicing on stage with the other guys. It took some time to get used to, but I think things have started to feel like they are coming together again.”

Sodergren decided to play drums when he was in high school, because his friend’s band looked fun.

“The original drummer decided he wanted to play bass, so I told everyone I played drums, even though I didn’t,” Sodergren said with a laugh. “I rented the drum sets for practice, and I think the other guys thought I was well-to-do, because each week I’d bring in a different set.”

Sodergren learned to play rather quickly thanks to his interest in punk rock bands like X and the Adolescents as well as record collections owned by his brother and father.

“My dad would play the Benny Goodman live at Carnegie Hall album and I would hear Gene Krupa, who really caught my ear,” he said. “On the other hand, my brother had a lot of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. So I heard John Bonham and Mitch Mitchell, and realized that John Bonham was actually a jazz drummer. You can tell that by his solos.”

Sodergren formed his own percussive identity by taking bits and pieces from the people he heard and the people he saw in concert.

“Whoever I could see play was an influence for me, because it looked exciting and fun,” he said.

Having fun was Sodergren’s goal when he formed Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with lead guitarist and vocalist Scotty Morris in the mid-1980s.

“It wasn’t about doing this for a living, so it was a surprise when it became a way to make a living,” Sodergren said with a laugh. “While I didn’t expect to be doing this for all the time we’ve been doing it, it also seems natural. So, when I really look at it, I shouldn’t be surprised.”

Sodergren said Big Bad Voodoo Daddy — bassist Dirk Shumaker, baritone saxophonist Andy Rowley, trumpeter Glen “The Kid” Marhevka, saxophonist and clarinetist Karl Hunter, pianist and arranger Joshua Levy, trombonist Alex Henderson and lead trumpeter Mitch Cooper — will continue playing as long as fans and audiences keep coming to the concerts.

“People can see the energy on stage, and I think that’s what keeps them interested,” he said. “Also, playing semi-improvisational music helps, and it’s what makes playing ‘You and Me and the Bottle Makes 3’ for (the) 3,000th time still fresh.”

The forced time off due to the coronavirus also helped Sodergren appreciate his job more.

“The one thing that keeps me enthusiastic right now is having that year-and-a-half sabbatical, and getting to be able to start going out and doing this again,” he said.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 30

Where: Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd.

Cost: $79

Web: parkcityinstitute.org


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