The Squirrel Nut Zippers brought their high energy swing band sound to the historic State Theatre in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on a frosty January evening (the temperature that night plunged to a bone chilling 16 degrees below zero!) Despite the cold outside, the Zippers kept the heat turned up for a short 90 minute show (with a 15 minute intermission to boot!) Near the beginning of their show, front man James “Jimbo” Mathus remarked it was worth the cold drive between Fargo and Eau Claire to be able to perform in such a historic venue that evening; the State was first opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1926 … and the music of the Squirrel Nut Zippers sounded right at home! From the first song to the last, the Zippers kept the crowd’s toes a tappin’ with their unique blend of blues, jazz, 1930s era swing … and a bunch of other styles that are hard to categorize (maybe we need to come up with a new term: “zipper style!”) In addition to the lively music, the on-stage antics, especially from violinist Justin Carr (Dr. Sick) kept the energy level at a fever pitch. Replacing Mathus’s ex-wife on stage for the female vocals, Cella Blue was captivating, with her soaring vocals and flamboyant outfits and capers. The show featured mostly “classic” songs from the Zippers: “Put a Lid on It,” “Good Enough for Granddad,” “Suits Are Picking Up the Bill,” “Ghost of Stephen Foster,” and of course their biggest hit from 1996 “Hell.” If you do get a chance to see them live on this tour, make sure you get a seat on the aisle: the Squirrel Nut Zippers version of an encore is to form a marching band which exits the stage and marches up the aisle to the lobby where they pose for photos and sign autographs after the show. The Squirrel Nut Zippers have gone their separate ways several times in the past couple of decades, so before they fade away again “in the afterlife” you’ll want to catch this fun, lively show!

Photo and Review Jim Zons