Radio Man Says Squirrel Nut Zippers Quit Gig Over Swing Act

'Hot-jazz' band has gone to great lengths to dissociate itself from current retro movement.

The Squirrel Nut Zippers, who reluctantly helped spur the swing-revival movement, have pulled out of a Boston radio station's "Xmas Rave" over their objections to playing on a bill with popular swing-act Cherry Poppin' Daddies, according to the station's program director.

"They had committed to play the Xmas Rave. Even though they had committed to playing, they decided they didn't want to play with the Cherry Poppin' Daddies after they had agreed to earlier," Oedipus, program director and vice-president of WBCN-FM said, adding that the band was opposed to playing with a swing act.

"They changed their mind," Oedipus said. "We can only surmise the Cherry Poppin' Daddies are too powerful of a rock band and [the Squirrel Nut Zippers] were worried that they'd probably blow them off the stage."

The Squirrel Nut Zippers' label, Mammoth Records, had no comment on the decision. But Sean Maxson, vice president of promotion for the label, said Thursday in a Boston Globe report that the band and the label did not agree on the decision to back out of the show.

"This is going to be a problem for them in the future," Maxson was quoted as saying. "We don't expect much further support from WBCN. The band has made their bed and now they can lie in it."

Oedipus was particularly disappointed in the Squirrel Nut Zippers' decision to skip the Dec. 1 festival, he said, because the station went to great lengths to accommodate the group. Among the measures he took were: agreeing to provide the band with its own dressing room apart from the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, a parking space for the band bus and altering the show's bill to incorporate a variety of sounds outside of swing, he said.

"They didn't want to be lumped in the swing category," Oedipus said. "We had other swing bands on there that we took off the bill. They didn't want it to be just a swing bill."

Although Oedipus said the radio station was disappointed by the retro act's decision to drop off the bill, he added that WBCN is continuing to play such Squirrel Nut Zippers songs as "Hell" and "Suits Are Picking Up The Bill" (RealAudio excerpt).

The Xmas Rave features an eclectic, 31-band lineup, including grunge-pop outfit Hole, swingers Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, punk rockers Rancid and alternative rocker Liz Phair, playing 11 clubs across the city.

Despite swing's swelling popularity in recent years, partially inspired by the Squirrel Nut Zippers' brassy hit, "Hell," the band has made a point of distancing itself from swing as a trend. The band has dubbed its sound "hot jazz" and has disparaged the accessories and images associated with the retro-swing movement.

Multi-instrumentalist Tom Maxwell previously has expressed nothing but distaste for these trappings.

"Cigars and martinis don't have anything to do with music," Maxwell, 32, said in an interview with SonicNet Music News. "If we tried to keep up with a fad, it would ultimately render us obsolete. We'd much rather be known as a band that was able to introduce some diversity."

The Squirrel Nut Zippers, comprised of Maxwell, guitarist/trombonist/vocalist Jim Mathus, banjo-player/vocalist Katharine Whalen, percussionist Chris Phillips, fiddler Andrew Bird, bassist Stu Cole and trumpeter Je Widenhouse, issued their third LP, Perennial Favorites, earlier this year.

Oedipus said the Xmas Rave show with the Cherry Poppin' Daddies has been moved from the originally scheduled Roxy nightclub to the smaller Axis, with indie-pop act Harvey Danger replacing the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Yvonne Garrett, publicist for the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, downplayed any possible friction between the bands.

"It's really not something they're interested in commenting on and they have a good relationship with the Squirrel Nut Zippers," Garrett said.