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Music: Squirrel Nut Zippers swing to a new sound

Crossing genres has never been a problem with the Squirrel Nut Zippers. They have this uncanny way of meshing swing music with just about anything. Their most recent show at Tipitina’s was something more than a reunion: It was more like a reactivation of imagination.

Founding members Jimbo Mathus and Chris Phillips are the only original members to make the transition. This new chapter of the band has New Orleans’ own Ingrid Lucia on background vocals. The band primarily reactivated to tour for the 20th anniversary of their sophomore album Hot. The band really is about far more than the hit single “Hell” from that album, but the song did expose a big audience to a different side of swing.

Saturday night’s show was a fun one. The evening opened with a little Mardi Gras history to ease the crowd in. The Young Seminole Hunters Gang brought that history to the stage, and got the crowd ready for the next event.

The Squirrel Nut Zippers took to the stage like an organism -- a fungus of sorts -- and each member  found his particular niche for the evening’s inhabitation. To say the band's history has been tumultuous would be an understatement, but you couldn’t see any of that in trepidation on stage; perhaps because there are only two original members in this lineup.

47 Squirrel Nut Zippers - Tipitinas - 7-30-16

Squirrel Nut Zippers (Photos by: Steven Hatley)

That being said, the band played like a well-oiled machine. The solos were appropriately placed and didn’t take the audience out of the overall SNZ experience. Mathus, Phillips and Lucia have managed to create some amazing chemistry, even though they have only been playing together for a short while. The set was well rounded, with no one song drawing more applause than the next -- until the first chords of “Hell” were struck.

The band promises that this reactivation is here to stay, and say they are recording new material that should be out next year. As a fan, I have just one small request: I would love to hear the SNZ cover a Gogole Bordello song. They have many of the same elements, so it would be great to see how they mix. For now, do yourself a favor and check out this latest version of the Squirrel Nut Zippers; you can see more pictures here.

Steven Hatley is a New Orleans-based photographer. You can find more of his photography here.