Cherry Poppin' Daddies at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino on Dec. 30
Steve Perry (a.k.a. MC Large Drink) jumps and jives for the crowd. (Photos by Jonathan McNamara)
I'm at war with myself over last night's Cherry Poppin' Daddies show.
While the fanboy part of me (who's followed the band since picking up Kids on the Street in 1997) was jazzed at seeing one of my favorite bands gleefully do their thing live and in person. At the same time, my "jaded music critic" side was eagerly scribbling down phrases like "throwbacks" and "kinda lame and depressing" into my reporter's notebook while watching the band perform two separate sets for a crowd of mostly altercockers at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino in Maricopa.
So what's the verdict on the show? I'll let each side present their respective case:
The Fanboy: Wow! It was a fun and unique show, to be sure, with more than a hundred in attendance and many fans having to pull S.R.O. duty. Look! There's a cat in a Pietasters shirt, and another dude wearing a porkpie hat! Awesome!
For those who've never seen a gig at Ak-Chin's Oasis Lounge, bands perform on a smallish stage above its horseshoe-shaped bar. It felt apropos, given the fact that the Daddies' discography has a multitude of swinging songs that you'd want to knock back a 'tini or two while watching the Oregon-based band perform.
And if you were hoping to hear some swing, you were in luck. Between the band's separate 65-minute sets at 8 and 10 p.m., they performed pretty much the bulk of Zoot Suit Riot, including "Ding-Dong Daddy of the D-Car Line," "Here Comes the Snake," "Master and Slave," "Dr. Bones," and "Drunk Daddy." Songs from other albums were also snuck into either set, including tracks from Soul Caddy ("Diamond Light Boogie," "Soul Cadillac"); Rapid City Muscle Car ("Hazel, South Dakota"); and the latest disc Susquehanna ("Hammerblow," "Bust Out," "Wingtips," "Blood Orange Sun").
It was also kinda groovy that a few fans in attendance who were standing in the back busted out with the swing dance moves and foxtrot steps towards the end of the first set. Lead singer Steve Perry (a.k.a. MC Large Drink) had some moves of his own, jumping and jiving like a man possessed, as he's wont to do during shows. He didn't have much room to get funky, as the smallish stage only left him a six-foot-by-three-foot space to unleash spastic dance moves, like sticking the microphone down his pants while gyrating his hips in exaggerated fashion.
The Music Critic: Holy shit. About two-thirds of the audience is made up of grey-haired types in their late 40s or older. Did the nursing homes bus these fogies in just for the show or what? Maybe it's due to the fact the show was under-promoted (or because it happening in B.F.E.) but you'd think there would be more of a younger crowd here.
It damn sure would've helped the energy level.
With the exception of those whipper snappers swing dancing in the back, the excitement at the show was deader than Eartha Kitt (God rest her soul). It's probably because the show went down way past their bedtime. But despite being saddled with a mostly dead crowd, MC Large Drink was trying his damndest to get people fired up.
In fact it was the same kind of theatrics we'd seen 10 years ago in April 1998 at the now-demolished Club Rio in Tempe, and the next night at the Celebrity Theatre, and then in 2001 at Alice Cooper'stown, et cetera. We're aware that bands are known to repeat the same shtick at show after show, but it seemed like a "been there, done that" kinda thing.
Along the same lines, it felt somewhat depressing and pathetic that the band is still putting on the same music and the same vibe a decade after their heyday. As I've written about in previous concert reviews, I have something of an issue with '90s bands who are trying desperately to make it long after their initial splash of success.
While it was cool to hear the Zoot Suit Riot swing songs again in person, I really was hoping for many more of the tracks from Susquehanna (which features a much more varied sound). Perhaps that's the fate of all bands living off the fame of the biggest hits from years back, being subjected to playing the same old shit that made them famous to please what's left of their fanbase, with little to none of the new stuff getting performed. (See Aquabats, The).
But hey, I heard the Daddies got paid $20k for the show, so at least they made bank from the gig.
The Verdict: If you're a die-hard Cherry Poppin' Daddies fan, you would've dug the show. If you aren't, then you didn't miss much.
Last Night: Cherry Poppin' Daddies at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino in Maricopa.
Better Than: Watching Big Bad Voodoo Daddy perform at a rest home.
Personal Bias: Ten years ago I tried to buy a zoot suit and learn how to swing dance.
Random Detail: Frontman Steve Perry kept trying to watch the University of Oregon football squad compete in the Holiday Bowl on one of the lounge's flat screen TVs during the show.
Further Listening: Kids on the Street through Susquehanna.
By the Way: Harrah's management asked photographer (and web editor) Jonathan McNamara not to take any pictures of either the casino or the ceiling.
One More Thing: Ak-Chin only had one $5 blackjack table going last night, which sucked if you wanted to gamble on the cheap. Casino Arizona is a far better place to play 21. -- Benjamin Leatherman