The reconvened and re-jubilated Squirrel Nut Zippers gave one helluva performance at the Music Farm on Tues. Oct. 28. It has been nearly seven years since the dapper Chapel Hill ensemble splintered not-so-amicably into different projects. However, whatever animosity or trouble may have caused their breakup seemed completely dissolved on the Farm stage.
Singer/guitarist/tombinist James "Jimbo" Mathus (pictured) and singer/maracas 'n' uke player Katherine Whalen — both clad in Bavarian jäger hats and vintage outfits — traded lead vocal duties on a variety of swingin' fan favorites from their late-'90s albums The Inevitable, Hot, and Sold Out. They traded smiles and a few rascally glances, too, which enhanced the positive vibes of the jazzy beatnik/bohemian scene.
Mathus and Whalen carried on up front with terrific backing from drummer Chris Phillips, who accented and rumbled on the toms like Gene Krupa and smacked the cymbals like Baby Dodds. Bassist Stu Cole walked his bass lines across four flatwounds like a jazz cat. On stage left, the front line of trumpet/cornet player Je Widenhouse, multi-instrumentalist Will Dawson, and bass sax player Henry Westmoreland looked cool and sounded sharp.
In addition to rousing renditions of "Good Enough for Granddad," "Hell," and "Put a Lid on It," one wonderful highlight was the upbeat "Ghost of Stephen Foster" (from their 1999 album Perennial Favorites), played in the shadows to a black-and-white animated music video directed by Raymond Persi and Matthew Nastuk.
For their encore, the entire band (with Westmoreland on sousaphone) marched with instruments in hand through their backstage room, across the upper balcony, down the stairs, and to the main bar for their second encore, much to the enthusiastic delight of the audience. (www.myspace.com/snzippers) —T. Ballard Lesemann