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Squirrel Nut Zippers
Calgary Folk Fest

Squirrel Nut Zippers

from New Orleans

The Squirrel Nut Zippers have followed a well-trodden path in their nearly 30-year career. Like so many others before them, they established an early reputation as an in-demand party band before getting swept up in an unlikely swing revival that captured the North American zeitgeist, propelling the band to platinum status and international stardom. Tours with Neil Young ensued, along with millions of album sales, appearances on every late night show, and a performance at Bill Clinton’s second inaugural ball. It’s a tale you’ve heard a thousand times before, maybe even one you’ve told yourself.

Fortunately, the Zippers have always been great at putting new spins on old stories. Bucking the trends of the mid-’90s alt-rock environment from which they emerged, Jimbo Malthus and co-founder Chris Phillips created a novel sound from anachronistic musical genres. They’re shape-shifters, filtering klezmer, swing, New Orleans jazz and Calypso through a punk-rock prism, adding the theatricality of Cab Calloway and the carnival atmosphere of Tom Waits for good measure.

Like the Fleischer Brothers cartoons that first helped spread the gospel of swing, the Zippers tap into an inspired weirdness that is too often forgotten on journeys through musical history. They’re silly, but a little scary, too — you’re never quite sure if they’re going to indulge in a gag or conjure up a devil. After all, any band that uses a song about Hell to launch their career should never be taken lightly.

Biography by Peter Hemminger

Full schedule coming soon! Stay tuned.