By Laura Michels | The Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS — Big Bad Voodoo Daddy thrives on the energy generated from playing in front of a live audience, said trumpeter Glen “The Kid” Marhevka.
IF YOU GO
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE
Also performing: The Max Weinberg 7
Tickets: $49, $47 members, Meijer Gardens box office, Star Tickets locations, 800-585-3737, startickets.com
So Thursday’s performance at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park should be anything but boring.
The swing band known for performing in fedoras and pinstripe suits is no stranger to Grand Rapids. The band has made a half-dozen trips to West Michigan, including a gig last summer for the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Picnic Pops.
Marhevka said the band is thrilled by the opportunity to wow the city again.
“Everybody tries to give it 110 percent all the time, and I think that we all try and push each other to the highest level all the time,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in this band settles for anybody not bringing that energy and not giving it their all, all the time.”
The eight-member band is celebrating its 18th year together.
“The band really is great live on stage,” Marhevka said. “You have to really bring something — if people aren’t seeing you live, they have to feel that energy and presence no matter what you are doing. I think people really latch on to that when they see that or hear that. They just go ‘wow that is great.’”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy — which has recorded eight albums, appeared many times on TV shows from Jay Leno to Conan O’Brian, and played the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999 — borrowed some of that showmanship from the group’s inspiration: the late exuberant singer/band leader Cab Calloway.
“He was a sort of larger-than-life persona when he was on stage. He wore these really long, big zoot suits and he danced all over the stage and he just looked like the coolest guy you could ever imagine on stage,” Marhevka said. “He just had such cool presence.”
Most of the band’s music is original material, including its biggest hits, “You & Me and the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight” and “Go Daddy-O.” But a few standards, such as Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher” have been a part of their shows for a long time.
Marhevka found his rhythm the first time he held a trumpet when he was in fifth grade.
“I remember I loved it from the second I picked it up. I felt like I could play it … right from the get go,” he said.
“Yeah, I can do this, it came fairly natural,” he said.
Natural, maybe. Easy, no.
“It’s a really difficult instrument,” he said. “It was a lot of work after that, and it still is.”
For Marhekva, the excellence he and his bandmates expect is hard won.
“I have days where it feels magical and days where it’s really hard to play,” he said.
But those magical days pay dividends.
“Something about it, I get a great adrenaline rush,” he said. “There’s nothing I would rather be doing.”