A family that plays together stays together

The Fourth of July is often a time for family gatherings, and when Glen Marhevka takes the stage with his bandmates Friday, he'll be surrounded by a group that feels like family to him.

OK, maybe that sounds like the hoariest cliche in the book. But Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, which will join the Pacific Symphony for a holiday show at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, has the rare distinction among bands of being a functional family. Over the past two decades, as countless pop acts have shed members left and right, the Ventura-based swing ensemble has stuck with the same seven core members.

That's right, seven. It can hard enough for a smaller group to hold onto its personnel — a recent documentary on Quiet Riot contained a whirlwind animated montage of who stayed and left over the years — but Voodoo Daddy's lineup has stayed nearly intact since the 1996 movie "Swingers" catapulted it to mainstream stardom. According to Marhevka, the only change came when trombonist Jeff Harris joined for a period in the 1990s.

"It totally sounds cheesy, but the thing I'm most proud of, really, is that we're still playing together after 20 years as a band," Marhevka said. "That's really a big accomplishment. A lot of bands only last a few years, and for good reason, because it's not easy. It's really difficult to keep a band together, keep everybody focused and keep everybody moving forward."

That motion made for a dizzying trip during the 1990s, when Voodoo Daddy — buoyed by the swing craze that also exalted peers like Royal Crown Revue and Squirrel Nut Zippers — became a regular presence on the radio, played the Super Bowl and made zoot suits the epitome of cool for many teenagers and young adults.

With "Go Daddy-O" now primed for high-school-reunion playlists and "You're so money!" no longer an everyday catchphrase, Voodoo Daddy has continued the life of a touring band, playing festivals, performing arts centers and symphony shows. The members still have the tour van that they used in the 1990s, although its use has been relegated to trips to the airport. And the band is hardly resting on its old material: Its most recent studio album, 2012's "Rattle Them Bones," peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart.

Marhevka, who lives in Los Angeles, noted proudly that Voodoo Daddy is on the verge of playing its 3,000th concert. For Pacific Symphony Pops conductor Richard Kaufman, though, Friday's collaboration will be a first with a band he's long admired.

"I've known about them for a long time and have never worked with them, but have always thought it would really be exciting to do that, because musically, they're just fantastic," he said. "And it's one thing to be musical but another thing to bring great personality to the stage, and they do both."

The Verizon Wireless show will feature Voodoo Daddy tunes along with patriotic selections by the symphony: "The Star-Spangled Banner," the lyrics of which turn 200 this year, as well as film scores from "Patton," "Saving Private Ryan," "The Right Stuff" and "The Magnificent Seven." The show will end with a fireworks finale.

"And I think that it's gonna be especially terrific with the kind of music they play, swing and all that, to do it on the Fourth of July," Kaufman said. "You can't get much more American than that."

While Voodoo Daddy's own set list doesn't include any holiday-themed tunes, Marhevka said July 4 concerts are a tradition for the band.

"I always think of the Fourth of July as just a really great time to be with friends and family, to just kind of enjoy being outside and celebrating," he said. "I guess we're celebrating our freedom."

If You Go

What: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy with Pacific Symphony

Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Cost: $25 to $105; half price for children under 14 in most sections with the purchase of an adult ticket

Information: (949) 855-8095 or http://www.pacificsymphony.org

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