It doesn't bother members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers that they got swept up into the "Swing revival" of the 1990s, along with bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Atomic Fireballs and Cherry Poppin' Daddies. But that wasn't really what they were striving for.

It doesn't bother members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers that they got swept up into the "Swing revival" of the 1990s, along with bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Atomic Fireballs and Cherry Poppin' Daddies. But that wasn't really what they were striving for.


"We never thought of ourselves as swing songs and zoot suits," said Zippers drummer Chris Phillips. "It was more like thrift store vagabonds. We were stone soup, we weren't one thing. (The band) made a very conscious effort to select songs that seemed to embody our spirit."


Yes, the band - which became famous for songs like "Hell" and "Anything But Love" - is still touring, and they are still associated with that era in the 1990s. The band will perform these songs Friday at the fourth annual Hotel Pere Marquette Charitable Gala, which will feature a 1930s nightclub theme.


The Squirrel Nut Zippers were inspired by turn-of-the-century New Orleans jazz. But members of the band also dig Delta blues, "strange international music" and anything else they stumble across. Phillips said the atmosphere of their shows is just as unique as the music.


"The thing that always made Zippers shows really cool is that guys would ask their girlfriends out on honest-to-God dates," Phillips said. "They'd wear a suit and they'd get dressed up and they'd go out to dinner and it'd make it a special event. And that kind of culture grew around us and with us where, when you came out to see one of our shows, you made a night of it, you weren't afraid to dress up."


The band, which formed in North Carolina in the early 1990s, includes James "Jimbo" Mathus; Katharine Whalen; Phillips; Stu Cole; Je Widenhouse; Will Dawson; Gabriel Pelli; and Henry Westmoreland. Members are back touring after a hiatus that started in 2001 and lasted until 2007.


Phillips said the breather was a good thing for the band.


"That was what was totally weird; we got back together and it was like no time had passed at all," he said. "I was afraid that the chemistry wouldn't be there. We launched into the first song after five, six years apart, and it confirmed our memories that this was a very cool thing."


Danielle Hatch can be reached at dhatch@pjstar.com.


If you go


What: Fourth annual Hotel Pere Marquette Charitable Gala, featuring Squirrel Nut Zippers.


When: Friday. Event starts at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails, followed by a five-course dinner, drinks and dancing.


Where: Pere Marquette Ballroom.


Cost: $150 per person, or $1,400 for a table of 10. Call (309) 685-9312. Proceeds benefit the Junior League of Peoria and its Peoria PlayHouse project. A portion of the proceeds will also be donated to the Community Foundation of Central Illinois.