“How have I not heard of these guys before,” an audience member comments to the lady next to her. As soon as their first song ended, I asked myself the same question.
It is hard to believe that six-piece theatrical powerhouse Captain Squeegee has been on the Phoenix music scene for 10 years. All original band members from 2003 have since left the group and the guys that currently make it up range from owning a one month to a six year membership. Tonight, Captain Squeegee takes the stage at Crescent Ballroom in their typical dramatic fashion and invites the audience on a musical journey.
Unique as they come, Captain Squeegee combines trumpet, woodwinds, and trombone along with classic guitar, bass, keys and drums to create a full sound that is complex yet easy to follow. Every single member is musically trained in some respect and can read and chart music. Their music is sophisticated in its orchestral rock style, much like ELO with a jazz flair. Lead singer/trumpet player Danny Torgersen goes into full performance mode on stage and brings a theatrical rock vocal sound. “It’s a strong [musical] cocktail for sure,” elaborates guitarist Garret Ortego after the show. Because the vocals are solid, the lyrics are not lost amongst the instruments.
Nothing about Captain Squeegee is stereotypical including their song content. Capitalism, reincarnation, and the apocalypse are all themes within their music. When asked about lyrical substance Torgersen explains, “I read some crazy stuff on the internet and I think, ‘That should be a song.’” Their lyrics reach a more intellectual crowd and their high energy and fun sound attract the average listener.
Their intricate melodies and dynamic vocals are enough to make people interested, but their live performance sells it. Torgersen commands the audience’s attention by engaging them with his stage presence and upbeat humor. If the smart-alecky class clown in high school started a band, this would be it. Even though Torgersen is a standout leader, he doesn’t overshadow the rest of the band. Each band member performs in his own right and each are on the same wavelength, listening and responding to the other members. With a band this size, it is essential that they work as a unit and, thankfully, they do. Each song easily transitions into the next and takes the crowd on a musical journey. A sight to behold, Captain Squeegee connects with the audience and conveys a rather political message without sounding overly preachy.
After 10 years Captain Squeegee is still creating new music and mystifying concert goers but they have struggled to be acknowledged and have their music reach a wider audience. One must wonder what they get out of it.
“Soul food,” Torgersen answers without missing a beat. The music regenerates them in a way nothing else can and anyone who is paying attention can see that in their complex melodies, politically charged lyrics, and incredible showmanship.
Photo from Captain Squeegee’s performance with ASU’s Concert Jazz band in November. Credit: Anthony Sandoval.