Tuesday, October 16 , 2018, 8:48 am | Fair 53º


Jeff Moehlis: Brian Setzer Orchestra Rocks Out the Christmas Music and More

It was a jolly good time at the Chumash Casino Resort last Thursday night, with the Brian Setzer Orchestra swinging through Christmas favorites and more.

Setzer first made his mark fronting The Stray Cats, the 1980s rockabilly revival band that had hits on MTV and radio with "Rock This Town," "Stray Cat Strut" and "(She's) Sexy + 17." He later formed The Brian Setzer Orchestra, which had its own hit with a cover of "Jump Jive An' Wail." The orchestra was in Christmas mode at the casino, and had five saxophones, four trombones, four trumpets, a stand-up bass, drums, two vixens/background singers (Setzer's wife, Julie Reiten, and Leslie Spencer), plus Setzer on guitar and vocals.

The band had the crowd dancing in its seats with high-energy arrangements of songs like "Dig That Crazy Santa Claus," "Sleigh Bells" and "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus," which had one of many cool guitar solos by Gretsch god Setzer plus some smokin' solos from the brass. "Joy to the World" and "Little Town of Bethlehem" were treats with vintage big-band instrumental arrangements, and "Angels We Have Heard on High" ranged from choral to rockin'.

The Stray Cats songs were fun in their filled-in form, with the vixens singing the chorus of "(She's) Sexy + 17," and "Stray Cat Strut" medleying into "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and featuring a grinch strutting around the stage. By the time they played "Rock This Town" during the encore, the band was looking sharp in leopard print jackets.

"Jump Jive An' Wail" was also swingin' and had great back and forth soloing between Setzer and one of the saxophonists.

There was also a rockabilly (which Setzer defined as "the blues with three cups of coffee") mini-set that kicked off with Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown." Next up was Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," which had the crowd spring to its feet as if they were listening to the national anthem. The Stray Cats' "Fishnet Stockings" had Setzer quote the famous guitar solo from Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock," and "Brand New Cadillac" had him playing a '59 Cadillac tail-fin guitar.

During the encore, Setzer introduced a swinging arrangement of "The Nutcracker Suite" by joking, "It's Christmas time — you have to take your medicine." The show closed with "Jingle Bells," for which Santa himself finally made an appearance and threw candy canes into the crowd as fake snow fell from the ceiling.

It was truly a Merry Christmas for all, and for all a good night.


The Munsters Theme
Dig That Crazy Santa Claus
Sleigh Bells
This Cat's on a Hot Tim Room
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus
(She's) Sexy + 17
Joy to the World
Stray Cat Strut / You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Angels We Have Heard on High
Jump Jive An' Wail
Little Town of Bethlehem
Nervous Breakdown
Ring of Fire
Jingle Bell Rock
Fishnet Stockings
Brand New Cadillac


Flintstones Holiday Song
Nutcracker Suite
Rock This Town
Jingle Bells

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.