Review of Big Something
123 Pleasant Street, Feb. 27, 2015
written and photographed by J. William Taylor Hott
Out of Burlington, North Carolina, the 6 piece super band Big Something left quite an impression on me the I first heard them at Domefest in 2014. Last Friday night they returned to West Virginia to grace the antique walls of 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown, WV. I had been patiently awaiting the opportunity to experience them again; and I use the word experience with the upmost sincerity because that is exactly what these guys are. Being a musician myself, it is unbelievably refreshing to hear musical talent like this. What sets this band apart from every other band I have heard is, that fact that they have an unreal ability to play multiple layers over a single time signature. It is almost like a musical buffet because no matter what mood you are in, you can find an instrument to vibe with.
The front man of the band is Nick MacDaniels, and this guy really brings an energy to the stage that totally transcends their sound and makes it palpable for the crowd. He has a very distinct shuffle that captivates the audience with passion as well as giving them a sweet dance move. To classify this band in any genre, in my opinion, truly takes away from the majesty of their unique sound. The alternative feel is absolutely there in the vocals but they also have this heavy driven sound that can give you whiplash like you are to a Rage show. Then on the flip side, the lefty Nick MacDaniels gives this funk feel across the neck of his Stratocaster that gets everyone grooving to the sound. Did I mention that he also plays the mandolin? And did I mention that The Big Something has this unbelievably unique sound that I can’t quite pinpoint? If you aren’t convinced yet, I think you will be.
Nick’s mandolin gives them a bright side to their heavy feel which matches his alternative style of singing. Versatile is the best word that comes to mind when I think about The Big Something because he’s not the only multi-instrumentalist that is in the band. The Saxophone/EWI(Electronic Wind player), Casey Cranford brings another level of talent to the mix. This guy’s feel for timing is pretty unbelievable because he sends the listeners into this trance and then plays circles around the time signature that could have you lost in the sound for days. You would think the whole band would be lost but the drummer Ben Vinograd holds the band down with eloquent punctuation and force. In my personal opinion, he is very similar to the talents of Mr. Isaac Teel of Tauk. Ben is accompanied by Doug Marshall on the bass whose sound is as wide as the color spectrum. The Big Something without Ben’s eloquent force and the enormous variety of Doug’s bass melodies, the sound of this band would be driven into entropy.
Another multi-instrumentalist in the band is Josh Kagel who is a very talented keyboard and trumpet player. Accompanied with Casey he gives the ability to create these melodic rising progressions that remind you of Big Gigantic. The grand piano sound that Josh also uses gives another concrete layer to the band, but he still resides in a layer that is separate from the rest of the sound. There is something that I am failing to mention though and that is the basis of the bands punch. As a guitar player myself the incendiary tone of Jesse Hensley’s guitar playing is almost gut wrenching at times. I wish I could put my finger on his musical influences but I really can’t place his sound. It’s not super bluesy, or even overly crunchy, it’s the perfect balance of their sound. Jesse’s feel for timing, like the rest of the band, sets them apart from any other band I have heard.
All in all, The Big Something is an incredible band. The balance that they bring to the table is unfathomable as a 6 piece band. They are all standing on their own as musicians but they are focused on the sound as a whole and that is an important distinction. Because no matter who playing, there is nothing but respect for all the musicians involved. I am humbled to even hear this band, let alone get the opportunity to photograph and write about them. Their passion resonates deeply with me and I believe that they are about to stumble on to Something Big. The only issue I have with listening to them, is the fact that their set has to end eventually. They played a truly memorable show that left the crowd wanting more and more. I truly believe in where this band is heading and I am so thankful for this opportunity. I recommend you check this band out immediately and if you can, catch them on April 2nd when the get play with Pigeon’s Playing Ping Pong and Tauk at Rams Head live in Baltimore. Thanks for reading and I hope my words have inspired to hear this band in a whole new light.