Review by B. A. Jones
Just to put it out there from the get- go, I AM partial to Big Something. I loved Nick, and a few others when they started years ago as The Anonymous Band. After a year, I was hooked. Then Nick reeled me in with progressive songs that spoke to me, like The Moonshine, and The Glow. I have attended all 4 of The BIG What’s, and have a t shirt and koozie from each year. So, that being said, I would never miss one; and they have matured and evolved each year to my personal elation. First and foremost, the family that puts the Big What on each year, are just that- family. Silly, honest, fun loving, trustworthy folks, that make me grateful to simply be in their presence.
The Big What is 3 days and nights of resounding music, art, and love. It is smaller attendance wise, and held on a private 200 acre farm in Mebane, NC. You can camp near your car in a meadow, RV, or, 1 of 2 trailer shuttles run every 10 minutes to carry you and all your gear to wooded camping. Once you arrive, you are welcomed into their family with broad smiles and heartfelt hugs. Another positive charm of this property is it’s large, permanent Japanese Pagoda style stage, and free showers. Put the site, and phenomenal house band- Big Something aside, and you still have their yearly line- ups to drool over! I have seen Zach Deputy, Dopapod, and Consider The Source all grace their stage, and am still a feverish fan of all these bands. Not to mention all the other incredible NC bands they showcase! All of the staff are friendly and helpful, and the bonuses just keep coming! Amazing live art by inspiring artists, incredible fire dancers, and the famous giant moustache ride teeter totter. Fiendishly ridiculous music, art, and wonderful people make for an astounding experience.
The music started at 6 pm on Thursday June 25 with Wilmington, North Carolina’s own Mac & Juice Quartet. Country, bluegrass and pop influences collide and you never know what they are going to play! When I hear people everywhere say they’ve never heard of them, I always tell them, “you’re going to love them,” and they always do. After 1 song, the skies opened up, and a deluge commenced. A torrential downpour and lightening had everyone- including the musicians- running for cover. Psylo Joe, the psychedelic rock- funk band from Greenville, NC was up next. They were also stopped from jamming due to the storm, which knocked out the power. The breakers were flipped back on after an hour, and Juice and Nick participated in an impromptu set with Big Daddy Love. Big Daddy Love, from Burlington, NC have been an Appalachian rock staple for 6 years, and they played to their home crowd. Many folks enjoyed the show from 100 feet away, protected all, by the huge artists’ circus tent! It was BIG, and had walls 2 & 2/3 of the way around it, and was not just a savior from the sun, but also from the rain.
The Steve Something Band (the Big Something – Steve Miller Band mash up) got going when the lightening stopped, and the rain slowed to a hypnotic and gentle drumming. They started off with the happiest rendition of Steve Miller Band’s SWINGTOWN! Keeping the happy vibe alive, they played the Pnut Song, into Steve Miller Band’s FLY LIKE AN EAGLE, and we were all awe struck. Truth Serum had me floating right into Steve Miller Band’s JUNGLE LOVE. There were monkeys, a gorilla, and some bananas running around, much to everyone’s delight! Big Something charmed everyone with Josh’s Disco > Steve Miller Band’s JET AIRLINER, and the crowd sang loudly, as we danced in the drizzle. Big Something then wowed us with Grey Matter, into Steve Miller Band’s TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN!!!! They finished off with the crowd pleasing My Volcano > Steve Miller Band’s THE JOKER, back into My Volcano! It was emphatically epic, to say the least.
Big Daddy Something played a short set due to time loss. The Mantras were completely rained out, much to my dismay! By this time I was cold and wet, and went home to sleep.. It was depressing, since I LOVE Broccoli Samurai, and they did end up playing their late night set. I missed it. I know they melted faces! They electrify at each show, and I truly missed out.
Friday started off with a sizzle- with Dr. Bacon at noon. Their funk-a-billy soul-grass brought us all out to enjoy the Summer sun, and each other. They had a slew of die hard fans braving the heat, and did not disappoint. Next came another of my favorite NC bands, Doby, from Greensboro, NC. Their sound infused with funk, is a well rounded accomplishment. With guitar master Marcus Horth, astonishing bassist Leo Kishore, and the ever mesmerizing beauty of their lead singer Robin Easter- it’s no wonder they lure you in with powerful riffs and soulful singing. That’s when you start to appreciate Jeff Yetter on keys, and Phil Clarke on drums . Their charismatic set left me smiling, and bouncing around!.
Around 2pm Dubtown Cosmonauts from Wilmington, NC. confidently took the stage, and courted us all with their psychedelic jazz. Their sound was infectious, and I happily watched the crowd sway and dance in unison, like a school of fluent fish. The Trongone Band from Richmond, VA. played next, and got down to brass tacks. I’ve never seen them before, and adored their performance. Strong, and self assured, with masterful rock riffs, and soulful saxophone. They left me thoroughly seduced.
The light rain showers began around 4:20 pm when Electric Soul Pandemic began. The rain was hit or miss the rest of the night, but E.S.P. was on point! It was only the second show I had seen with their new guitarist Jeremy Gamba, and their funky reggae sounded crisper and cleaner. I watched my 9 month old nephew boogie for the first time, and I felt like life could not get better. The bands all day progressively meeting all expectations, and it was only getting started.
Our North Carolina heritage has grown to include Winston- Salem, NC funk/ roots band Fat Cheek Kat. Their emphatic music is a delectable cross between Lettuce, and Led Zeppelin. The crowd gladly danced in the ever falling rain, as we shared our energy with the universe. I had eagerly anticipated their set, and reveled in each song. Fat Cheek Kat’s set ended too quickly for my taste, But I joyfully catalogued their set in my *favorites*. My favorite jam-grass band from Scranton, PA.- Cabinet took to the stage, and steadfast fans endured the drizzle to experience their prodigious songs. North Carolina was made for their homespun and traditional bluegrass, and the moonshine began to flow! Their music makes me feel like anything is possible, and love is all around. Next Imperial Blend from Greensboro, NC started a fire with their electronic dance fusion. They remind me of instrumental PGroove meets The Disco Biscuits. The entire venue got blended, and a face melting ensued.
Big Something came out at sunset to play. They cast out their net with The Undertow, then got old school funky with Pinky’s Ride, into The Moonshine. They played a new song for the first time, Tumbleweed, and it was overwhelmingly approved by all. They finished their set off with It Comes Around, another newer instrumental called Blue Dream, into another one of my favorites, UFO’s Are Real. They came out for an encore, and played The Flood, with all members of Vulfpeck. The two bands complimented each other amazingly, and the crowd was worked up into a frenzy.
Luckily, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong followed, whipping our fervor up into a crescendo. The Sound Production and light show all weekend was fantastic. Pigeons raged our faces, embellished in intensely colored lights. Their supreme set had everyone amped up, and our wildness was released. Our energy was at a fevered pitch when they finished, and we were all excited for the next band.
It was my first Vulfpeck show, and I was dazzled! They definitely put the fun in funk, and their rich music was accentuated by their comedic prowess on stage. Fun, funny, and fabulous is how I describe their set. Alluring and exciting progressively as their set advanced. I was extremely impressed, and we were all invigorated by their set.
My youngest sister and I stayed up to see the late night band, Spiritual Rez, from Boston, MA. Their sound eclipsed all genres, from metal to funk, rock to reggae, originals and covers. All performed with strength and obsession. They did an astounding rendition of STAND BY ME, complete with crowd participation. Soon they got us all rapping as they busted out BIG BUTTS, and I can not lie, it was astronomical fun!
Saturday started at noon with Wilmington, NC’s Barefoot Wade. I started my tie dye workshop as well, and found myself singing and slightly swaying, “Strawberry Ice Cream Cup”, as I folded and tied. It was pretty fun to work creating awesome wearable art, as we enjoyed live music and new people. Opposite Box, a funk rock band from Chattanooga, TN.. happily took the helm next. With a sax player, sousaphone player, and a trombone player, their feel good funky music resonated from forest to meadow, encapsulating everyone. Good times were had by all, and festival goers took advantage of the workshops. There was a flow- hoop workshop, a face and body painting workshop, and a tie dye workshop.
Urban Soil from Raleigh, NC. ignited our joy receptors like a gas stove! From folk, to Appalachian rock, they take music to a higher level, quelling our love. Light drizzle began to fall, and it felt great on my hot skin. Still working I was having a blast, and enjoying all the music. The Chit Nasty Band from Raleigh, NC. kept up our celebratory mood with their bluesy, soulful sound. Their bass player Leo Kishore is one of my top 5 favorite bassists, and he enhances every band he is in. The Chit Nasty Band kept us lively and full of admiration.
I was enraptured listening to The Family, from Greensboro, NC under the big top tent. I am an enormous fan of their music, and have never seen them do a set that was less than epic. With their soulful singer, talented guitarists, and astounding slap box player, they have carved out a niche in my heart no one else can fill. After The Family, Groove Fetish continued our infatuation. Yet another significant band from Wilmington, NC. their rock jam continued to sow enigmatic seeds of musical love in our hearts. Their compilation was self assured, and every chord executed to perfection. We were enthralled by Groove Fetish.
I ended my workshop a little late, yet still with enough time to enjoy the second half of Barefoot Manner’s set. Their funky new-grass astounded me, and I was in heaven listening to their incredible banjo, and mandolin valor. They were a breath of fresh air for me, and adored by most of their NC brethren. I then got to get down and dirty with The Fritz, one of my favorite funk rock fusion bands from Asheville, NC. I have been an avid fan for a few years, and idolize Jaimie Hendrickson’s vocals, and Lamar Woods keyboard skills. They put the funky in my monkey, and the fruit in my jam! I can never say enough glowing things about this high energy, feel great band.!
Kung Fu from CT kept the extreme funkiness alive as they assuaged us with their funky fusion. Their music literally makes me want to kung fu chop and kick dance- if I could! They are phenomenal, and 1,000 strong screamed for more. Next Dangermuffin, from Folly Beach, SC kept the infection spreading. Rampant from person to person, we all became inebriated by Dangermuffin. They are an earganic trio, taking the south- east by storm.
The Big What came to a vigorous close Saturday night with Two sets by Big Something. Passionately they wooed us with Sirens > The Curse Of Julia Brown > Illuminated > Bbm Funk > the enigmatic Love Generator. We all sang along, unabated. Each band member’s performance was impeccable, and Casey Cranford on sax and Doug Marshall on bass were emphatically stunning. They played In The Middle, then played still another brand new song for the 1st time called Song For Us. It was delicious and sweet. Big Something moved into Club Step, then into The Beatles cover TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS, and finished off their first set with Hangover.
We all caught our breath, eagerly awaiting their finale. Big Something’s second set started with a stupendous SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND, by Pink Floyd, and the cork was ejected!! We all sang loudly as they followed with two more Pink Floyd covers- WISH YOU WERE HERTE, & ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL. They killed it loudly, and with bravado. Capt. D followed, and Megalodon kept us immersed. Vibrations > A Simple Vision > Ewi 5000, then much to our delight, they played the 3rd new Big Something for that weekend. It is called Passenger, and it had us on the edge of our seats, arms up, and screaming like we were thrust over the first steep drop of a roller coaster ride. Then, as we recovered, embellished our fervency with Lettuce’s SALUTE, then Lettuce’s BLAST OFF, with Lamar Woods from The Fritz on keys! They skillfully played Waves into Funkadelic’s MAGGOT BRAINS, into Saturday Night Zombie, and left the stage. We bellowed for an encore. They came back out and ripped up Sublime’s WHAT I GOT, into UPTOWN FUNK by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. Of course we were all singing “Big What Funk You Up”! They left the stage again, and the crowd roared for more! A few minutes later they came out for a second encore, and played their famous Amanda Lynn. When they were done, I kept thinking THIS is WHAT I live for!
The Big What 2015 was epically unreal, and once again will go down in infamy. From the silly fun photos we all took in Andy Cox’s photo booth, to the crazy and incredible costumes in the costume contest, fun was had by all. To play any part in this fabulous festival fills my heart with love and pride. They certainly have evolved from an anonymous band, into Big Something! The energy is palpable and feeds the machine of our love generator. Big Something is becoming a true legend in NC music lore.
When it’s all said and done, there’s no place I would rather be. Enveloped in NC’s infallible regional music, as we all celebrated WHAT is most important in our lives. Family, the priceless friendships, ardent music, and mind blowing entrancing art. Even though a few of our favorite bands got rained out, we did not let it dampen our mood of exhilaration and endearing devotion. The intensity shared by all in attendance immersed us all in camaraderie, The Big What 2015 was another resounding success. This is one of a few festivals I am intent on sharing all of my devotion with. Thank You to Big something, Possum holler Productions, all the staff, and volunteers, and attendees for making a miraculous weekend come to fruition. I already can’t wait till next year!
Rabbit’s Choice 5 stars *****