Written by B.A. Jones
Some people say they have the most fun at music festivals. I love them, but The Big What, thrown by Burlington, NC phenomena Big Something, is a family reunion. Each year all of their devoted friends flock to Mebane NC, to spend 3 nights and 3 days with our extended family of Big zealots. The weather this year was perfect. There was no rain, and they were prepared for the heat with an additional shade tent, and a new green room out of the property bus, equipped with it’s own private toilet, and air conditioning.There was even a BIG beach ball sprinkler to cool us off, and pranksters like me filling water guns up with ice cold water to soak attendees. This is WHAT we live for. Getting silly, enjoying outrageously decadent music, and being astounded by artists who paint live.
This year there was a V.I.P. option, which allowed VIP’s to camp in the shady woods behind hospitality, they had their own air conditioned toilets, and were fed delicious food all weekend. The music started Throwback Thursday with Empire Strikes Brass, an entertaining jazz band with boundless energy. Next the Mac & Juice Quartet from Wilmington NC amazed the crowd with their eclectic mix of cover songs and originals. Both sets were truly amazing, and got the crowd prepared to boogie down with Zach Deputy. I was in-cahoots with Zach for a tribute song for his encore, and I had shenanigans planned as well. He put Chicken Pot Pie on his set list, knowing I was coming to his set in a chicken costume, with full mask. The silliness was contagious, and a thousand strong danced in unison, entertained by Zach’s incredible voice. I made 2 big jugs of frozen strawberry daiquiri’s and gave them all away, to keep us all cool. His set was astonishing, he is such an immense talent! When he came out for his encore, he dedicated the song to our family and friends who have crossed over, and M.C. Jason Darby dedicated the song to Grady Cook, a good friend and fellow M.C. who passed away this past January. Zach sang an epic version of Bob Marley & The Wailer’s song, NO WOMAN, NO CRY, as photos of our loved ones played on the visual screen. It was enough to coax joyful yet sorrowful tears from my eyes, and I’m ever so grateful Zach was happy to dedicate his encore to our loved ones on the other side. It’s these little things that make The Big What special each year, and make us all kindred spirits. We love together, revel together, and look out for one another as if we all are truly related. We are related by our love and adoration of Big Something.
Big Something played their first set and mesmerized everyone with originals like Capt. D, The Undertow, The Moonshine, Truth Serum, and The Flood; as well as delectable covers like Nirvana’s LITHIUM, and Rage Against the Machine’s CALM LIKE A BOMB. Zach Deputy encapsulated us with a vocal freestyle on Truth Serum, and the atmosphere was one of festivity. Everyone was all smiles, and there was a deep camaraderie felt by each of us. We were there to share in everything amazing life has to offer. Friendship, music, art, food, drinks, and Thursday was a perfect way to build the tempo of our infatuations.
The WHATerful experience continued to reign supreme, as Pigeons Playing Ping Pong riled us up even more! From Baltimore MD, this band has a paramount level of energy, and continue to dominate stages all over the east coast. Their jubilant jams, and remarkable instrumentals hook the music lover and enthusiastically lock down on your love like a frenzied shark. Their intensity is rivaled only by Big Something, who joined them for an ecclesiastic joint set. Big Pigeons Playing Something raged in the middle of nowhere, for the entire universe to enjoy! Their driving force surpassed the Juno Probe, captivating Jupiter itself! They started out with a heady Time To Ride (Pigeons P.P.P.), into a joyous WE ARE FAMILY by Sister Sledge. We could tell Throwback Thursday meant we were getting funky with a disco themed set! They went into a boisterous GET DOWN TONIGHT (KC & The Sunshine Band), into a full fledged funkified YMCA by The Village People, complete with horns by Empire Strikes Brass. They finished off their intense joint set with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s F.U., and the audience was crazed! Around 20 minutes later, we could hear the sweet sounds of Zach Deputy emanating from the woods below us, and stumbled our way down a path for a secret acoustic set.
I had a quart of coffee moonshine and swam through the crowd sharing it with everyone until it was gone. Zach was in the zone, and his guitar seemed effortless. His range is so broad, and his voice is angelic. Born with the funk gene, he was born to share his exuberant and soulful talent. He played from 3 am and kept going and going, he was the energiser Zach. The crowd was receptive, and overjoyed with his set, and we were sad when it finally ended. We were very thankful to have him back at the Big What, since it had been two years since he last graced our stage. He is powerful, and brings the best out of each person in attendance. I hope he is a part of The Big What every year, we love Zach Deputy dearly.
Friday was Fly-Day, where the costumes were super fly! We were all so enthusiastic, and definitely having the time of our lives! The BIG Beach Ball Sprinkler got set up, and we all took advantage. Playing in the sprinkler at a music festival was so much fun! There was a lemonade vendor, who also sold ice cream, and a super delicious pizza vendor. Everyone was smiling, and the day was hot but gorgeous. I did notice most of the kids were still in the shade and cool of the forest, and started to come out as the sun went behind the trees. There was a wake up well workshop friday and saturday mornings, lawn games, and water balloon tosses. There was a Big Twister game with Big Something at noon, and a hoopdance workshop at 2pm. Dr. Bacon started the day with a sizzle at 1 pm. I was running over with delight, and couldn’t stop grinning. They are an outstanding funk rock band from Asheville, NC, and they really throw the groove, so you’re up dancing and entranced.
Psylo Joe, a free styling funk rock/ acid jazz band from Greenville, NC started at 2:30 and kept the lively vibe alive. They are a rambunctious band of guys who are committed to the connection between their music, it’s listeners, and entertaining the masses. Everything was perfect, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed, and having so much fun.. Empire Strikes Brass came on at 4, and there were a lot of people braving the sun, dancing in front of the stage. The mood was jovial and light. The day breezed by, and people were out, shopping, having water gun fights, and lounging around grooving to the music.
Just before dinner time, People’s Blues Of Richmond took to stage and the audience erupted in cheers of approval. I exalt this band, and love everything about them! Besides Tim Beavers insane guitar riffs, his voice has a raw, bold, and intrepid resonance that lures you to the darker side of Rock & Roll. PBR single- handedly keeps Heavy Metal alive and raging at today’s music festivals, and there’s no one on the circuit that can come close to their ass- kickery! To be a three man band, they play with fury, and the abandon of 6 men! Nekoro Williams is a demon on the drum kit, and infuses metal mania into every arrangement. Add to them the ferocious bass lines of Matthew Volkes, and you have a power- house metal band that will melt your face off! Matthew reminds me of a younger, wilder Geezer Butler (the original bass player for Black Sabbath), and revels in hard and heavy bassology. They played my favorite PBR song, and I was pumped up for the night!
Big Something went on at 7:30, and the mood was euphoric. They are such a good- time band, infused with fun and funk, they have a very loyal and rowdy fan base. Big Something allows you to fly your freak flag proudly, and we are a family that shares everything. Everyone brings their bottles and jars to dispense intoxication to our friends and strangers alike. We celebrate everything BIG and small, with zeal and delight. They got ready to fly high, and started their set off with Fantastic Voyage. And that’s WHAT The Big What is, a fantastic voyage of fervor with friends!
Their Friday night set was a tasty mixture of older Big Something standards, and newer BS songs still nurturing in our hearts. They went into a fantastical Club Step, and right into Hangover. They took us to old school and served up a Pinky’s Ride > Pnuts Song > Blue Dream. The horn players from Empire Strikes Brass joined Big Something onstage, and wailed an amazing version of Lettuce’s BLAST OFF. That’s exactly WHAT the crowd did! The field was halfway filled, just packed with 1,500 friends screaming and dancing like we were infected with a frenzied boogie pox! They weren’t quite done yet… They smashed a Josh’s Disco, and the boys were on fire! Then they played THE BIRD by Morris Day & The Time, and we were breathless!!!! They came out for an encore, and played one of my favorite songs- UFO’S Are Real, and I was stunned! They always get my blood pumping, and it sometimes takes days to really come down off such a BIG high! I was whipped, and had to be up early the next morning to set up for my tie dye workshop. So I went home and got some sleep.
I could hear Turkuaz from my camp, and they were magnificent! Simply amazing, and I fell asleep listening to their dulcet jams, and found out later just how much I missed! After Turkuaz, The Werks stormed the stage and their improvisational super jamming awed those in attendance! They shredded faces, as they always do! The Werks are astounding, and I wish I hadn’t missed them! They played until 2:20 am. Next there came a parade. The marching band was Empire Strikes Brass, and they led the calvary through the darkened property to a secret stage. Big Something played another set!!!! And I missed it!!!! I’m so bummed about that, but don’t think I could have walked that far anyway, with my back injuries.
There was another wake up well workshop from 10am to 11am, My tie dye workshop started at 11am, and another core hooping for beginners workshop started at noon. The superb music started at 12:30 with Raleigh NC band Urban Soil. They had a new fiddle player, Greg Meckley, and he was pretty amazing, I’m assuming so Sarah Reinke can concentrate on vocals and guitar. They are a flavorful blend of Americana and Jam, and have a cohesive foundation in guitarist Eric Chesson, bassist David Connors, and drummer Frank Bloom. They were perfect, and I was still waiting for people to show up to my workshop. M.C. Jason Darby announced my workshop, and I was flooded with people!
After people showed up to tie dye, the day seemed to just fly by! Dale & The Z Dubs started at 2, and really ground out the grooves! They were fantastic, and I really love hearing live music while I meet new people and make art! I can’t remember his name, but a young man showed up with his friends Chris & Pam, and he tie dyed all their shirts! I met so many awesome new folks, besides Chris & Pam, I met Sam, Keith, Roger, and some little kids came to make free tie dyes! I had so much fun! The Southern Belles went on at 3:30 and shredded for an hour! They were fantastic! I was still working when Groove Fetish hit the stage, and created some amazing tie dyes to their delightful jams. I was supposed to be done by 6pm, but I wasn’t stopping until everyone’s shirts were done. Barefoot Manner, an absolutely euphoric JamGrass band from NC blessed us with a phenomenal set! I adore this band, and The Big What is the only time I get to see them, so I relished their music as I frantically tried to finish my work. I finally got done just before 8 pm, and ran home to get changed for the last night of The Big What. Saturday night is when I like to drink, because that’s when I’m done working.
Spiritual Rez began their set at 8:30, and they were outrageously exceptional! I fell in love with them last year at The Big What, and look forward to seeing them every year! I was so excited for Big Something’s sets, as I was told Saturday night’s sets would be Big Something’s tribute to musical icons! I went and tried to buy a Big What t shirt, and sadly, they were sold out, except a couple of small and medium sized shirts! Super bummed I didn’t get to buy a shirt, as I have bought one every year before. Saturday was Cat-urday so there were cat t shirts galore! The crowd was roaring in anticipation of Big Something’s last two sets, and we were all delirious! I don’t know how Big Something continues to get more and more better, as they always seem to eclipse the last perfect set they’ve played, but they do! How they increase perfection, is a mystery to me! But every single show is more face melting than the last! They are an explosive powerhouse of musical flawlessness.
They started out their first set with Prince’s LET’S GO CRAZY, and the immense crowd was frenzied! They went into the fan favorite My Volcano > I THINK I”LL JUST SIT HERE AND DRINK by Merle Haggard. As they played each cover tune, photos of those musicians graced the visual screens, and we sent them all the loving energy we could generate to them on the other side. They played an impeccable Grey Matter, then did an insane ACE OF SPADES by Motorhead! I’m sure by this point, everyone’s faces hurt from smiling so much. BS energised us with Waves, then they played an outrageous version of ELECTRIC RELAXATION by A Tribe Called Quest. They coaxed us back to Earth with Song For Us, and did an outlandish SHINING STAR by Earth Wind, & Fire. We fell in love with them all over again as they enriched the Universe with A Simple Vision, then blew our minds with David Bowie’s FAME! They finished off their first Saturday night set with musical guests Quinn Carson on Trombone, and Mohamed Araki on Keytar from Spiritual Rez, and killed Parlament’s FLASHLIGHT. They left for set break to roars of appreciation and adoration. This is why we all come together each year at The Big What! The unadulterated devotion we feel for Big Something. This is WHAT ties us all together as a family. Big Something fuels our passion, and I cherish these moments.
I got front and center for their last set of the event, and could barely contain my enthusiasm. They started their last set with In The Middle, into a new as yet untitled song, into one of my most favorite Big Something songs- Love Generator. We could actually feel the love surrounding us, shivering on our skin like electricity, and we shared this love with the Universe, and all our kin in Heaven. They ripped Vibrations, then Al Al Ingram from Booty Band joined them, and they glorified us with an improvisational jam, titled on their set list as Al Al Jam. They stunned us with It Comes Around > EWI 4000, which both Casey Cranford and Josh Kagel astounded us with their prodigious talents! They fired up Passenger > Tumbleweed > The Curse Of Julia Brown.
Then, one of the most beautiful women I have ever laid eyes on joined them onstage, with her fiddle. Gorgeous red hair, silky red lightweight pantsuit, and an effervescent smile. It was Dani Jaye from the band Come Back Alice! They started to play WHAT is most likely Big Something’s most cherished, and famous song, Amanda Lynn. She was just amazingly miraculous on the fiddle! Her playing was as intense, perfect, and as remarkable as she is! 1,500 strong sang this song word for word as we glorified the world with fervent reverence, and complete allegiance. I had goosebumps all over my body, and was captivated by her fiddling, and the general atmosphere of worship. This is church for me, and I can not venerate Big Something or this inexplicably adoring setting more. They left the stage, and the cheering was almost deafening. Our adulation reached an apex, and my heart was swelling with love and pride. They came back out for an encore, and played Haddaway’s WHAT IS LOVE, which was prolific, and fitting. Dani Jaye joined them once again, and they ripped up Megalodon, then did a second encore! Dani Jaye joined them for an epic DEVIL WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA by the Charlie Daniels Band. I never thought anyone could match the fiddle playing in this song, much less surpass it, but SHE DID! Then Big Something ended The Big What with a super climactic WAKE UP, by Rage Against The Machine. We were all so jubilant and pleased, and I thought it was the best BIG WHAT yet!
It was after 3 am, but no one was tired, and we were all ready to fraternize with each other and imbibe. I walked around, talking to friends, artists, and sharing 3 bottles of liquor. We drank an entire bottle of apple Crown Royal, most of a bottle of Fireball, and half a jar of pineapple moonshine. I was about as ADHD as I’ve ever been, and felt like I had a million jiggawatts of energy coursing through my body! An artist I’ve never seen before came up to me and said, “you need to come buy a Big What poster”. So I followed her into the artist’s tent, and she brought me to her vending area. On Friday, I spent a considerable amount of time looking at everyone’s art. Her name is Cynthu Muthusamy, and she is classified as a fine art printmaker, and book artist. I did buy a poster, because I had actually stopped and admired her art on Friday. I asked her about a piece of art I thought was immensely provocative and alluring. She told me the story of that piece, and i was greatly affected by it. I bought that piece of her art as well, and think it will be an immense conversation piece.
This was the 5th year The Big What was undertaken, and each year seems to become more and more fantastic. I feel truly blessed to be a part of this loving and talented family of fanatical fans, artists, and musicians. It really is hard to find the words to sufficiently describe Big Something as a band, and The Big What as an event. I have cried tears of joy on many occasions that this band has blessed my life. This event was no different, and I cried tears of joy during, and since the event. I feel so fortunate to be involved in The Big What each year, and friends with such an awesome group of people. This IS WHAT I live for, and they have consecrated a place in my heart for eternity.The band, the staff, production company, and yes, even the people attending have carved a niche in my soul that only they can fill. And, as articulate as I am, they often leave me speechless. Yet I feel the love we generate on a daily basis, and choose to live my life in a BIG way.
This is one of my most favorite places to be, in the middle of nowhere, doing something BIG. I am sending out my gratitude to you all, who had a part in this inexplicable and beloved music festival. Life can be hard, and there is so much evil in this world. I am comforted by the love I share with this band, my family, and friends who make this world a beautiful place. You give me hope and confirmation that there is still much goodness in this world. Thank You Big Something, Possum Holler Productions, landowner Butch Lynch, Life Is Art Studios, and to each soul in attendance. Thank you for making the world a better place, and for giving me an attachment to revel in acceptance and honor. You are all truly loved and appreciated by me, and thousands more. Each year becomes more exceptional and unique. I’m proud to call you my family, and each year this celebration becomes a little bit bigger, our family grows. Thanks again, see you all there next year.