Sometimes the qualms of the week can only be solved via the aid of the musical arts. Given the constant tales of woe from across the country, for many listeners there was a respite in the gleam of some solid tunes. This past week, the six piece musical powerhouse, Big Something, made sure to leave a powerful impression at the intimate Arlene’s Grocery for many an eager fan. Luckily, the men of Big Something: Nick MacDaniels, Jesse Hensley, Casey Cranford, Josh Kagel, Doug Marshall and Ben Vinograd had a lot to celebrate with their fourth release, ‘Tumbleweed’ set to be released on the 24th of this month.
The trek downtown was not easy with the chilly weather alongside the constant subway delays due to seemingly endless construction. Even the streets were bare and unusually quiet leading to the venue. However, that was not going to deter listeners that evening. Arriving at Arlene’s, there was already an enthusiastic mingling crowd ready for some good entertainment. Drinks were in hand and smiles were plentiful. The tiny concert hall was already crammed and access to the bar was a worthwhile struggle. Upon entering the space, guests were immediately drawn to the well-lit merchandise table by the far wall. On stage, an impressive collection of instruments were sprawled about and set for the show to come. Big Something’s bass drum had its Saturn logo and name proudly displayed front and center. The fog machine was turned on full blast to give the place a cloud of vivid color. A trippy feel already took hold. Finally, the lights dimmed and selfies with the oncoming band took place.
Big Something came out quickly and began to unleash some discordant strumming of their instruments. A cacophony of sounds took over as Nick rocked on with the mandolin comfortably in hand. From the inception, each one of the musicians had an amazing burst of energy. Exploding lights gave way to a blues-pop jam session with added horn flair by Josh and Casey. Everything held true to an optimistic feeling as things took off. Grins came easy and the relaxed atmosphere was welcomed. Musical hues and excitement were always bellowing out. Together, it was clear that the men shared a collective and intricate aesthetic camaraderie. Key guitar solos by Jesse were slight but audibly pleasing. The man who often stole the show, however, was none other than Casey on the saxophone and EWI. He was tight and had a smooth flow that paired well with his horn blasts and pulses in between. Lengthy jams with each instrument was ideal for every musician that night.
Strange whirring bits with some blending droning came into the mix once the music took a quieter route. That rarely lasted long as the music picked up one again. Fans were equally entertaining as air guitar skills were put to the test. With each slick lick from Nick and Jesse, the crowd would return with head nods of pure satisfaction. Of course, it helped to close the eyes in these moments as the strobe lights tended to blind many listeners who were already floating in their musical bliss. Foot taps were equally shared. Fans were sloshing drinks everywhere with each dance and sudden bit of activity from the musical crew. Especially when bass driven funk reared its beautiful head. These bouncy moments were catchy and Casey’s EWI remained in hand to rock on hard. A transition from funk to psychedelic glory helped amplify Doug’s hair as it swirled gracefully in the air from an unknown fan on stage. He looked completely at peace all the while adding professional skill to his bass.
Hidden, but never unheard, was Ben on drums who had consistent quick beats that followed a concrete rhythm of solo jams. The use of a repetitious and hard bass drum thumps made each tune that much more powerful. It was almost as if the jam band songs turned into classic dance club hits through their own vein of the art. When that club element was diffused, hard rock was replaced. A full room greeted this new genre transition as an echoey twang from the guitars was heard. Catchy jams were their most frequent genre of choice. Or to be more clear, it was what they usually started off with. Usually, those catchy tunes would change seamlessly into a new genre of music with much pleasure as the final result. For example, even a version of Celtic funk with a strong overbeat and trilling vocals made the adventure more surreal. It was a wonderful surprise. Casey’s loud and smooth sax in tandem with the EWI just was the epitome of performance art at its best. That grinding guitar was in every song and it worked it’s magic every time. Cheers were never far behind all night long.
Big Something are truly musicians to keep an ear out for. Catch them live or better yet, become familiar with their tunes on ‘Tumbleweed’ as well as the rest of their discography. People will enjoy the funky vibe and be in a state of utter pleasure all year round.
Photo Credit: Jordan August