Big Something blasted Raleigh, NC with three nights of soul-shaking, bone-quaking sounds to bid farewell to the last decade and usher in the new. Central NC's hometown heroes brought some friends along for the ride, busted out some unexpected covers, and celebrated midnight with a sold out blacklight-themed rave-up that kept fans moving far into the evening. Lots of bands build a local following, but Big Something has built an entire community. The sense of joy emanating from their music has attracted a like-minded band of merrymakers whose smiles, costumes, dancing and energy converge to add layers of kinship and spirituality to the experience.
The first night opening act was the sci-Fi Middle Eastern fusion of Consider the Source, who reemerged to add their alien sounds to Big Something's encore of "The Curse of Julia Brown" and Pink Floyd's "Echoes." The second evening featured astounding Asheville-based West African rockers Toubab Krewe, whose percussionist brought a new level of intensity to Big Something's heavy romp through the Allman Brothers' "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed." Finally, New Year's Eve had the Mantras kick off the proceedings with endless grooves and blissful jams before helping Big Something round out the first set with "Truth Serum."
The end of the year saw the band appear dressed in all white, with dayglo tape artistically covering their gear, reflecting the blacklights and their own epic lighting rig to turn the Lincoln Theatre into an explosion of colors spiraling out in every direction. The show launched with the bouncy instrumental funk rock of "Blue Dream", with Casey Cranford's soaring EWI (electronic wind instrument) riffs and distorted blasts of Jesse Hensley's chunky guitar announcing that the celebration had begun. Cranford switched to saxophone for "Illuminated" and "The Glow", which featured Ben Vinograd's colossal drumming forging a huge foundation. "My eyes are open now, I see you in the light / I like to watch the days turning into night" sang Nick MacDaniels as the festive energy washed over the room.
"Afterglow" led to their first ever excursion into David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream," with bassist Doug Marshall's melodic musings crackling through the solid sound. "Tumbleweed" highlighted a towering dual-guitar attack from Hensely and MacDaniels behind desperate lyrics: "Keep moving 'till the crack of dawn / Until you find a spirit inside / Until you find a way out alive." The midtempo flow of "Breakers" led into the animated funk of "Truth Serum" to end the first set, with guitarist Keith Allen & keyboardist Julian Sizemore from the Mantras joining the fun. "Hold on tight, we going for a ride!"
Now just minutes from midnight, the buzz in the Lincoln Theatre was bubbling towards overflow. As the last hugs wrapped up this trip around the sun, the band came back on stage to a truly massive vibration. Familiar guitar riffs punctured the silence as the melody came into focus and the crowd realized what they were about to witness. "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)" was the opening track on AC/DC's self-titled eighth album but had never before been played. Moon Water drummer/Big What partner Jeremy Bell took the mic and shredded his way through a legendary vocal performance while they counted down to a gigantic balloon drop to celebrate the new year.
"Escape (intro)" led into "Timebomb" and "UFOs are Real," which featured keyboardist Josh Kagel on trumpet to add another layer to the jazzy rock soundscape. The irresistible percussive bounce of "Megalodon" built up to fiery eruptions of electric guitar and saxophone before leading to "Heavy" and the dynamic tides of "Waves". Next up was the addictive hook of "Love Generator", with Marshall's potent bass flying over the seductive changes. "Heart is beating faster to the rhythm of a drum / When we cross our wires together you can feel the power turning on." The instrumental slow cooker "Sirens" then reached its heat and boiled over into the gargantuan "My Volcano."
The cover debuts continued with a groovy take on Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" leading to rock solid versions of "Plug" and the zombie apocalypse ditty "The Flood" to close out the set. As huge applause filled the venue, MacDaniels began the encore with a solo debut of the Grateful Dead's timeless "Ripple", bringing gasps and tears to many eyes in the room. Though 2019 saw lyricist Robert Hunter depart our mortal coil, his lyrics live on through a thousand young bands playing his songs, and a million old souls whose lives were permanently colored and enhanced by his inspirations. "Would you hear my voice come through the music / Would you hold it near as it were your own?"
The rest of the band then reappeared for the deliciously catchy psychedelic reggae bounce of "Song for Us": "Cause yesterday, it's all just history, you know tomorrow is a mystery / And I'm so glad I got you here with me while we are somewhere in between." As the curtain came down and the lights faded up, another year was upon us, full of possibility and the magic of the unknown. Thanks to Big Something, this delightful collection of characters greeted it together, awash in camaraderie and the hope of a new day. As they sang in "Plug," "If we stomp our feet, the ground will shake / If we clap our hands, the walls will break / Yell so loud we forget our names / 'Cause something big is happening."
- Paul Kerr
- Photos by Rob Roane Photography