It's a hot, muggy, and muddy trip as we slip down the Hoot 'n Holler trail towards our campsite at Possum Holler in Prospect Hill, North Carolina. Colorful signs point us in all the right directions, alerting us to "STOP making sense." Summer rain sprinkles warm droplets onto our faces, but we are not discouraged by the weather. This is neither the time nor the place for frowns, complaining, or socially acceptable behavior. It's 4th of July weekend and it's time to get weird.
Our humble hosts, BIG Something, start the evening right with their signature "good vibes" music. The Burlington, NC group has been waiting, planning, and organizing Big What?! for months and now it's finally time to light the fire and let it shine. The Possum Holler family gathers closely around the intimate stage, leaving forgotten flip-flops stuck in the mud. Hippies stomp with delight as BIG Something gives us just what we want: shredding original songs as well as covers of old favorites like "US Blues" by the Grateful Dead. Never afraid to experiment with new and unique sounds, lead vocalist Nick MacDaniels invites Mister, from Passalacqua to sit in on a cover of "Gettin' Jiggy with it." The old school party jam incites choruses of "na, na, na, na, na, na, na" to reverberate across the property as loudly the sound of freedom itself.
Each of the six members of BIG Something plays a crucial role in creating the rich, full sound that we have all grown to love. Incredibly technical guitar riffs spill endlessly from Jesse Hensley like a waterfall of trickling sound. Nick MacDaniels' happy-go-lucky lyrics paint a grin on your face as golden tones burst from Josh Kagel's trumpet and help you hit that mental high-note. Dreamy bass lines are brought to you by Doug Marshall that keep your shoulders swaying and Ben Vinograd ensures your hips are grooving with rock steady drums. And of course, nobody can ignore Casey Cranford's sexy saxophone as it beckons you closer and smoothes you over like fresh butter.
BIG Something has a fabulous habit of making listeners feel warm, down-home and completely satisfied with the present. They share lyrics that speak straight to the heart of any true southerner: "All I need is my fishing rod and a beautiful day. I learned a long time ago, you've got to appreciate the simple things." As divine vibes twinkle and rise high into the night sky, Gabriel Marin joins the stage to give the audience a small taste of the upcoming Consider the Source set. Howling with excitement, a glorious realization settles into the collective crowd's consciousness: this is only the first night; we have two more nights to rage!
After Casey Cranford croons the Star Spangled Banner for hungry listeners, BIG Something slams into a first time played cover of Bombtrack by Rage Against the Machine. NYC trio, Consider the Source, takes the stage next and treats us to seriously transcendent tunage. Where BIG Something strokes your face and kisses you through a sunshine day dream of sentimental happiness, CTS rockets your awareness through an intense intergalactic high energy bounce-a-thon; hopping from one foot to another and whipping your hair from side-to-side.
Featuring two stages, The BIG What?! weekend douses festivarians with music from local and regional bands. Featuring two sets from the BIG Something boys, other highlights include the poppin' island styling of Zach Deputy, smooth electro-rock from Jimkata, twangy southern rock from Big Daddy Love, meditative prog-musings from the Mantras, funktastic dance-ables by Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, get-down sexy blues and a dash of funk with the Heavy Pets, and grungy futuristic grooves from Dopapod. If you have yet to hear any of these groups, do yourself a favor and check them out a.s.a.p.
This festival is one of those places where you walk up to a 'stranger' and after speaking to him or her for five minutes you feel like you've known each other for years. Even if you arrive completely alone on Thursday, by Sunday you will leave with a handful of very dear friends to see at next year's The BIG What?! An enormous thanks to BIG Something, Possum Holler Productions, Life is Art Studios and What's Next? Concepts for investing so much time, hard work and energy to throw such a friendly and captivatingly intimate festival.
Article by: Becca ‘Boo’ Cranwell
Photos by: Kevin James