Concert Review: Big Sam's Funky Nation at Transit Lounge, July 24

photo by Ben Thacker
Big Sam's Funky Nation
Transit Lounge, Miami
Friday, July 24, 2009

Better Than: Jambalaya

The Review:

New Orleans funkmeister Big Sam Williams brought the bayou to Brickell Friday night, for a regular old boot-stompin', booty-shakin' hootenanny at a bustling Transit Lounge. The band of six, led by large - and - in - charge Williams on slide trombone and vocals, tore through the night with two sets of its skunk - funk fire, inflicting mortal grooves on the masochistic masses. 

Big Sam and the Nation have been bringing their brassy feel-good funk to New Orleans and beyond since 2001. Their high - energy, rock - influenced stage show, whether at a huge festival or a down - home dive bar, showcases the diverse talents of an all-star lineup.

Of particular note are drummer [Chocolate] Milk and bassist Eric Vogel.

Milk's double-kick pedal paradiddles and one-handed drum rolls, along with

Vogel's invisible-finger fast-thumb strum style, set the fat funk pace

that ripped through the place like a funk train. Both indulged in

mind-boggling solos toward the end of the second set, provoking shrieks

of delight and hoots of approval from audience members and bandmates


Trumpet player Adam "Da Phessah" Baham, Williams' right hand and fellow

front man, showed remarkable skill not only on the horn, but in singing

and dancing as well. The two kept the party live from the get-go with

choreographed "second-lines" (a uniquely New Orleans style of street

dance) and MC-style call-and-response routines.

The sweat literally

cascaded out from under Big Sam's white Kangol, as he danced and sang

and blew through covers like Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and Otis

Redding's "Hard to Handle," as well as a slew of original compositions

and improvised jazz funk jams. A highlight of the night was BSFN's

rendition of the hokey pokey, which had the whole place putting its

whole self in and taking its whole self out and shaking that shit all

the funk about. 

After the show, fans and bewildered barflies swarmed the smiling band

for hugs and handshakes, unable to conceal their zeal. Big Sam's Funky

Nation, purveyors of hot party funk, left the building burning and

yearning for more. 


Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias:

A minor annoyance at Transit is the view-obstructing support column directly in front of the stage.

Random Detail: Despite their enthusiasm and love for the band,

stage-front fans learned to leave a (small) horn-spit buffer between

themselves and the brass-men's flailing antics.

By the Way: Look out for BSFN's fourth album, set for release later this year.

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