Big Sam's Funky Nation
Noladelic PowerFunk. That’s the sound BIG SAM’S FUNKY NATION have been whipping up for more than a decade. It’s high-energy music that mixes funk, rock & roll, hip-hop, and jazz into the same pot, gluing everything together with the brassy influence — and heavy grooves — of New Orleans.
From national performances at Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, to hometown appearances at Voodoo Fest and Jazz Fest, Big Sam’s Funky Nation have built their reputation onstage. The band’s live performances are legendary, filled with blasts of brass, bursts of electric guitar, and the charisma of Big Sam, a frontman who sings, plays, dances, and involves the audience in everything he does. You don’t just watch a Funky Nation show. You become part of the show, singing along with Big Sam whenever he demands a call-and-response.
A native of New Orleans, Big Sam first rose to fame as a member of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, whose touring schedule kept the young trombonist on the road for 300 days a year. The group performed with bands from all genres, backing up Widespread Panic one minute before sharing the stage with Dave Matthews Band the next. A fan of diverse bands like Parliament Funkadelic, Jimi Hendrix, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Living Colour, and Prince, Big Sam loved the variety that Dirty Dozen Brass Band offered. He wanted to front his own group, though. He needed to sing, to engage the crowd, to write his own songs. Inspired to chase down that dream, he formed Big Sam’s Funky Nation, reaching out to some of his favorite players from around the Big Easy — including Andrew “Da Phessa” Bayham, Jerry “Jblakk” Henderson, Alfred Jordan and Keenan McRae — to create his own super-group.
“We don’t cater to one demographic,” says Big Sam, rattling off a list of jam band festivals, jazz shows, rock clubs, and funk gigs that his band has played since 2007. “We play music for everybody. It’s not just funk; that’s the foundation, but the music goes from funk to rock to wild jazz. It’s music about love and partying. Everyone can get down with that.”
Bencoolen is a maximalist rock band that includes blues, funk, and soul influences in their sound. The band features soaring vocals, swift sax lines, and huge guitar tones. They were founded early in 2014 by Paul Gregg and Teddy Scott, but ramped up into a touring outfit in February 2016 after adding Will Lockery on the drums and Ben Suarez on bass soon after.
The group recently headed back to record at Inner Ear Studios to capture a new song, focused on getting a raw sound by tracking most of the instruments live. The rhythm section holds down a tight groove as the song builds around thick, slightly overdriven sax and smooth vocal lines before exploding into a ripping guitar solo. The bones of the song came to the table in a collaboration between sax player, Jack Bentsen, and singer/guitarist, Paul Gregg. This new song is called, “In the End” and was released at the end of March 2018.
“In the End”, following previously released singles called “Spotlight” and “The Crown,” describes a journey around the world in pursuit of a love long lost, serving as a metaphor for the lost opportunities that we all try to chase down in life. The artwork depicts a desert scene to emphasize how far the journey can take you.
The band has spent the last year working tirelessly to songwrite and tour.
Bencoolen has recently played up and down the East Coast from Savannah, Georgia up to New York City. They have supported tours for Marcus King, Spafford, Mungion, Atlas Road Crew, Mondo Cozmo, and Big Something. The highlights of recent efforts have included slots at Firefly Music Festival in 2017 and at Musikfest in 2018.