Ranchin’ Around The Big Up Festival (Part 2)

A few days before heading to the Big Up, I was introduced to Twiddle while taking a drive around Boston with my roommate. I was intrigued, but it was isn’t until hearing their live set Saturday evening that I realized their potential. This obscure Vermont band had the ability to connect to an audience of people who had never heard them play. It felt like the whole crowd, myself included, was taken aback by their surprising sound and compelling lyrics. Guitarist Mihali Savoulidis is a multi-faceted vocalist who flows with the self-proclaimed 3D nature of the band’s sound- whether it be swinging jazz, roots reggae skank or progressive rock. “Can’t stop the sky from falling down,” Savoulidis preaches. “Learn to love and let go.” Being a lyric freak, I was most impressed by the band’s lyrics, including the line in their first song that most of us can relate to: “Reality is way too dull for me.” Twiddle was definitely one of those smaller acts that ended up being the talk of the festival.

Le Special began their set with a raging Star Wars Theme cover. The Use Your Head Crew flocked to the Get Down stage like it was Mos Eisley Cantina. Multi instrumentalist Jon Grusauskas’ synth/APC stand had an encouraging Darth Vader mask attached to the front. I think the crowd really dug the band’s energy and live improv funkhop. Drummer Rory Dolan and bassist Luke Bemand killed it during the band’s instrumental Rusko remix. Towards the end of their set, the horn player from Kung Fu sat in to provide that extra umph.

Roots of Creation’s highly anticipated Saturday night set proved just how powerful this New Hampshire band has become. Bassist Chris Beam– rocking a cast on his right foot- managed to masterfully provide the deep funk groundwork for the band’s reggae-dub/rock steeze. Mike Chadinha’s drumming is heavy-hitting, and it’s obvious that he can hold the percussion section down tight. Every time I see Roots, I am reminded of how eclectic Tal Pearson’s play is on keyboards- whether it be his quick hands on the reggae organ or grinding rock progressions.

That night, though, it was singer/guitarist Brett Wilson who truly impressed me. Not only does this guy have a glorious ginger beard… he’s got a confident and strong voice to match. Whether he is singing Roots original “Rise Up”, or the Talking Head’s “Naive Melody”, he kills it in a way that reminds me of Bradley Nowell. The set included crowd favorite Rage Against the Machine “Bulls on Parade” cover, a wild version of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong my Love is” and an epic rendition of Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels” with the Breakfast/Kung Fu’s Tim Palmieri stepping in on lead guitar. “One of the best moments of my my life”, Wilson said, as he posted up a video of the collaboration on Facebook.

RAQ at The Big Up

Considering it was my first time seeing RAQ live or listening to their music, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the psychedelic electronic jamband. I had come to hear of them during their hiatus, because of guitarist Chris Michetti’s involvement in The Disco Biscuits Spring tour. Although I have a hard time getting comfortable with bands that follow that Phish sing-song jam tradition, it went surprisingly well.

First off, I was impressed by how much of a blast the band had playing. They couldn’t help but smile constantly and laugh often- but who wouldn’t with that circus of a crowd?! Todd Stoops’ feathered hair blew in the wind as his keys dictated the set’s mood. Between being the keyboardist for RAQ and the band Kung Fu, I am a believer in Stoops. There were points in the set when it would sound serene, bubbly, tronced and straight Rock n Roll. There was a pretty gnarly mid-set cover of Lynard Skynard’s “Simple Man”- sung by bassist Jay Burwick. They were scheduled to take a break between sets, but the Big Up was all about keeping it moving and so RAQ moved directly into their second set. “A little more music and a little less break, so if you were planning on a break, too bad!” one of the members said, as Michetti’s guitar wailed off into an absurd version of “Space.” My favorite song of the night, “Mollie Cules”, was at times creepy dark, and it felt like the crowd was being sucked down slowly into a black hole by Burwick’s enticing bassline.

Headtronics– usually comprised of Freakbass, DJ Logic and Steve Molitz– had an amazing replacement step in for Molitz at the Big Up. Being a Talking Heads freak, words could not explain how stoked I was to dance to music played by original member Bernie Worrell. One of the founders of popular synthesizer play, I had only watched Worrell in wild videos from the 80’s. Today, he still knows how to rage a crowd of some of the coolest, hip folks in the country. I watched from behind his keyboard setup as his hands moved masterfully. The guy wears half gloves with a red stripe down the side! It was my first time seeing Freakbass on stage, but as you can tell by his stunner shades, he can play some dirtyness. He rocks one of the most eccentric five-string bass guitars I’ve ever seen, with a strange arrowhead neck. The always professional and smooth DJ Logic threw down all the electronic groundwork for the two instrumentalists. The highlight of the night for me might have been Worrell’s Rhodes producing the familiar “Take Me to the River.” Consequently, my tree octopus (Sailor Jerry) was swimming around the dancefloor to the classic jam.

It’s been a long summer. Considering how much I’ve got going on in regular society and the amount of miles traveled, the incredible work that myself and the LostinSound Crew managed to do at so many festivals amazes me. One thing is for sure, The Big Up was the perfect way to wrap it all up. At The Big Up you can reflect on all the great aspects of other festivals around the country, and see those components come together at Sunnyview Farm. Big ups to the festival crew, the workhorse musicians and the one of a kind community! Even though Fall approaches, the raging has just begun. Don’t forget to Use Your Dome and rage responsibly!

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