Although being a smaller, regional festival, The Big What? put itself on the map as one of the must-attend grassroots festival on the east coast. Hosted by North Carolina rockers BIG Something, the festival had it all: great vibes, great music, and a great environment. Perhaps most importantly, it had all the necessary permits and clean, fresh potable water (creating a great opportunity for those who were unable to attend Phish’s Curveball over the same weekend).
The festival, located just outside of Pittsboro, NC, was nestled on a beautiful and pristine private property. Keeping it under 2,000 attendees, the intimacy and close-knit community of the fest was ever-present. Some of the sets included a fun ninety minutes from Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, a very danceable show by Funk You that featured an amazing rendition of Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting”, and a wet set from folk rocker Becca Stevens.
Some of the bigger acts raged just as much as the opening bands. Sunsquabi brought their brand of electronica to the main stage and didn’t let up for their allotted ninety minutes. They were jamming so hard that they blew out the stage’s power for a brief couple of seconds. Nonetheless, the band was relentless and finished off the set in strong fashion. Cory Wong, known for his association with Vulpeck, brought his band for a very memorable post-midnight throwdown. His brand of funk elicited nothing but dancing bodies in the crowd. However, his set was remarkable for more than just the top-notch musicianship. Wong brought it all– entertainment, history, and education of musical theory. Besides talking about Serbian folk music, 25/8 time signatures, and his smooth jazz radio mustache, Wong and his bandmates were able to squeeze in some music, including the title track of his brand-new album The Optimist.
TAUK played the last night of the festival, and they did a great job of mixing old and new tracks. Opening with the older “Sweet Revenge,” they then played two tracks of the Shapeshifter EP, “For Laughing Out Loud” and “Premises.” The new songs sounded great in the repertoire and they were even able to sneak in “Convoy” off their forthcoming sequel Shapeshifter II: Outbreak before some lightning warnings caused the crowd to disperse to their cars for a while.
Of course, the festival is put on by BIG Something, so they were the ones headlining the whole event. The band was the only band to play all three nights, and they certainly made sure to leave quite the impression for all in attendance. Their Friday set was highlighted by the theme of Waldo. The entire band (along with many in the crowd) donned the signature red-and-white stripes of the cartoon character. Their version of “Wildfire” off their newest album The Otherside was extremely tight. The highlight of the set though was when they brought out Cory Wong to play a fantastic rendition of Prince’s “1999.” The following night, they were cruising in their musical delivery when again there was more lightning, and thus they also got shorted.
The seventh annual Big What? festival was nothing short of success. Despite the lightning, rain, and mud that came with Saturday, festival attendees absolutely had a great time. The intangible good vibes that are always sought at festivals were undoubtedly present throughout the weekend. And for a small portion of the crowd, who had planned on going to a slightly larger music festival in New York the same weekend, solace and happiness was found with each other and what BIG Something and the rest of the artists were able to bring. This is one smaller fest that is definitely worth checking out next summer.