Concert review: Big Sam’s Funky Nation and the Funky Butt Brass Band join forces at the Old Rock House, Friday, February 8

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On Friday night, St. Louis got primed for Mardi Gras, courtesy of a throw-down from New Orleans’ Big Sam’s Funky Nation and St. Louis’ Funky Butt Brass Band.

Turning the Old Rock House into a purple, gold and green celebration, both bands brought the funk and turned it up for the dance floor. More importantly the night served as the annual ball for the Mystic Knights of the Purple Haze, who happened to be celebrating 25 years as St. Louis’ premier Mardi Gras krewe. It was a night that made everyone from housewives, businessmen, thirty-nothings, hippies and punks move with the joy of music and celebration that can only come from New Orleans.

The tone of the night was set by the Funky Butt Brass Band. The group brought its own style of funk fused with second-line brass band and turned the Old Rock House into a rent party. The veterans grooved with their take of the New Orleans sound but really hit their stride when they channeled James Brown and his Famous Flames. It was in those moments that the band truly shined.

As Big Sam’s Funky Nation took the stage the party took off. As the band kicked into the first song, it felt like a fighter jet had taken off inside the walls of the Old Rock House. Those that were expecting a classics like “Hey Pocky A-Way” or “Jock-O-Mo” might have been disappointed; if so, the disappointment only lasted a few seconds. The band kicked in and they were there not only to make your booty shake but to give you a show.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation is led by former Dirty Dozen Brass Band trombonist Sammie “Big Sam” Williams. The name Big Sam is appropriate, not only for the the actual size of the man but for the sound that he and his band produce, a sound that has the power and fury of great metal and punk but consists of deep funk. Producing a groove that had everyone in a frenzy. Even if you were sitting in the back of the club there was no way that this sound could keep you from sitting still. The band was in town to party and take the crowd on a funk and rock journey, one that echoed the grooves and sounds that could only be conjured up if you were to make a hybrid of Fishbone, the P-Funk, Maceo Parker and the Ohio Players.

Topping off the evening was Funky Butt’s Aaron Chandler and Adam Hucke jumping on stage to trade licks with the Funky Nation, combining the powers of the Funky Butt Brass Band’s house-party vibe with the landing of Big Sam’s mothership. This was an ideal combination of both New Orleans heavy funk and St. Louis come to party attitude that made a perfect fit to end the night.

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