Festival Coverage

Shakori Hills Spring 2016 Review: Big Mean Sound Machine

As a Shakori Hills frequent flyer, Big Mean Sound Machine is clearly a crowd favorite at this point. Hailing from Ithaca, New York, this afrobeat powerhouse packs a pretty funky punch with their tight rhythm section, jazzy guitars, smooth keys, and prominent brass section (one trumpet, one trombone, and one baritone sax for this Spring Shakori).

Big Mean Sound Machine’s Saturday afternoon set took place on Shakori’s biggest stage, the Meadow Stage, and with constant calls for people to dance along, definitely got the crowd bumpin’ and grindin’ as one happy group of campers. They began with a track off of their new(ish) album, “Contraband,” that really got everybody out of their seats, followed by another tight jam with a wicked Santana-like keyboard solo that sounded like it could have been coming from a double-humbucker guitar. With the bassist acting as the front man and vocalist, the whole band worked together to trade off solos and rhythm breaks, but never letting the audience forget how the brass section was really leading the groove.

The Big Mean crew continued with a slow, spacey, dub jam with some duet guitar solos laid gently, yet powerfully over the backing rhythm set by the rest of the band and the fast hands of the man on congas. After a loud, sustaining ovation from the crowd, they led on with more of their traditional, hip shakin’, afrobeat jams that really got everybody dancing their hearts out. Then as the set was coming to a close, they decided to pay homage to the homeland, and origin of their sound and style, Africa. They skillfully and respectfully rode on with a slow, smooth song from the great Ethiopian musician, Mulatu Astatke, the father of Ethio-jazz.

After saluting the great Astatke, Big Mean Sound Machine finished off with another track from their new album, thanked everybody in the audience for joining them for a beautiful Saturday afternoon jam, and invited everyone to come say hey over in the merch tent. The brass-led afrobeat always seems to get the people moving, and Big Mean Sound Machine are some of the greatest promoters of this sound in modern day music. It was one funky, soulful set that the Shakori people enjoyed once again, and hopefully will experience for many Shakoris to come.

Big Mean Sound Machine Bandcamp:

– DJ Sundae