A 21st Century approach to merging ‘90s alternative with ‘70s funk
The imaginary person who asks me hypothetical questions as a lead-in to my article for the week asked me the other day, “Marc, you’ve written about 200 bands more or less over the last few years, how do you keep finding new ones to cover?” What an excellent question.
When I first wrote about Chattanooga music back in the late nineties, two things absolutely astonished me. One, the level of talent in this town was extraordinary and two, the number of bands was too. There is not now, nor has there been any shortage of performers. The problem has always been awareness which is why I keep writing.
As both a musician and a lover of music, I like to contribute in some small way by connecting the people that want to hear it with the people who play it and this week’s Chattanooga band you might not have heard of yet. They’re known as Big Green Funk.
Big Green Funk formed in the fall of 2013, when the remaining members of Subway Mars met up with Cliff Marian. Stephen Scott Stewart (guitar/vocals), Dave Cheek (guitar/bass), and M. Douglas Winesburgh II (drums/vocals) had essentially been the songwriting force behind Subway Mars and were looking for a front man that shared their musical ideals and work ethic.
More often than not, when the right people get together to play music, they know almost instantly if it’s going to be a good fit. The initial jam with Cliff and the fellows left no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were on to something powerful.
This is the point in the story when the band spends a few months working up a set and then hitting the clubs, but Big Green Funk was much more deliberate and even-tempered in their approach. Investing months into rehearsing before even deciding on a name or a particular style, frankly, it isn’t clear that they decided on a style so much as they waited to see what style emerged from their interaction.
There is a lot to be said for that approach. It gave the men time to focus on writing new music while developing the kind of rapport that usually only comes from many years of hardcore road dogging. It’s a kind of patience one doesn’t generally find among younger players who are on fire to “get out there and do it,” but the guys in Big Green Funk are all seasoned players and their methodical approach to preparing the band for live performances continues to pay dividends.
The band’s seven song demo disc is chock full of original goodness and is mightily impressive in its precision and solid production values. On the first listen (particularly the track, “You Never Know,”) the sound is very strongly reminiscent of mid-nineties alternative music (an era which was, in a way, my generation’s version of the late sixties/early seventies, so that’s meant to be high praise.)
Working your way through the list of songs, “Pink Starfish” and “Grim Reality” conjure up some jam band flavors minus the obligatory 11 to 15-minute-long tunes. By the time you get to tunes like “Zen Whiskey” and “Any Other Way,” the band’s roots start showing with some genuine seventies style funk (big and green, presumably.)
So, when all is said and done, what do you have with Big Green Funk? Why, an excellent retro-alt band with a smattering of older influences that all play very well within the sound of the band. You also have an excellent chance to see and hear this goodness for yourself on Saturday, March 12th at Granfalloon where Big Green Funk (along with other local notables like Shabti and Marlowe Drive) will make their stand on The Road to Nightfall. That show starts at eight with Big Green Funk scheduled to take the stage at ten.
If you don’t catch this one, who knows? Perhaps the next stop for Big Green Funk will be Nightfall itself, but where ever you see them, they will be a treat.