Big Sam’s Funky Nation: ‘Funkadelic meets Prince meets Band of Gypsys’

Crystal Bay

Funkadelic meets Prince meets Band of Gypsys with Big Sam Williams, Jerry Henderson and Drew Baham.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Editor’s note: This concert advance first ran in September 2013, and, yes, Big Sam jammed with Mojo Green after the show.

When Big Sam’s Funky Nation comes to town, it’s an event.

Big Sam Williams

Big Sam Williams brings the Funky Nation and New Orleans to Crystal Bay on Friday.

The last time we saw Big Sam Williams, he was rocking the first two days Snowlive last winter in the Crystal Bay Casino. Before that, his frenetic feet were second lining down an aisle at the Hollywood Bowl with Trombone Shorty and his New Orleans friends.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation brings Bourbon Street to Crystal Bay, along with a band he helped start when he was in high school in the mid-1990s, the Stooges Brass Band. Both bands figure to jam in the Crown Room, so bring beads.

“We’re full of funk and rock and high energy,” Williams said. “We try to bring the party every time. You saw me dancing down the aisle at Hollywood Bowl, so you know how we get down.”

The trombonist rose quickly in the highly competitive city of New Orleans. His childhood dream was to play in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and after achieving that goal started his own band with its own sound: NOLA-delic power funk.

Big Sam’s Funky Nation also appeared in the Crystal Bay Casino in 2010, right after the release of its last LP, “King of the Party,” a combination of soul and New Orleans brass. Since then, the band released “Funky Donkey,” an EP to tide over until we get to the new album we’re working on right now,” Williams told Tahoe Onstage.

“The new album is entitled ‘Evolution,’ and it will be out in January, going to be all originals,” Williams said. “The band has evolved over the years from being a brass band from New Orleans to jazz to a James Brown kind of funk to a Funkadelic-to-Prince-meets-the-Band-of-Gypsys kind of thing. I can’t wait until I get that to the people and have everybody check that out.”

The band includes Andrew Baham, another original Stooges member, on trumpet; Chocolate Milk on drums, Larry J Black Henderson on bass and Joshua “Icon” Conley guitar.

“When we hook up, it’s just a big party and we just have fun,” Williams said. “There are no attitudes, no weird vibes. We are all family, so we just get up and have fun.”

Williams used to use pedals to make his trombone sound like a guitar. But he no longer uses that equipment because of reckless airport security methods.

“I retired the pedals,” he said. “The main reason why is the TSA man rips the stuff apart and I would have to buy a new board almost every month. They don’t try to compensate you for what they did to your luggage and your gear. I thought maybe this is a sign I shouldn’t be messing around with this pedal board.

“But my trumpet player Andrew Baham, on the other hand, he worked it out where he gets sounds from his iPad. He has like an iPad pedal and it’s amazing. You don’t know if he’s playing a trumpet or a guitar. He gets all kinds of the craziest sounds out of it.”

Williams also acts in the HBO TV series “Treme,” a post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans drama. He said the series concludes after this season, which begins in December.

Williams said he knows of Mojo Green, which will play the Red Room after-party. “That’s a huge name,” he said. “I haven’t heard them yet but I have heard of them. And if you know me, I’ll probably be over there jamming with them.”

He also has a shout out to Crystal Bay concertgoers: “If you saw the band the last time we came to Lake Tahoe, you need to come again because we have a bunch of new material that we’ve been playing, some of what will be on the new album.”

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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