By Andy J. Gordon and Jenny Peters
Sam Williams, the leader of Big Sam’s Funky Nation, is a high-energy, positive force of nature when onstage. So when the band performed at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, California, on October 19, 2016, Big Sam proved that adversity would have no influence on his performance.
Things got off to a rocky start on their west coast tour. Thieves broke into the band’s bus during the first night in Las Vegas last week. Sam’s cherished trombone, Jerry “JBlakk” Henderson’s bass and Seizo Shibayama’s guitar, along with other personal possessions, were stolen. While the police investigation is ongoing, Sam and his bandmates had to scramble to find replacement instruments to complete the tour.
At Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, the band did not let the incident have a negative impact on their show. The small, but exuberant, crowd enjoyed a night of funky dance music that left Big Sam and a lot of audience members drenched with sweat. Big Sam and Andrew “Da Fessah” Baham exchanged vocals and shout-outs throughout the show. Baham also played trumpet and a few percussion instruments. Their synchronized horn arrangements and dance moves mesmerized the crowd.
The band ran through many of their songs including crowd favorites “Peace, Love & Understanding,” “Shake Yo Thing,” “See Me Dance” and “Funky Donkey.” During “Funky Donkey,” a reference to a particularly large and shapely female body part, Sam coerced several of the lovely ladies in the audience to come on stage. The band rocked the funky beat while the ladies shimmied to the music. The song segued into Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “I Like Big Butts” as the dance-off continued.
Once the dancers left the stage, the band launched into a nice cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” followed by “Feelin’” from their 2008 album “Peace Love & Understanding.” The encore opened with George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic’s “We Got the Funk.” The band brought the sound down and got the audience to “get yo asses on the floor” before they raised the roof with a segue into House of Pain’s “Jump Around.”
As the satisfying show ended, the sated crowd applauded loudly while catching their collective breaths. No matter what the setbacks, Big Sam Williams and his band really know how to party and with their winning interpretations of New Orleans funk, rock, dance music and well-chosen covers, the talented crew kept everyone dancing through the night. As people filed out of Saint Rocke, Sam stayed to shake hands and take photos with his fans.
Hopefully the band’s stolen gear will be recovered soon. In the meantime, some of the band’s fans started a gofundme campaign to replace the lost instruments. We suggest that you help support these great entertainers by making a donation.