Harvest the Music, a free Wednesday concert series benefitting Second Harvest, began its 2011 series with Mia Borders and Big Sam’s Funky Nation. After Katrina, Second Harvest became the largest food bank in the history of the world. September is Hunger Action Month, a time to remember that 49 million Americans go to bed hungry every night. An even better time to go to Lafayette Square, listen to great music, run into friends and buy plenty of fabulous food and Abita Beer because every dollar spent on food and beverage can feed a family of 4 one meal.
Mia Borders was already onstage when I arrived from my long walk on a pretty day. Next to us in the crowd were a group of women who seemed to know every word to every song, both covers and originals. The fabulously mop-topped Borders has a rich voice and a good mix of soul-folk songs. With her red guitar strapped across her chest, her cool vibe and her talent, she’s a sort-of female Lenny Kravitz.
Big Sam’s Funky Nation was next to take the stage. The band is as funky as the name promises and non-stop entertaining. Big Sam Williams, vocalist and trombonist, used to play with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and is yet another amazing former student of New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). He currently plays himself on HBO’s Treme.
And Big Sam seems to never stop moving. When he takes the stage – he takes it all. With the fervor of James Brown, he slides, grinds and bounces his way through songs, solos and audience call-backs. He dared to lead a call-back of, “Gimme that funky horn” before I even knew if it was worth yelling back for – then delivered a seriously funky horn solo. There were even songs that seemed to have skits, one act plays of funkiness between guys who’ve clearly been playing together for some time.
The band, comprised of vocalist, trumpeter Andrew Baham, guitarist Takeshi Shimmura, Chocolate MILK on Drums and Eric Vogel on Bass, were all obviously pros who delivered great music while never forgetting to have fun. Bass player, Vogel, delivered one of the all-time great bass solos I’ve ever had the pleasure of bopping my hips to. A bass player’s bass player, he strummed, plucked and thumped his way through beats that were part groovy heartbeat, part percussion and part Commodore’s Brick House. All I could say after was, “Ummm…. Wow.” Calling their unique sound, “Noladelic Powerfunk” (This is not your Paw Paw’s jazz), they fuse rock, jazz and funk in a variety of originals and non-traditional favorites.
I ran into DancingMan504 and his cohort in second-line dancing, Elsie Semmes, as well as several other friends. Harvest the music is more than a great free concert, it’s a place to find your friends, make new ones, eat great food, drink Abita and help feed the hungry. May I recommend trying, as I did, the Pulled Pork over Roasted Corn Cheese Grits from Squeal for $6. You get a yummy dish and 6 families of 4 get a meal.