When the members of B.I.G.I. took the stage at the Purple Hatters Ball at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida on Saturday, they had little idea of what they would be playing beforehand. Without even one prior rehearsal, the collaboration of these four musicians brought New Orleans to the middle of Florida with their funky, soul-filled sound.
Russell Batiste (drums), Ivan Neville (keyboards and vocals), George Porter, Jr. (bass), and Ian Neville (guitar), flawlessly played in rhythm, hitting the crowd with a sound that was all too familiar to the musicians, but rather foreign to a crowd far removed from the sounds heard regularly in New Orleans. The city’s close-knit and deep-rooted culture was perfectly exemplified in the quartet’s performance—it was as if when the band took the stage they introduced their sound to the crowd, adapted them to it, and left them begging for more.
It was clear that the dynamic between the band members is what makes them capable of successfully playing without rehearsal, for I would catch each member glancing at one another throughout the set and nodding and even laughing as they jammed and raised the crowd’s energy. It was as if the idea of a formal rehearsal was completely erroneous, for these musicians are constantly surrounded by one another and collaborating their talent to produce one melodious sound that is inescapably filled with funk and hints of history.
With Jazz Fest just a week before, each of the musicians were playing until the wee hours of the morning, often times joining one another on unplanned sit-ins. These musicians possess a talent that allows them to not only effortlessly play song after song like they have been playing as a band for years, but they also are able to transport the crowd to a place where nothing else matters but the sound of their instruments and the rhythm that makes everyone’s body dance with excitement.
The best part about this collaboration was that B.I.G.I. truly brought New Orleans with them to Florida, allowing the crowd to take part in what New Orleanians can enjoy almost every day.
As the band left the stage, they left the crowd with an enthusiasm that allowed them to dance their troubles away and fill their souls with the pure joy of hearing the quartet’s funky sound.