September 14th, Funk ‘n Waffles Syracuse threw a birthday shindig for Austin, the big sexy teddy bear that fronts the bluesadelic funk machine known as Big Sexy and the Scrambled Eggs. That may, or may not, be a stretch of the truth. I’m not sure if I should consider them bluesadelic funk, or funkadelic blues. Either way, they should definitely be considered the “it” thing in CNY these days. And for good reason. For the last couple years, it has been a pleasure to watch these guys blossom into the powerhouse that they are becoming. Their musicianship is something to admire.
For this birthday celebration, they brought along pal Brad Hester, of Annie in the Water, to warm things up. Brad offered up a fine mix of originals and cover songs.This was my first time seeing Brad by himself, outside of AITW. He impressed the hell out of me and is a consummate professional. Armed with a sampling machine and a looping effect as his weapon of choice, Brad played his own version of the Talking Heads classic, “Take Me to the River,” that began as just a dude with a guitar playing a classic and culminated into this vocal medley that sounded like a full band of back up soul singers. It blows me away to see a musician like Brad Hester develop a mastery of their electronics that is equally impressive as their mastery of the music. How a guy can stand by himself with just a guitar and some effects, and build a song to the point that it fills a room with the music of a full band, and then bring it back down to just a dude and his guitar shows piles of talent. Brad Hester ladies and gentlemen! Dude is no joke.
The room was packed with Big Sexy devout. The boys came out and sent it like it was some kind of party. They cut through any BS right out the gate and started straight with this hard driving blues groove, but it had this psychedelic keyboard riding along the backbone of the song, and ultimately sunk into a reptilian, slithery groove. Song two was the feel good, blues rock original “Road Less Travelled.” It was during this tune that Corey Fleming broke a guitar string. This crisis moment was handled like they were an emergency response team. Quickly jumping into action, Brandon started filling the silence with bass noise while AJ quietly noodles the “Inspector Gadget” theme. Within 30 seconds, the noodling erupts into a solid “Inspector Gadget” dance groove and the whole place turned into a dance party. The boys took the ball and ran with it, and man it was awesome! Professional first responders? Hell no – professional musicians, and it shows! Their set was well planned out. It started full throttle. They brought it down with some mellow blues in the middle, then blasted it out of the park to close. Public service announcement side note – their new original “Headway” rocks! That is all.
On this particular night, while they were jamming away, I started to pick BSSE apart and tried to figure out what makes them so damn good. They are one of those bands that are a sum of all their parts. As you listen, instrument by instrument, you realize that each person is pulling their full weight and if you removed any one part, the whole thing would just not be the same. Big Sexy and the Scrambled Eggs is fronted by vocalist and keyboardist, Austin Rheinbolt. He’s big and soft like a teddy bear and has a dynamic vocal ability. He switches easily between a commanding, “Big Hoss” tone and the soft teddy bear. It’s like he can switch from big boss man to gentle giant and back seamlessly. On top of that, Austin’s keyboard skills are on point and display his musicianship. Not every song has keys. Not every song needs them. Austin adds keys to a song where appropriate and never overplays just to show off that he knows how to use that thing. He’s musically disciplined enough to understand when less is more.
Then there’s the Big Sexy rhythm section. Bassist, Brandon Lapointe, is exciting to listen to. He holds court at the back of the stage, grooving in his little box, trying not to stand out visually if he can avoid it. Then you listen to his playing and you realize he should be flopping around like Flea, but he doesn’t need to. His playing does the talking. The groove of this band was strong for the longest time. Then they recently traded their original drummer for Joe Salazar, a marching band trained rhythm beast from Cali. This brings shit to a whole other level for Big Sexy and the Scrambled Eggs. I would always say that their original rhythm section had the groove “in the pocket.” WTF did I know? The addition of Joe on drums brings BSSE’s groove so deep in the pocket, they have hands full of balls and are engaged in a fierce game of pocket pool. Balls deep. Musically speaking, of course.
The cherry atop these eggs are the guitar teamwork of Corey Fleming and AJ “Jazzy” Guinto. In my experience, whenever there is a band with two guitars, it’s usually fairly easy to decipher who’s riding whose coat tails. It usually doesn’t take too long to figure out which one is Batman and which one is Boy Wonder. Corey and Jazzy yin and yang their guitar positions perfectly. Each can grab a lead without training wheels and make it their bitch. Both have completely different playing styles that compliment the other in a way that fully fills out the music. Another characteristic of a great band! Bottom line – Big Sexy and the Scrambled Eggs are what’s up right now. Catch them when you can. Word on the street is they are about to do some writing and creating, so the next time you see them, they may have something new up their sleeves.
Author: George DiFabio
Photography by Jerrie DiFabio