The Big Strong Men are not what you might expect. Although the name may conjure up images of Mr. Clean and the Brawny paper towel guy pre-mustache removal, these are just four young skinny white guys doing the only thing they know how: rocking out While playing at a non-Irish bar on the most Irish of days, the Big Strong Men still managed to pack the Acadia Café and deliver a tasty show.
They started out with a pretty standard blues number from their repertoire, “Don’t Leave Town,” which provided a nice segue from the opener, Robert Branch and his instrumental guitar-shredding into a vocals-focused sound. They then tore through a slew of their songs, some of which, like “Soul Saving Type,” and “Somewhere Down the Line,” appear on their demo and Facebook page. At a place like the Acadia, where covers are not allowed, the depth of these guys’ catalog really stands out. These guys have songs for days, playing a full two and then some hour set, which is pretty impressive for a band that’s been around for just a year.
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No questions asked, the Big Strong Men are a party band, and they brought it to the Acadia. They play the blues, they play country, they play pop, they play whatever they feel like, and it works because they’re all polished musicians and they clearly love doing this. They seem to put together any sound they like: vocal harmonies, rapping, banjo, melodica, Wurlitzer, and more and blend it all to create not necessarily a sound you’ve never heard, but an attitude and an experience you’ve never heard. This is unquestionably a sound of the younger generation, one that’s completely saturated by all types of music. Just because they play songs with Johnny Cash-like train beats and country harmonies does not stop them from playing a dance-pop number like “We’ve Taken Control” or a modern-jazz inflected groove like “Too Close to Meaningless.” Perhaps most importantly, even though they could play continuously, they always reign the music in and deliver concise and meticulously written songs. They do have some longer tunes, but nothing that feels like the rambling improvisation of a jam band.
Although we’ve been trained to believe that a band can only occupy one little part of a genre of the sound spectrum called their “sound,” these guys’ live show goes a long way to showing there’s a different way to do things. Although the groove is not always the same and the sound changes from song to song, the crowd at the Acadia loved it and nobody seemed to begrudge them that artistic freedom.
Until the Big Strong Men release their debut album later this year, their live show is the only way to hear this band, so, if you still live to party, if you still live to rock, go check out the Big Strong Men and see what the fuss is all about.