, Salem, MA

March 14, 2013

Gotta have that funk

Big Ol' Dirty Bucket to perform in Beverly tomorrow night

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — BEVERLY — Musicians have an expression, “keeping it in the pocket,” which describes the feeling of playing perfectly in sync.

Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket, a funk band with several members from the North Shore that will play in Beverly tomorrow night, got its colorful name by adapting that expression to fit the way it plays.

“We were talking about how we were able to change key, tempo and vibe, switching things up but staying locked in tight,” said Brett Badolato, a founder of the band. “There are so many different elements in our sound, ‘pocket’ was too constraining an image. It’s more like we were ‘keeping it in a big, old, dirty bucket.’”

However the band members describe what they do, their sound has developed a strong local fan base, which is matched by a gradually widening touring radius that now extends beyond New England into Pennsylvania and New York.

Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket released an eponymous album a year ago, which ranks ninth nationally on radio charts at, and they are working on a new album.

The band has also created a video for a song from the first album, “Mic Smoke,” featuring lyrics and vocals by rapper Micah Casey.

A sense of inclusiveness was part of the band’s identity from the start when Badolato — who was born in Revere, graduated from Marblehead High School and now lives in Medford — was throwing “musician parties” in a rented jam space in Lynn.

“A dozen people would come in and play music,” he said. “We were all looking for a similar groove that made us feel good, made us laugh and have a good time.”

The music that best expressed those emotions was funk, which features irresistible dance rhythms and a big dose of horns, and may be defined as the ultimate party music.

“Something about funk — it’s about love and fun and partying and being good to each other,” Badolato said.

Funk can also be defined as whatever the band Parliament Funkadelic was playing in the 1970s, although Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket acknowledges a host of other influences.

“Parliament Funkadelic, they’re the kings of funk,” Badolato said. “But when I think about the music we play and the sound we inhabit, I think it’s closer to Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power, Ohio Players, the Funky Meters.

“We scope the range a bit,” he said. “The funk grew around us, more than we gravitated to funk.”

Starting with keyboards, drums, guitar and bass, the band eventually developed its current lineup of 11, which includes a trombone, a trumpet, two saxophones, another percussionist, a rapper and a vocalist, Sarah Seminski.

Seminski’s nickname in the band is “Li’l Shrimp,” in part because her voice is anything but small.

“She can really wail on some of the harder-hitting, epic ‘build’ songs,” Badolato said. “She’s got a range of solo that is unparalleled.”

Seminski, who got her start locally singing at weekly blues jams at In a Pig’s Eye in Salem, didn’t think she was right for the band at first.

She was accustomed to working as a solo act, or collaborating with another musician to write songs, while Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket was all about collective effort.

But after her audition, she watched the band perform, and it was then that Seminski knew she wanted to join.

“The energy, enthusiasm and magic when they play together — I thought, ‘I want to be part of this,’” she said.

Seminski has come to appreciate her role in the band as one part of a larger whole.

“I like not being the center of attention,” she said. “I don’t need to be the showcase feature. In our stage show, we have so much variety, if the audience loves powerhouse female, or saucy male vocals, or hip-hop, we have all that.”

The collective approach also applies to writing songs, which can start anywhere and allows everyone to contribute.

“Whoever had a strong idea would play their idea,” Seminski said. “It could be a bass line, a piece of melody, a beat, a horn line. The whole group would listen, but the next time the band was playing along, somebody would have a part, a question, add a part, would have some lyrics.”

This approach allows the band to incorporate a large variety of influences, from rock and ska to rockabilly and rap, all under the tent of funk.

“It’s a pretty organic process,” she said. “There’s a real magic that happens when you are able to write with 11 people.”

The creative energy released by the group approach also creates a sense of intimacy with the audience, Seminski said.

“Something about that emotion translates to an audience,” she said. “They don’t feel there’s a fourth wall blocking us from emoting, and they’re reciprocating. They really are part of the experience.”

That experience, and the sense of connection it creates with an audience, is what funk is finally all about.

“One reason they call it funk is because you get very sweaty and smelly — you’re discombobulated — when you’re performing it or dancing to it,” she said. “But just because it’s dance music doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something to say. It hits you through your body, viscerally.”

Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket members feel that their brand of music, and the community they share with their audience, reflects unique aspects of the region where they play.

They coined the term “Beantown funk” to describe their music, Seminski said, because they find greater Boston to be an eclectic place, where people from many backgrounds can enjoy a similar musical vibe.

“What’s the music inside of you?” she asked. “What’s the stuff that draws you in and gives you something to say? That’s what Beantown funk is. It’s eclectic, a patchwork quilt, homemade, very organic.

“It’s rooted in the fundamentals of funk, but it has a very contemporary meaning.”



If you go What: Big Ol' Dirty Bucket, with Nephrok! Allstars Where: Spotlight Tavern, 208 Rantoul St., Beverly When: Tomorrow. Doors open at 8 p.m. Nephrok! Allstars, 9:30 to 10:45 p.m.; Big Ol' Dirty Bucket, 11:15 p.m. to 12:45 a.m. More information: Cover charge $10, 21 and over. 978-524-0005.