I remember the first time I saw Big Mama Shakes perform live: It was at The Camel, many months before they were invited to perform at the venue’s popular First Thursdays residency series in 2016. They delivered a hell of a performance, hurling sweat and grooves into a tightly packed crowd of loyal fans. I sipped a PBR and let the lights pull me inward.
Their sound and charisma reflected genuine, well-written songs communicating the experiences of youth and moving to the city after coming up in a rural area. Watching Brady Heck, their chief songwriter and founding member, dance between the drum set and the microphone, I could feel the Springsteen influence in the air. Soon my feet and hips joined the ranks as I was swept under by their sermon-like performance. Each member added to the energy feeding into the audience and remained tight throughout the show—cohesive, intimate. The room was hot, and I was a new fan.
Fast-forward two years later, and the band has released a full-length album and an E.P. in addition to performing with dozens of touring national acts, collecting fresh fans along the way. The band continues to write and polish new songs; their most recent release, a single titled “Coming of Age,” is accompanied by a music video from one of their live performances at Richmond’s beloved venue, The Broadberry.
Bryce Doyle plays a keyboard intro to establish key and tempo, and the band then punches in with a Stones-esque instrumentation of crunchy, ascending telecaster riffage. The slapback echo of Heck’s vocals swoop in to tie it all together, “spread the news / baby’s fine / rest your head, child, ease your mind.” The chorus features a horn section performed by Stephen Moser and Clay Trinkle of Dharma Bombs which adds a full-bodied flair to the already rich rock ‘n’ roll instrumentation.
Following a brief drop-out in the middle of the song, drummer/vocalist Chandler Matkins beats the snare with a four count to bring in the outro, “I’ve got the feeling / I’ve got the feeling,” which slowly increases in tempo until its crescendo, abruptly stopping just before returning to the final chorus. It’s a well-choreographed ballet of chaos.
The song is fresh. It’s relatable. It rocks, rolls and sways. It is a song of human experience, of growth and coming or going. This includes Brady’s badass 10-year-old nephew, Nolan, who is pictured on his dirt bike on the cover of the digital single.
Check out Big Mama Shakes’ return to First Thursdays the Camel on December 7th at 8pm
with Night Idea celebrating the final show of Dharma Bombs’ residency.