“There are a lot of reasons in this world to frown,” said lead singer NeeNee Rushie in a phone interview yesterday. “When I look out into the audience and I see someone dancing so hard to the music that it’s making him sweat, it makes me happy.”
Wherever The Big Takeover plays, joy is sure to follow. The seven-piece Hudson Valley roots reggae band takes its sun-drenched, horn-fueled sound to Amsterdam Saturday, July 28, to perform as part of the Riverlink Park Concert Series. It will be the band’s second New York show since returning from a tour of the West Coast and the Midwest.
Touring has become second nature to The Big Takeover. Since forming in the fall of 2007, the band has played more than 500 shows, including concerts with an eclectic group of artists ranging from traditional Jamaican reggae acts such as Eek-A-Mouse and The Original Wailers to Jefferson Starship and The Slackers.
Rushie, the Jamaican-born front woman and lyricist for the group, said she enjoys seeing the reaction to the band’s music from the audience.
“The best part about playing live is when I can feel the connection that is happening between us as a band or myself as a singer and the audience, who can feel the love that we are giving,” she said.
The band has gone through several iterations since forming nearly 11 years ago. The four mainstays have been Rushie, bassist Rob Kissner, trombonist Alex Vogt and saxaphone player Chas Montrose. They are rounded out by current members Guthrie Lord (guitar), Batu Attila (drums) and Manuel Quintana (percussion).
“Everyone has left a special stamp on [the band], and I’m very grateful for everyone who has come through The Big Takeover institution,” said Rushie. “Right now, the chemistry we have is through the roof. Everyone is very excited to be creating together.”
Rushie’s musical influences go back to when she was growing up in the small Caribbean nation of Jamaica in the 1990s. Through her mother, she listened to some of reggae music’s pioneers including Dennis Brown and Beres Hammond. She was also influenced by popular American female singers of the time, including Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
Moving to New Paltz, NY from Jamaica to attend college proved to be a culture shock for Rushie.
“I struggled with the difference, and I struggled with missing people or missing things that I had around me in my life,” she said. “But, I’m very open to new experiences. So, I was mostly excited to indulge in this new city and this new country. I was trying to make sense of who I was going to become when I became an adult.”
Once The Big Takeover began, Rushie collaborated with her bandmates to create the lyrics that make up the band’s oeuvre.
“Usually someone gives me a chord progression or a bass line, and then it inspires me to come up with a song idea,” said Rushie. “I don’t know where the lyrics come from. There are songs that can be closely pinned or related to experiences in my personal life, but I don’t think I do that in a conscious way.”
Sometimes, those chord progressions have taken Rushie into surprising directions. One song in particular is “Summertime in the Ghetto,” a song written early on in the band’s existence and one of the few where the subject matter is serious.
“When I was younger, I had a cousin who was murdered by a police officer. I didn’t know how heavy of an experience it was,” said Rushie. “When I wrote the song, I heard the drum beat, and the words just started pouring out. I wasn’t even thinking about my cousin.”
For the most part, though, The Big Takeover’s music is meant to get people dancing and forget about their troubles.
“The best part [of performing live] is to make people happy,” said Rushie.
The Big Takeover performs at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at Riverlink Park in downtown Amsterdam. Parking is available at RiverFront Center’s parking garage (use the upper level), with entrances off both Route 30 and Route 5. The concert and parking are both free. For more information about this and other shows in the Riverlink Concert Series, visit www.riverlinkconcerts.com.