Big Business play huge at DC9

Big Business performs heavy sludge metal at DC9 in Washington DC.

WASHINGTON, October 22, 2012 —Much as their name would imply, Big Business is a band possessing a rather huge sound and impact. When they opened up their set at DC9 last Wednesday night, they cut an imposing sonic swath across the venue despite their almost complete lack of pretension. Big Business is simply the kind of band plays big all the time.

It’s not just their monster sound that stands out in their set. Physically towering bass player/lead singer Jarred Warren often seems a menacing presence, even when he’s standing on stage just off-center. The imposing figure he cuts only further confirms the audience’s suspicions: Big Business and its great big sound are true to this band’s name.

That Big Business big sound is pounding and prolonged at times. But unlike most of their contemporaries, they’re much more groove-oriented and don’t suffer from monotonous chugging or endless noise blasting for its own sake. There’s a denseness, a thickness in this sound that’s most welcome. Even in a bar venue like DC9, it fills every corner of the space, loading the atmosphere down with a hugely bass-y, visceral, and oddly primal feel.

Big Business is well established in the Sludge Metal scene. Since 2006, bass player Jarred Warren and drummer Coady Willis have been consistent members of this band, that more or less kicked off this genre in the Melvins. Initially, when Warren and Willis started the current band, it was just the two of them filling in the sound as a rhythm section. Since 2010 though, Scott Martin has been guiding the band in a more traditional way as their guitarist.

Their connection to the Melvins might normally incite comparisons to the earlier troupe. But that would be too easy. In actuality, there are several key differences between the Melvins and Big Business, keyed toward the way their performing styles set them apart. For one, Warren’s voice is a fulsome growl that threatens to erupt as a scream. Yet the way he scales it out proves just enough to contain it before things get out of control. The vocals in the band’s set are a perfect fit the thick sound of his bass as well as for the high, powerful drone of Willis’ drumming.  These two never quite go over the top, but instead seem uncanny in their ability to add the proper amount musical weight and depth to create that uniquely Big Business sound.

As an extra-added attraction, Big Business is much more “metal.”  There isn’t really a loose ball-and-socket joint in their set. Everything they do has a deliberate feel to it, as if the band somehow had been able to measure during their sound-check the precise amount of intensity they’d need to give the audience maximum exposure to the sheer weight of their unique sound. 

An interesting effect of this hugeness and heaviness is how it meshes with the fact that they’re not particularly fast. That said, it doesn’t mean, on the other hand, that their attack is plodding and dull. They’re somehow able to find a middle ground. It’s as if their initial plan was to push things ahead with some initial riffing; but then, at the last possible moment, to pull everything back, providing them with that much more control over the song than the audience might have expected. 

At no point during any of their songs does it feel like they aren’t in total command. That said, they surprise you with enough interesting stuff during their performance to maintain intensity, while never feeling mannered or dull.

Despite their genre, there are no genuinely sharp edges to Big Business’ well rounded sound.  While this might seem like a detriment—considering that the crowd most likely to attend their show at DC9 would be into speed and riffing—they turn it to their advantage. The contrasts actually help to emphasize just how heavy and huge Big Business actually is, which lends itself to a more impressive sonic effect during the band’s live performances.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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