Large huh? Huge where? THE BIG WHAT?

by Britt Chester

Photo by Jesse Hensley
By Andrew Lazare and Britt Chester

| | @awfullybrittish

“One of the things we wanted to do with this was make it kind of a play on the idea of the ‘big what?,'” said Nick MacDaniels, one of the founders of the North Carolina music and arts festival of the same name.

This state is full of up and coming music festivals. The Big What? music festival in Mebane has been at the top of many a music fan’s list for years now. Line up, location, and planning is key to a music festival’s success, and history shows The Big What’s consistency with these three important aspects. But it has taken several years of trial and error to find the right place for the event, and the right lineups to draw local fans and regional fans to the destination. What makes a good music festival? Is it hundreds of thousands of people or million dollar acts?

Do you find comfort in a $300 ticket price?

Do these qualities ensure a top-shelf festival experience?

They could, but they are not necessary to obtain a memorable experience. If you’re looking for a great festival to check out this summer, one that delivers local and national acts in an intimate setting surrounded by a mixed bag of artists, characters, and people from all walks of life, the Big What? Might be just be the cool you need to cure your summer heat. BIG Something is a six-piece rock and roll band based in Burlington. MacDaniels, aside from being one of the festival’s cofounders, also takes lead on vocals while holding steady on the guitar, and shares the stage with Doug Marshall on bass, Jesse Hensley on lead guitar, Casey Cranford on saxophone, Josh Kagel on keys and brass, and Ben Vinograd on drums.

The act is known for a huge yet intricate sound that fuses rock, pop, and funk. These ingredients have helped them become one of the most respected up and coming bands from the southeast (not to mention their high energy and well rehearsed performances).

The three main organizers for the festival are Nick MacDaniels, Jeremy Bell, and Quinn Ray. MacDaniels is also the front man for BIG something, the North Carolina-based band hosting the festival, and the band whose name spawned the festival’s name.

Located on a beautiful and cellphonephoto friendly 300-acre farm in Mebane, North Carolina, the venue has a built-in stage at the bottom of a hill offering an amphitheater-type feel to the performances. There will also be a second stage near it, but the lineups and scheduling have allowed for zero sound bleed between the two stages, which is a refreshing attribute to music fans and festivalgoers.

In addition to the music, which is part of the draw but certainly not all of it, the Big What? Has a vendor village, outdoor showers (a much needed amenity to combat the grueling humidity of a North Carolina summer), an 18-hole disc golf course, and an art gallery. To meet the needs of every type of camper, the festival site allows for car-camping as well as traditional camping.

For the programming of the festival, the Big What? offers an eclectic lineup, but definitely leans heavy on the funk, soul and jam area of the musical spectrum. Headliners are, of course, BIG Something, but MacDaniels spoke excitedly about the festival’s first two “fly-in” artists.

“[Vulfpeck] is our first ever fly-in,” he said. “Kung Fu I am excited about. Our first two fly-ins with these bands.”

MacDaniels also mentioned his excitement for his own band’s sets, which he revealed has been working on the festival’s sets since before May. He went to explain a pattern that is developing: The first year of the festival, which was four years ago, BIG Something debuted “Truth Serum” and “Grey Matter,” the former also taking on the title of the act’s 2014 album. Each year, it seems, BIG Something will debut a new song or songs and those somehow end up being important tracks in the following years.

Prior to the advent of Big What?, MacDaniels and his family of friends were hosting smaller festival-like events in the area. There was the BIG Something Costume Ball, which he says was an outdoor festival held in October (“it was freezing”), as well as outdoor events called Farm Parties and Groove in the Holler.

“We just took those two families and put them together and tried to do a bigger event,” MacDaniels said.

But the festival hasn’t always been in Mebane, and although the new home is turning out to be great for the experienced growth of the event, MacDaniels recalls fond memories from its former home, Possum Holler located in Prospect Hill, North Carolina.

“There wasn’t much room for growth,” he says, “we needed a bigger place to move it to.” He added that he has a special admiration for the former venue and that is has a special energy to it.

In its second year at this location, the Big What? seems to be finding itself situated in a comfortable venue and ready to take on whatever challenges are presented as it steadily grows into a major draw. !


No matter what your musical preferences are The Big What has something for you. With genres ranging from Bluegrass to EDM, it’s safe to say there will be multiple bands there to please your ears. The event takes place Thursday June, 25th through Saturday June, 27th and presale weekend passes are only $100. Presales are only available until Monday June, 22nd so catch presale prices while you can. There are tickets available at the gate (cash only) which includes one day, two day, or weekend passes. For more information or presales you can visit