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A Mardi Gras party fit for Storrs

By Jingyuan Fu
On March 2, 2014

Not many events at the Jorgensen Center explicitly require formality, but entering the doors to the theater always gives one a strange sense of gravitas. Friday's performance by Big Sam's Funky Nation was extraordinary in how relaxed it was. Upon entering the auditorium, members of the audience presented their tickets in exchange for a beaded necklace and a mask to emulate the Mardi Gras atmosphere, while those who were feeling peckish bought sandwiches at the open bar. Tables were placed closest to the stage so ticket-holders could eat during the performance.
The concert had attracted quite a lot of people.
"I heard about it on the radio," Kayla Huther, an animal science major at UConn, said. "And I've heard of this band before, and was interested."
That sentiment seemed to be shared by many people.
Seconds later, the director of the program emerged. "Are you ready to dance?" he asked, and the crowd erupted in cheers.
Before Big Sam could perform, however, everybody experienced a rare treat. Funky Dawgz, UConn's own brass band, showcased their talent. Armed with trombones, trumpets, saxophones, drums and cowbells, these UConn students and alumni wowed the crowd with their bombastic music.
"Clap your hands, stomp your feet," they encouraged during their rendition of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." The audience was eager to comply.
The brass band closed their performance with a Mardi Gras march down the aisles of the auditorium, followed in line by eager audience members. The mood seemed almost rowdy as everyone from well-dressed adults to students wearing pajama pants danced in the aisles.
The period between Funky Dawgz's departure and Big Sam's appearance on the stage was marked by an atmosphere of relaxed intoxication. The room brightened, those who arrived late left in the search for more food. Alcohol flowed freely among those who could purchase it at the bar, while others engaged in polite conversation and mingling. As the lights dimmed again, however, there was a collective rush to return to their seats. The main attraction had finally begun.
Big Sam's Funky Nation began their show with an instrumental piece, and immediately the unique sound of funk-a blend of jazz with rhythm and blues-could be felt. Though the genre conventionally did not feature any brass instruments, Big Sam's trombone added to the traditional makeup of electric guitars and drums to give funk music a particular flavor. The audience certainly seemed to engage with the opening number-after its conclusion, many people sprang to their feet in their enthusiasm.
"Get on your feet!" Big Sam cried out, "Make some noise!" As the show began in earnest, appreciative yells rang throughout the auditorium. A Friday night: people laughed, danced and allowed the music to flow through them.

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