Photos by Lori Sky Twohy
To be fortunate enough to attend the Bear Creek Music Festival was quite the treat for both fans and musicians alike. The festival is held at the Spirit of the Suwannee River Park in Live Oak, Florida – a serene picturesque setting with a sprawling campground, a beautiful lake, and the sumptuous beauty of the live oak trees. And did I mention the amazing lineup of musicians? From the heavy jam rock of Umphrey’s McGee to old school funk from the JB horns (Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker), Bear Creek delivers the crowd from one remarkable musical feast to the next.
Another treat for the festival attendees are the talented visual artists creating beautiful pieces to the live music. An added bonus, for the adventurous, is a trip back to the beautiful sandy beach along the black Suwannee River, where there are rope swings into the chilly river to refresh for the next round of mind-blowing music. According to the park deputy sheriff, the river turns this musty black from the leaves of the illustrious oak tree.
The festival site includes six stages of music, plenty of camping spots, kayak rentals, a café and a general store (key for last minute beer purchases.) And any festival would be incomplete without the infamous Jerry Roll-a massive egg roll filled with veggies, sweet n sour, soy and lots of love.
Of course, the main highlight of the weekend was the music. Two sets from Perpetual Groove and the electronicgroove of Break Science (Adam Dietch who is also an amazing drummer known for his work with John Scofield and Eric Krasno’s band Lettuce) pleased the young crowd while funksters, like me, were drooling over amazing sets by the New Mastersounds and Soulive. Soulive kicked it out hard with songs from their new album Rubber Soulive, which includes covers of many Beatles classics.
Fans lucky enough to arrive on Thursday night were prepped for the weekend by an amazing set from Umphrey’s McGee that included a smoking cover of Pink Floyd’s Shine on you Crazy Diamond. Umphrey’s blend of classic rock and polished jams impressed the crowd with their finesse. Various collaborations materialized over the weekend, such as Chali 2Na (formerly associated with the group Jurassic 5) rapping with Asheville’s own Toubab Krewe and Zack Deputy mixing his reggae soulful voice into the funk of the New Mastersounds.
Matt Butler of the Everyone Orchestra created an amazing set of music that included Kai Eckhardt and Fareed Haque from Garaj Mahal, Joel Cummins from Umphrey’s McGee, Jeff Mosier of Blueground Undergrass, Jennifer Hartswick from T.A.B. , Jan’s Ingber of the Motet plus Justin Perkins, Luke Quaranta and Teal Brown from Toubab Krewe.
Orgone, a funk band based out of Los Angeles, stirred the crowd with their powerful horn section and the fiery soul voice of Fanny Franklin. Another entertaining band on the scene was the Soular System out of Tallahassee, Florida, stirring the crowd with their charismatic lead singer, the Rev. Desmond D’Angelo.
The festival culminated with a tribute to Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker, the infamous members of the JB horns. The pioneers of funk were honored in a set that included members of Lettuce, Sam Kininger on alto sax and the talented flutist Kofi Burbridge. Nigel Hall lead the group with his powerful voice and the funk was alive and well represented at Bear Creek.
For many of the attendees, Bear Creek is more than just the music festival, it is a family reunion. Keep your ears open for Bear Creek Music Festival 2011 and don’t miss one of the best festivals on the east coast.
See you on the Suwannee!