Photos by Skip Tapp
It was about noon on Thursday, when I pulled into the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park just outside Live Oak Florida, which is in between Jacksonville and Tallahassee right off I-10 highway.
It’s a small campground with four stages set up across the grounds, one Music hall with two stages, and a Silent Disco in the main open field area. The Camp ground has a magical feel to it. All the trees are covered in liken moss which hangs from almost every tree in the park. It has a swamp look without the water of the swamp. About a mile from the Purple Hat Stage is theSuwanneeRiver, which has a wonderful beach to hang out at.
It was the first day for me and I was finding my bearings. I had to familiarize myself with where all the stages were at along with all the vendors. This is when I found my first surprise band of the festival, who I had never heard of, Turkuaz. It was a 12 piece band with 2 guitars, 2 bassists, 2 female singers, 2 keys, and 3 horn players. The sound was very funky and had a hint of rock. Anyone can tell a bands feel when you look around at people listening to them. They all had smiles and surprised looks as if everyone wasn’t sure why they haven’t heard about this band. I believe a great festival has people feeling like this all the time.
EarPhunk is a quartet out of New Orleans with great horns and a classic New Orleans funk sound. They even had Kris Royal on sitting in on sax who is rising up on the New Orleans scene.
George Porter Jr. & the Running Pardners were putting down the heavy funk. George Porter Jr., who plays with just about everybody, played multiple sets with different projects during the Bear Creek festival.
The Pimps of Joytime out of Brooklyn have a different sound than the usual funk band. It’s based more on harmonizing lyrics mixed with organic and electronic sounds rather than horns. They seem to create a great dance party where ever they go.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe had a great set Thursday night and played a whole set of The Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers” album Friday night, which was a real treat.
Friday was some repeats of Thursday’s line up but with a few added projects. One worth mentioning is definitely the Anders Osborne Trio. Osborne is a rocker out of New Orleans, which strays from the usual funk coming from that area. George Porter Jr., Stanton Moore, Billy Iuso, and Anders Osborne did a cover of “Sugaree” that is sure to be remembered by all.
The London Souls is a rock trio out of the New York area. The lead singer has a voice and mannerisms that reminds you of Lenny Kravitz.
As early evening approached on Friday night the temperature dropped to 31 degrees. It was felt by everybody as you can see your breath like smoke. Needless to say, the shows that night were hard not to dance to, because you would freeze if you didn’t move. Galactic did what they normally do, but they did it bundled up and with gloves…Freaking freezing!
After Galactic, everybody headed for the inside. The SOS music hall was a welcomed warm place. DR Klaw had a set before the late show. Dr Klaw is the nickname for Nick Daniels, the bass player for Dumpstaphunk. In this band he leads the pack which includes Adam Deitch on drums, Nigel Hall on keys (Ivan Neville filled in for this show), Eric Krasno and Ian Neville both on guitar. This was a great set to catch as it is not a band that plays together normally, but Bear Creek was a special occasions. It was one of those sets that you realize how good it was only after the fact that it is over. And it was over way too quickly.
Saturday was a big day. Going back and forth from the Amphitheater and the Porch stages made it like a music marathon. Saw Jon Cleary in the morning and then right into Chapter 2. This is a great band of four. It’s Eric Krasno, Adam Deitch, Nigel Hall, and Louis Cato on bass. This is a kind of newer project of Eric Krasno’s. They have hints of Lettuce and Soulive, but with more lyrics and harmonies throughout their sound. If you like Soulive, then you will love Chapter 2.
The Funky Meters always gives a power funk set. Pee Wee Ellis sat in on a few tunes learning the songs as they played it. Ian and Ivan Neville made an appearance along with Billy Iuso on guitar.
The New Mastersounds followed up with a sweet set and tons of people sitting in. Michelle Sarah sang on a few tunes, which was hot. Sarah was a roaming artist. Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood always delivers what a jazz & funk nut wants. Scofield was on fire at one point with some of his solos.
Lettuce followed up if it already wasn’t enough…Yes, we will let you play! Lettuce is a powerhouse funky band never to be missed.
2 1/2 hours of The Trey Anastasio Band followed. All eyes in the festival feasted on Trey’s guitar ripping it up for the entire time, leaving us with an encore cover of “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin, with Jennifer Hartswick singing the lyrics. This was a great way to end his set, which was really epic.
Dumpstajam was nothing short of unreal. A bass off with Freekbass and Louis Cato of Chapter 2 just put it over the edge. This was during a cover of “I want to take you higher.” Another set that ended too quickly.
Late night was with the Jennifer Hartswick Band, which had some people sitting in, but at this point I couldn’t tell you who they were. Yes, it was one of those nights. Large hats with glowing and blinking lights all with a crazy costumes underneath. Who doesn’t like a recap of Halloween?
Another great day and night at Bear Creek wrapped up.
Sunday was an easy going schedule. Mostly it was bands that have played a previous set already, so if you missed anything, you can get caught up. It was the final leg in a marathon style pace of a festival going silliness.
The after party for people working the festival and performers was at the tree house. It was a great last taste before everyone had to go home. The tree house stage was really just a small platform under the deck of this cabin behind the Purple hat stage. Musicians swapped in and out on different instruments until it was time to call it a night. It was fun to see all the staff and musicians just have fun.
Monday morning arrived way to fast, but not fast enough for my liver. After Bear Creek everyone truly is sad, as this is the last great festival of the season. Most people will have the winter off from festivals, at least for everyone who doesn’t go on Jam Cruise in January. For those of you that are lucky enough, I guess I will see you on the boat. We all can only imagine what Bear Creek festival will have in store for us next year, I am already planning for it now.