As forecasted, the gargantuan tsunami, known as Bear Creek, swelled righteously in the high seas of funk before crashing down upon the humble town of Live Oak, Florida. Thousands of thrill-seeking music heads from all over the country came rushing in to surf the awesome, grizzly waves despite repeated warnings of its potentially mind-blowing consequences.
The Shows I Go To team was quick on the scene of the aftermath and managed to catch up with one of the survivors for an inside scoop at the end of the four-day incident:
“Whoa mannn! What a gnarly-ass, bomb-diggity weekend! Dude.. Uh.. I think my mind drifted away in the Creek somewhere. You haven’t seen it by chance, have you?”
No, in all seriousness, it’s such a bittersweet feeling to have finished out such an amazing festival as this year’s Bear Creek. I wish I could still be at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park to share some more cool weather, beautiful music, and happy, carefree vibes with all the thousands of amazing people that attended. I can still smell the lingering scent of campfire and mother earth on all my camping supplies and clothes, which captures some of that Suwannee feel.
Anyway, my weekend was so incredibly action-packed I hardly know where to begin in describing it, but I will try my best to stick to the best highlights (which is still almost everything!). Here goes. 🙂
I rolled into the park early Thursday morning, set up camp, and then I dove into a pile of blankets in my tent to take a nap! Brrr… That’s how I like to start an epic festival weekend, of course.
Okay, I know that’s not the most exciting way to start out a fest, but I knew I would need some extra energy for all the awesomeness of the first day because music was scheduled nonstop until 2:30am, and oftentimes the celebration continues on (unofficially) after that throughout the campgrounds. 😉
When I woke up, I could see the Dirk Quinn Band playing from the comfortable nest of my nearby campsite. I was fortunate enough to land a spot within clear sight of DC’s Forest Stage, which, surprisingly, ended up being my favorite place to be for the weekend overall.
Here’s some footage someone was able to capture of Dirk Quinn shredding the soul out of his guitar:
I had honestly never heard of this band before, but I was very impressed by the funky, rockin’ jazz grooves they were slinging out. And afterward I clearly heard the Funky Knuckles jamming out from Buffalo’s Amphitheater.
I really appreciated their chill, jazzy funk sound as I did some more preliminary campsite setup. They definitely had some explosive moments too.
And afterward, I got a taste of the Broadcast, which was refreshing change of pace to keep the Creek flowing up a delightfully unpredictable path. Their solid, soulful rock topped off by the phenomenal voice of singer, Caitlin Krisko, caught my attention within the first few moments of their set. Here’s a sample:
After getting a pleasant ear full of the Broadcast, it was time for the first band I was already excited to see at Bear Creek: Herd of Watts.
I first heard them at Purple Hatters Ball over the summer while aimlessly wandering around the smaller local artist stages and sipping on a beer, but they were one of those bands that held me in an irresistible tractor beam from the very first song I heard.
Their style spans across the wide musical spectrum of jam, rock, funk, jazz, blues, and soul, but, it comes together in such a unique, seductive fashion that you will likely stop what you’re doing and bust a phat groove on the spot. That’s exactly what I did at the SOS Music Hall for their Bear Creek set.
Fortunately, I was able to obtain footage of their full set! Check it out 🙂
The next major stop on my festival itinerary was S.P.O.R.E, but I enjoyed floating around to see what else I might be missing since I’ve seen them a few times before. There was plenty of time to spare.
See-I was one of the bands I caught during my downtime and “get down” I sure enough did. I had never heard of them before, but they have a very feel-good, soulful, upbeat, Caribbean vibe about them. It’s the kind of music you’d appreciate listening to during a daytime party on the beach while you play some volleyball or frisbee with good company and a nice buzz.
After fiddling around a bit like a merry Little Mermaid crab, I set the sail of my hippie vessel in the direction of my campsite. But before arriving, I heard another musical island pushing out some serious jiggy airwaves: DC’s Forest Stage was blowing out cannonballs of red hot, Latin reggae funk and I found myself getting reeled in by a hook. I discovered quickly that this was a band called Locos Por Juana. Have a listen, will you?
Latin influenced music has never resonated with me so much before. Take it as a testament to the power of music as a universal language; I don’t know what most of the lyrics were saying, but I know that I was really feeling it. I busted out some fun skankin’ jigs for a good while there.
After a quick re-up at the campsite, I was ready to trek back to the SOS Music Hall for some Spontaneous Progression of Recurring Energy (S.P.O.R.E.). It’s obvious why these psychedelic, rockin’ fun-guys have become such a staple of the Florida festival scene. They always have an ample supply of tubular groovage to serve up. Their Bear Creek set was a stellar voyage of infectious, danceable jams. If you have an hour to spare, enjoy the full set!
The next stop on my festival journey was Zach Deputy’s set. In my preview for Bear Creek, he made the cut in my top 10 highlights, and I was confident that it was with perfectly fair reason. And, it’s satisfying to know that this was only the first of two sets. Looks like the whole set is available for this one too! Enjoy 🙂
I always have a cheese grin and a big glowing aura by the time I leave a Zach Deputy set. The tempo and the styles of music he chooses to play are the kind that make you want to loosen up and do some rhythmic soul yoga. He provides that carefree “hakuna matata” vibe that so many seek out when they go to a festival.
I was especially pleased with the fact that he threw in my favorite song, “Twisty, Twisty,” at the end. I’ve seen that song incite the most ridiculously long hippie conga line ever once. Good times. So yeah, of course that was a fantastic set, as always.
Alright, moving on. I had to bust a good chill after that one, but I was able to hear Mingo Fishtrap from my campsite and I very much enjoyed the soulful, jazzy, brass-topped treat. This fun-loving musical energy was the perfect way to continue the night and I sure enough found myself lured in for a few jelly bone noodle grooves. Here’s some good video of the beginning of their set:
The next band I caught was Orgone. This was a new one for me, but I had seen the name a few times before and heard they were awesome. After seeing just a few minutes, I could certainly agree with that sentiment.
Led by the smooth, foxy vocals of Adryon de León, this classy super force of retro-style funk, rock, and soul was an explosively jubilant disco bomb for all. George Porter Jr., famed bassist of the Meters, even joined in on this set, which added yet more fire to that sexy, super-heated lava. This is a moment you need to experience for yourself:
After getting loaded to the brim by all that steamy, funktastic juiciness, I knew the best thing for me to do was to head over to the Music Hall to become part of the Main Squeeze. I think most of us present for that awesome performance unexpectedly became the giddy, wavering utters of a phat-ass, titillating space cow. Here, check it out:
My toasted mind was totally ready for all that sweet melted butter and squishy jam sauce to top off my first glorious day of Bear Creek.
Captain Green took over DC’s Forest Stage promptly at noon and was such a refreshing way to start the second day! I had never heard of these guys before, but I am definitely a big fan now. I couldn’t even pull myself away to do anything else. Their jazzy, funkadelic New Orleans sound was some kind of slippery electric eel swimming through all kinds of fascinating musical soundscapes. That aqueous flowing serpent proved to have some fierce soul too as it pushed just as triumphantly through some heavy jams at full speed.
I wish I had some footage of their Creek set, but you can get a good idea of their sound from this older set (listen to audio of their live set from Bear Creek 2014 at the bottom of this review.)
Checking out Yojimbo was my next stop of the day. I had never heard of them before either, but WOW! Out of all the new artists I discovered for myself at Bear Creek, these guys were my absolute favorite! For having only three members, Yojimbo is a shameless wrecking ball of awesomeness. It’s an anything-goes, thunderously tromping party of rogue musicians carrying out all kinds of unthinkable shenanigans. I don’t even want to slap a stylistic label on this one because I don’t think it would stick anyway.
Once again, I am grateful that some video was captured:
Next up was Green Sunshine and this was also my first time seeing them, although I had heard about them quite a bit in the local festival scene. It didn’t take much time watching them in the Music Hall for me to see that this group is an almighty, hip-hoppin’ funk dragon! All bases are covered perfectly in this super band. What a blast!
This performance also guest features saxophonist, Christian Ryan, a local favorite:
After that, I felt amped up to just the right level to get down to the Floozies. This duo was part of my top 10 highlights preview, and after seeing them a couple times I was certain they would hold strong in the ranks.
They locked that set down tight as a heavyweight sumo in a petite leotard. In my opinion, they gave us the most unique brand of funk Bear Creek had to offer for this year, but I am perhaps a little biased since I love their style of electronic music so funkin’ much. 😉
After the Floozies womped our panties off, it was time for the main attraction of the Creek: Umphrey’s McGee!!!
Those interdimensional, space hopping gods of rock had at last landed at the Buffalo’s Amphitheater and emerged from their laser-lit spaceship after the veil of night had fallen at last upon the Suwannee. Here’s their entire first set:
The stuff of legends. Does it get any better? I wasn’t sure it was possible honestly.
While Umphrey’s took a break before their next set, I made sure to catch a good dose of Break Science at the Purple Hat Stage. I couldn’t have asked for a better intermission to keep that high energy pulsing strong.
Like the Floozies, this is another standout performance of the Creek since it’s more of an electronic production, and it’s certainly engaging, especially with their guest feature, Talib Kweli, spitting out some fierce rap vocals for awhile. It was a nice change of pace to take a swim in some deep bass for a solid hour before returning for…
More Umph! Yeaaah!
Full second set:
The mesmerizing space journey picked up right where it left off.
As a side note, this is around the time my dad arrived at Bear Creek and caught Umphrey’s as his first set of the night. He had never been to a festival before. It wasn’t long before he told me, “I get it now! I see why you love going to festivals!”
That was one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever heard, and while having my first Umphrey’s McGee experience at a festival?! What is up with this crazy life I live?! It’s truly magical, I tell you! This is what it’s all about. 🙂
I highly encourage everyone who reads this to get some of their family out to a festival like Bear Creek. Not every festival is right for all of the family, but I would say this one may be the best.
Well, you know what happens to time when you’re having too much fun. At the end of Umphrey’s McGee’s second set, I had a hard choice to make. Three bands that I like were all playing at the same time! Ahhh..
Soulive, Earphunk, or TAUK..
A difficult decision indeed, but I chose TAUK because it was close to my festival home and it was a good time to start up a campfire for the night. The other two were playing second sets anyway.
TAUK was also part of my top 10 highlights list and they proved worthy in my book. I had been listening to their most recent album, Collisions, for awhile but had never seen them play live. Everything about their music calls forth imagery of mystical space exploration in my mind, and seeing them play live at night with a brilliant light show breathes even more life into that thought. It’s like a level of Metroid, or some other similar epic quest through a futuristic, alien world.
Since their music is completely instrumental, it has a certain air of mystery about it and can only be given meaning through self-interpretation. I totally dig that. I was surprised that so many people I talked to had never heard of TAUK, but I would bet that has changed by now.
Next up? The New Mastersounds. Absolutely spectacular, as expected:
These guys had a revolving door of incredible guest musicians that showed up throughout their set and it all flowed perfectly without missing a beat. Of course that’s not completely uncommon at a festival like Bear Creek, but normally it doesn’t appear to be the kind of effortless feat that they made it seem. I mean, come on, George Porter Jr. just slipped right in and they launched calmly back into an amazing new tune like it was no big deal. These are zen masters of the funk jam.
And with that, I think I had just as much as my feet could possibly take for the day.
Woke up to some coffee, eggs, bacon, and potatoes with family and friends. Wonderful chilly weather. Lots of great people-watching and random visitors to enjoy. Another perfect day already in the works.
Things really kicked off in the afternoon though, when Come Back Alice took to the nearby Forest Stage. I’ve seen them a few times before, but every time floors me like the first. I always take any opportunity I come across to get some more of that rare southern gypsy funk they cook up.
I could feel that there was a lot of raw, palpable energy being exchanged between the crowd and the band, especially among the members of the band itself. But the most powerful aspect, for me, was the way the lead duo of the band kept shredding out intricate sonic tapestries in such passionately beautiful harmony.
I was able to catch up with Tony and Dani of Come Back Alice after their set and was fortunately able to sit down with them for an interview on Sunday morning as well. We will have that available to read soon! 🙂
Anyway, that hair-raising set was just the start to my favorite day of Bear Creek. Most of the artists I wanted to see were playing at the Forest Stage.
The next big event of my day was seeing the Fritz. This is one of my favorite modern funk bands because they have an irresistibly moving groove. They don’t just chill on it like a lot of groovy funkers out there do. They floor it straight up a ramp in a hotrod bulldozer, soar through the air, then drop a heavy load of funk on everyone in a fiery dive bomb. When these ninjas hit the ground running after one of their buildups, you can totally measure the effect from everyone’s face. It’s that squishy, cringing face that says “Ugh! What the hell was that?! That was so mothafunkin’ nasty!”
The Fritz’s Bear Creek set was totally one of the most electrifying performances of the whole festival for me. I think what really pushes it to that level of wow is their overall stage presence and the humorous, engaging antics of keyboardist and vocal frontman, Jamar Woods.
Chris Robinson’s Soulive Revue was next on my list of must-see performances, especially since it’s a unique collaboration set. I left this one as a surprise for myself since I had yet to see Soulive and had never really gotten into the Black Crowes before (although this performance has piqued my interest).
There was a classy, refined soulful jazz energy radiating from this whole set. Everything was flawlessly dropped deep into the pocket, and once again, George Porter Jr. even joined in on the fun to add that extra oomph of old school funkiness (I’m a huge fan, can’t you tell?). This set was lots of fun and a well-timed change of pace before the next act on my list.
Earphunk. Yes. Their set back at the Forest Stage was one of the highest highlights of my whole weekend. Unfortunately, I can’t find any video of it (totally getting a GoPro cam for the next festival. You can listen to the audio of their Bear Creek 2014 set at the bottom of this post), but I’ve never seen their guitarist, Paul Provosty, rip such a furiously burning solo as he did for this performance! I actually felt like I became part of the performance as I put every ounce of my soul energy into that moment of ultimate ascension. It was a raging zoo up in that flailing beast of a crowd!
Here’s some of their first performance from the previous night at the Music Hall, featuring Brandon “TAZ” Niederauer, the 11-year-old guitar prodigy:
Another moment that made Earphunk’s second set so earth-shattering for me was when they performed their song, “Phine,” from their latest album, Sweet Nasty. That big bottomed phunktapotamus bass and tubular talk box vocals totally destroyed the needle on my brain’s excite-o-meter.
But that wasn’t even the best part either. To finish out the set, they threw down the sickest cover of Rage Against the Machine’s song, “Killing in the Name,” that I’ve ever heard in my life! It was so raging that I blew my last reserves of adrenaline for the night and lost my voice, all in a matter of a few minutes! Holy phunkin’ shiznits! That was the most energetic moment of my whole Bear Creek experience right there.. I bow to thee, Earphunk!
There was still plenty of night left though. Umphrey’s McGee was up next with one more set at the Amphitheater.
I caught a bit of the beginning of their last set, but after throwing almost all my remaining energy into Earphunk, I decided to pace myself and take the road less traveled.
I headed over to the Music Hall to check out the Nicholas Payton Trio. There couldn’t have been a more perfect choice for the moment.
I had never heard of them before, but I found out that he’s a renown New Orleans jazz trumpet player. He plays some smokin’ keys too if you ask me. This set was traditional jazz at its finest, but with the kind of danceable groove you would expect to find at a Bear Creek performance. This was good recovery music.
Zach Deputy’s second set was next and I got plenty more fun-loving jams in. I’m pretty sure that’s what kept me going for the rest of the night.
Since I love TAUK so much, I made my way back to the Music Hall for their second set also. It was a totally different vibe to see them play indoors since the bass tends to feel a little more immersive in a closed setting. I was fortunate to catch them perform with artist at large, Skerik, who ripped some killer saxophone notes all over the top of their jam for a good while.
I connected with one of the members of TAUK briefly during Bear Creek and should have an interview with them posted up soon as well, so keep a lookout for that if you’re a fan of their music! 🙂
I only made it out for a little bit of the “Dumpstajam” set afterward at the Amphitheater, but it was awesome to witness the successful collaboration of such high-caliber funk masters.
I wish I could say that I heard some of The Heard (the final performance of the night), but I got there too late. The Music Hall was packed to capacity and there was a long line of hopefuls waiting outside in the freezing cold.
Darn, I was totally dreading going back to camp and sitting around a warm fire with my family and good friends for some good laughs. Oh well. 😉
The last day of a festival is always slightly somber compared to the rest. There’s the dreaded thought of having to leave a beautiful, fun-filled wonderland and return back to reality, but there’s also the rewarding thought of finally getting a hot shower and sleeping in a real bed.
I spent my Sunday mostly strolling around, soaking up my surroundings, and hanging out with loved ones at my campsite. We also brought chairs to sit out by the stages for awhile at one point. It was a nice day to just breathe and not have a definite agenda, especially with the weather being warmer. It was so perfect. I really wanted the day to live on and make the most of all of the sights and sounds everywhere.
Orchestra at Large (a massive collaboration of a bunch of the outstanding “artists at large”) created the perfect ambience for a final day of leisurely vendor browsing and people watching.
I made sure to catch the second set of the New Mastersounds as well.
Artist at large, Bernard Purdie, showed up for this set and played alternating solos alongside drummer Simon Allen and young virtuoso guitarist superstar, Taz, even showed up to launch the rocketing set even further into the sky, alongside guitarist Eddie Roberts. They played one of my favorite New Mastersounds crowd participation songs too. That really put the cherry on top of my Sunday.
Lettuce finished out the festival with musical fireworks of thick, explosive brass and bass. And Taz returned once again with more of his blazing guitar skills to move the celebration on up alongside vocalist Nigel Hall with his velvety, soulful voice. In this final song, you can see that even the Bear Creek bear was in high spirits as he surfed atop the ecstatic sea of cheering festyheads.
At the conclusion of the festival, I could finally affirm that it was easily among the best I’ve ever experienced. If you haven’t been yet, definitely consider going to Bear Creek next year.
Keep an eye out for artist interviews coming soon too! 🙂
Listen to live sets from Bear Creek 2014 below!
This review is dedicated to the late Derek Corner, Robert Roffe, and Rachel Hoffman, of which DC’s Forest Stage, Buffalo’s Amphitheater, and the Purple Hat Stage were respectively named in honor.
Huge thanks to anyone who captured the videos I borrowed for this live review too, namely YouTubers “TheSoberGoat” and “TheFunkItBlog” 🙂
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