If I thought I’d had my money’s worth after Thursday, I certainly knew it after Friday’s performances. In fact, throughout the entire weekend, I never saw one band I wouldn’t want to see again. How would Saturday unfold?
Through the oddity of the schedule, the two biggest events for Saturday, to my mind, were early. Bootsy was scheduled for 5:15, and fellow Funkateer Bernie Worrell led off at noon! Bootsy is certainly more identifiable, but Bernie Worrell is one of the chief architects of the Parliadelicment Thang, often overlooked for his contributions and his massive talent. Recently, he had been touring with Steve Kimock in a killer quartet setting.
Worrell came out with a solid band and sounded great, if not spectacular. That changed, however, when Freekbass stepped on stage as Bernie tore into the only P-Funk tune of the set, “Red Hot Mama.” Freekbass committed murder. He absolutely KILLED it. I acknowledge I am an unabashed fan, but even so. [Hey, support his Kickstarter project already!] Video evidence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hn5heJa3408 Emotionally, this was a peak for the festival for me.
Then it was, once again, decision time. George Porter, Jr., or Cope, the hometeam (Home Team) favorites? I just HAD to see Cope bust it out at the Porch stage. Right decision. I have seen them 20+ times, but this was truly incendiary. For the Home Teamers, the best part was hearing so many first-time Cope admirers raving about the set. Their shows are stuffed with originals, but a marvelous cover of “Money for Nothing” with Roosevelt Collier on his lap steel was stratospheric. DJ Williams of KDTU and Clay Watson of the JCs also sat in. And the new secret sauce? Michael Garrie on drums! Cope used to run on jet fuel; now they run on rocket fuel. That man is SICK!
From there I hustled over to catch the remainder of George Porter’s set, magical as always. Fortunately, I would get to see him in phenomenal form on Sunday. I then zipped up to the campground stage to check out the Resolvers. Need to see them again, too. Then it was time for more Galactic.
Galactic turned in another superb set at the Amphitheatre, with guests, and a dynamite set-closer “Gimme Shelter.” By this time, everyone was thoroughly funk-drenched. Perhaps some needed a moment of relief, a smile, something completely different.
Enter the Mike Dillon Band. You can call it what you want. Ever since I witnessed him with the Dead Kenny Gs, I dubbed it punk-metal-jazz, at 78 speed (for you old folks). Dillon is a manic visionary, a genius on percussion, and he had the best song title of the entire festival: “I Saw George Porter Playing Punk Rock on the Jam Cruise Pool Deck.” His whirling dervish, Carly Myers, played percussion and trombone and danced like a woman possessed throughout the set. Things got even more manic when Garage a Trois bandmate Stanton Moore of Galactic jumped on the drumkit for “Omar” and the Stooges’ “1969.” The latter tune also featured uberman Roosevelt, who also played on the set closer, “Carly Hates the Dubstep.” WHEW! Speaking to Roosevelt later, he said, “I’m a punk rocker now!” with a huge smile on his face. He really CAN do anything!
I slide over to the Purple Hat for another dose of Robert Walter, and again he and his bandmates nailed it, a great performance, what I managed to see. And then back to the Amphitheatre for Bootsy. Bear Creek runs like clockwork, Paul Levine and his crew be praised, so why Bootsy was channeling his inner Sly Stone I don’t know, but it was an awesome entrance, even if 25 minutes late.
The Funk Unity Band filed on stage first in white astronaut outfits – with helmets. Must have been a dozen (as if I could count by this point). After an introductory tune, the head Funkateer arrived in stunning costume. I saw the first Bootsy’s Rubber Band tour in 1976; this was equally great. And Bernie Worrell joined his former mate for a few tunes. And he played “Rubber Duckie!”
I missed Ghost Owl (again, but I get to see them next week) as I went to check out number one cool guy Eddie Roberts and the New Mastersounds again. This was a magical set featuring a dozen guests and lots of superb vocals on “Who’s Making Love,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “Treasure” (Space Capone!). And I knew Roberts had to be a Grant Green fan, but any doubt was erased with a long take on Green’s “Flood in Franklin Park.”
Almost everyone crowded into the Amphitheatre area for the marquee stars, the Roots. As I stated earlier, I am just not a hip-hop fan, but that did not prevent me from enjoying their superb instrumental talents. Of all of the sets and musicians I saw, this was for me the least compelling, and yet I would like to check them out again.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe was having another great night on the Purple Hat stage. Tonight featured more flute work from Karl, which I always enjoy, and lots more from DJ Williams on guitar. By now, the schedule was a bit off because of the late Bootsy entrance, so I caught all of the Dopapod set on the Porch stage.
Dopapod only came on my radar screen 18 months ago, but this jamtronica quartet is superb, and they really did themselves proud for this set with a new drummer/fill-in drummer(??). You would never have known; it was seamless. I am really looking forward to a double-dose of Dopapod at AURA in February.
What followed next was extraordinary. The Bear Creek All-Stars were slated for the next two-and-a-half hours. How would that work out? It was anchored by Dumpstaphunk and Lettuce, so you knew it was going to be great, but, I mean, what could they do to top off this day? Plenty, it turns out, and all credit goes to the rhythm sections. No matter what else was shaking, the bass and drums were absolutely incredible. It was positively hypnotic, it was so powerful. That started with Dumpstaphunk’s Nicki Glaspie on drums and their dueling basses, Tony Hall and Nick Daniels. Others likely popped in and out (it had been a loooong day), and I’m certain Adam Deitch and E.D. Coomes from Lettuce were in the mix, probably closing it out.
The set featured a spirited “Bop Gun > Dr. Funkenstein” and one of my favorite Meters’ tunes, “You’ve Got to Change (You’ve Got to Reform),” at that point with George Porter, naturally. And speaking of shaking, the set closed with “Shake Everything You Got” and “Africa.” Pure heaven.
That sent everyone scurrying back to the music hall to check out rumors about a new collaborative project, Nth Power (a math name!!!). Nicki Glaspie (Dumpsta) and Nigel Hall (Lettuce) lead this new supergroup, and they earned that title with a dynamic show, highlighted by the incredible guitar work of Nick Cassarino, who also plays with Jennifer Hartswick.
As I made it up the hill toward the silent disco, who was there tucked in the trees with an impromtu really late-night set but Zach Deputy, who had sets Friday and Sunday. But I was anxious for another one of my Bear Creek highlights, a third year of Skerik and Freekbass together on the silent disco stage. And then it got even better! They had Dennis Stadelman of Cope adding guitar colors to their set. It was like something out of a dream. My dream, anyway. And then to bed, but only after a ride with Dennis back to visit with the HomeTeam first.
One other highlight of the day: watching Savi Fernandez flash that Savi grin when he spotted me wearing my Savi Fernandez Band shirt!
Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!