Bear Creek Music Festival | Spirit of Suwannee Music Park | Friday 11.14.14

taukMusic is therapy for life.

So saith Isaac Teel, drummer for TAUK. These are my four favorite music days of the year. I feel cleansed. Renewed. Envigorated. Alive.

Unlike Thursday’s stage-hopping, the Friday and Saturday schedules make it impossible to see and hear everything, even if you could teleport. So you decide: see half of this set, second half of that, OR, do one; skip the other.

And when three stages are occupied simultaneously, even your clone can’t help you out. Well, not enough.

Straight out of the gates, decision time. I caught the beginning of Captain Green’s solid set in the forest. It was a strong opener from the NOLA sextet, dripping with funk. I tore myself away, because I’d been promising myself forever to check out Copious Jones, another band out of the ATL. I was sure I would find Tami and Charles there, representing. What’s a man to do?IMG_2502

Check out the band, of course! They were wonderful. Copious Jones is the very definition of a jam band. Their grooves were endless, and the dancing in the field at the Purple Hat stage (near the main SoSMP stage not being used) was joyous. As for the weekend’s not-so-leitmotif, their rhythm section was excellent.

For once, I attempted to spend at least a bit more time with friends at my campsite at Short-Cut Camp and over at Camp Shenanigans. Given that anything is better than zero, they’d tell you I was there a little bit. Mostly, they like to stay in camp, where you can hear both the amphitheater and forest stages just fine. Actually, they are very kind in telling me they just read about the music once I get my reviews posted. I am humbled by their warmth and generosity. I will tell you more about them later.

IMG_2503I saw Curtis Harding only briefly in passing through the amphitheater to get back to the Purple Hat for Alan Evans’ Playonbrother. In retrospect, this became a brilliant move. On Evans’ POB website, he just announced that the band will play its last gigs in December and call it quits. Evans works regularly with Soulive, of course, but this is a shame. Three days before the BC show, his transmission blew, just the latest in a series of transportation woes. It is our loss, because the POB is pure dynamite.

POB is a power trio: drums, guitar and keyboards with bass pedals. And what power! They came out flame-throwing, and the set got progressively hotter. Jazzy funk again wafted over the field, and then suddenly they sprinted headlong into Mountain’s “Never In My Life” (with an unmistakable intro). Holy cow! Later in the set, they honored the late Jack Bruce with a great medley of “SWLABR (She Walks Like a Bearded Rainbow)” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”

I thought I should get over to check out at least a bit of the Yojimbo set. For whatever reason, I had not done my homework and didn’t not remember why that name was familiar. On my way, I passed Rev. Hugh, going the opposite way. He attempted to describe Yojimbo, unsuccessfully. Once I got to the forest stage, I appreciated his lack of success defining the band.IMG_2506

Yojimbo is the creative outlet for the whirling dervish named Carly Meyers, a member of the Mike Dillon Band. Drummer Adam Gertner also pulls double duty, and they are joined by Doc Sharp, a keyboard player manic enough to keep up with the duo.

If you’ve never seen Carly, then you’ve never seen anything remotely like her, either. She is the very definition of ‘unique.’ She sings, she plays wickedly inventive trombone belying her 22 years on the planet (she also plays mallets with MDB), but first and foremost she is a dancing, hopping, twirling hip-hopping pixie, a perpetual motion machine. AND she has a classic beauty and delightful fashion sense. What little I got to hear was deluxe. Doc Sharp was killer.

It was back to the campsite, where I could hear Sister Sparrow but not see her or the band. Many of my compatriots will call me out for this, as they are Sister Sparrow fans. You can’t do everything. I did make it back to the amphitheater in time to catch my first Roosevelt Collier sit-in.

Now a triple dilemma: Alecia Chakour, the Floozies or Turkuaz. I knew Chakour had another set Saturday; Turkuaz won. I had seen them at a previous Bear Creek, and this 2014 set was tremendous! They and a number of other groups here at BC are working at redefining the meaning of ‘big band.’ For nine months (quite a gestation period), I have been studiously avoiding writing my Snarky Puppy review, which I had intended to post not long after a similar discussion about the Tedeschi Trucks Band..

Eight to twelve members, horns, back-up singers, percussionists – all popular options. And I haven’t neglected the required BC equipment: a nasty rhythm section. You ain’t got bass and drums; you ain’t got… jack.

Turkuaz brought it big-time. Super rhythm section, great back-up singers, three horns. Hot. They played an excellent song called “The Rules.” For the life of me, I could not remember where I’d heard it before. Until I got back into my car Sunday and discovered a Turkuaz disk in the player, with “The Rules” on it! And Roosevelt Collier sat in with his lap steel guitar for the last two songs.

A brief word about sit-in etiquette. If you ask a musician to sit in, LET HIM HAVE A SOLO. On the last tune, the guitar player took all the solo space, leaving none for Roosevelt (time was festival tight). TAUK did it right: they let YOU solo when you sat in with them. Off my soap box. For now.

It was Umphrey’s McGee time. There was great excitement when UM was announced as a two-night headliner earlier in the year. Tonight it was two separate sets with a long break in between.

There are relatively few bands that have that magic attraction and drawing power. I’m thinking Phish, Panic, SCI, DMB, and Mule in the H.O.R.D.E. mode in addition to founding fathers ABB and the Dead. UM is firmly ensconced in this musical Olympus.

And they did not disappoint. The first set featured tunes from their summer release, Similar Skin, and lots of others as well. The second set was filled with jazzy jams (well, my head was), befitting the BC mindset.

Sandwiched in between the UM sets was a second night of Orgone. Given that I thought they owned Thursday, I definitely wanted another shot in the closer confines of the Forest Stage.

IMG_2519It was brilliant. Again. This was funk as good as it gets. Let me say that again. As good as it gets. Toward the end of the set, they played several of the superb new tunes they had unveiled the previous night. And bassist Dale Jennings was again THE MAN. Just incredible. I was hoping they would make “Time is Tight,” the song I loved from Thursday most of all, the last song of the set.

And suddenly, Jennings, man of the match, was handing off his bass. Whaa?? Who would dare take the bass out of this man’s hands?

OK, if George Porter, Jr., wants to sit in, you let him sit in. After all, he IS King of Bear Creek. I certainly think so. When Sergio Rios hit those opening notes to “Ain’t No Use,” pandemonium erupted. Brought the house down, and my first tears of joy. Legendary. Just unreal.

IMG_2520I split the Umphrey’s set two early to head back to the music hall to see NOLA’s Earphunk. (OK, that and warm up. It was gettin’ chilly!) Their twin-guitar funk attack is delicious. The first tune was sort of “meh,” but the second one grabbed me by the throat and throttled me but good. And soon, it was time for another Taz sighting. After this day (and the following two), Bear Creek 2014 will go down in history as the Taz Experience (and he soon after jammed a Hendrix tune with Soulive). His solo with Soulive was stunning, and, as it turned out, we hadn’t heard anything yet!

More decisions. TAUK or Soulive? The Soulive set last Wanee was the best I’d ever heard from them, but I had to hear TAUK again. Tough choice, but the right one for me. Their instrumental rock fusion drew a great crowd to the forest, many new to the TAUK aural assault. It was a deluxe outing; they made many new converts.

IMG_2527The New Mastersounds, one of the BC hierarchy (with Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk and Soulive) were next up at the amphitheater. They always knock me out, but even so this was special. They can launch into a tune at 90 miles an hour (144 KPH) accelerate from there. They were nothing short of magnificent.

And there were lots of guests. Lots of guests. King George Porter, Jr., was first, followed by PeeWee Ellis and Grant Green, Jr., to provide proper historical context, and then it was Jennifer Hartswick, followed by the superb young Carly Meyers. And the Heard horns jumped on and off the stage on cue, filling up the glorious sound.

Ultimately, however, it was the NMS four. Their sound is so wonderfully steeped in the funky jazz tradition. And Eddie Roberts is STILL the coolest cat in all of jam-dom.

The Budos Band had the privilege of closing down the evening (well, not the silent disco, but on stage). Their dark, evil, adventurous set was great – angular, funky psychedelic and rocking by turns. The nonet took us all on a wild trip.

The last set of silent disco DJs (three sets of two DJs each) began at 3:45. By this time, the temperature had dropped below 40 degrees, but most attendees were pretty well insulated, one way or another. Ardency and Elliot Mess were duking it out. I listened back and forth for most of the hour time slot, then headed off to campfire, friends, and warmth.

Great to visit Camp Shenanigans and its denizens. Kelly and I could talk for-ever, I’m pretty sure. We get in the zone. Jensen B and Theresa and Winston and the Gov’nah and… (Brain fail) A bazillion thanks to Tami and Charles for being so kind as to bring me a case of Terrapin Liquid Bliss Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter (couldn’t find it in the Tampa area!).

The junky photos are mine. The really good one of Alric A.C. Carter of TAUK at the top was taken by Brian Hensley.

On to Saturday!



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