By the end of Saturday, it would be official (with a ceremony Sunday afternoon): the Taz Bear Creek. Remember this name: Brandon ‘Taz’ Niederauer. The day was full of spectacular performances, made more memorable by our gaze into the future. The 11-year-old displayed maturity, poise, flare and confidence many players twice or three times his age struggle to muster.
Chakour’s resume’ is rich and varied, as is her voice. She is a Bear Creek fixture, and for that we are grateful. She was joined by her fine band, featuring her dad on guitar. This being the land of sit-ins, who should come on stage but another funk/jazz icon, Bernard “Prettie” Purdie. What a supreme treat! I had met him 35 years ago at a drum clinic. He’s still got it, including a wonderfully playful flair. PeeWee Ellis and Eric Krasno (Soulive) also joined her onstage, originals and covers filling the air. My favorite was Leon Russell’s “Hummingbird.”
Decisions, decisions, again. Come Back Alice, Sarasota and Home Team favorites, and the Main Squeeze, who crushed their set closing out Thursday night, were on at the same time. Main Squeeze first, I thought. By the time they lit into “Dr. Funk,” it was ON! Corey Frye’s chameleon-like voice rode over top of another fine set.
Come Back Alice was blowing it up in the forest as I stage-hopped. Tony Tyler and Dani Jaye led their excellent rhythm section through “Southern gypsy funk” at its finest. The Home Team crowd was clearly thrilled, and rightfully so. And I would love to hear Tony on B3 playing more than just a snippet of “Ease On Down the Road,” their brief closer.
One of the most anticipated sets on the schedule was Rosie and Oteil. This is the sixth year I’ve seen Roosevelt Collier at BC (the first time with Shak Nasti in 2009 – still one of my favorite BC sets of all time – get it on archive.org 11.14.09), and he has risen from new face to royalty. And Oteil Burbridge has credentials beyond imagination. You can appreciate the enormity of the event when we saw Nikki Glaspie on drums and Nigel Hall on keyboards. This promised to be pure BC nirvana.
And nirvana it was. They blasted P-Funk’s “Put Your Hands Together” and grooved through Michael Jackson. And then: Taz time. Oteil launched into “You Got Me Floatin’,” and Taz took off. TOOK OFF. Tears for the second time at the festival. Roosevelt showed such respect that he stood up, stopped playing, and stood behind Taz to let him own the moment. At the conclusion of the song, Roosevelt went over and hugged Taz. Respect, my brother Roosevelt!
And then it was a cavalcade of stars on stage: horns, Krys Royal, PeeWee Ellis, Bernard Purdie, Grant Green, Jr., and Jennifer Hartswick. Eleven people minimum. They ended with James Brown’s “Ain’t It Funky Now.”
Up the hill in the forest, the Fritz (Asheville) was about to grab the stage. I had missed them the previous Saturday due to a late arrival in Dunedin, so I was looking forward to this. SPEC-TAC-U-LAR. This set was scorching from start to finish. The rhythm section is superb, and Jamie Hendrickson was just wailing on his guitar. What a deep, funky groove. And it was impossible not to watch front man, vocalist and keyboard player Jamar Woods, gyrating, provoking the funk. I need to see them over and over! What a delightful first show for me!
I jetted back to the campsite for some medicinal barley and hops before rolling back to the amphitheater for the much-anticipated Chris Robinson Soulive Revue. I’m on record as a lukewarm Robinson fan, but this was an energetic outing, starting early with “West L.A. Fadeawy,” “Sugaree” and a very nice “Space Captain.” They did justice to Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle,” at which point the sit-in parade merrily began. From a stretch beginning with “Gimme Shelter” and climaxing with “Lovelight,” we were treated again to many of the BC all-stars, including Chakour, Hartswick, GPJr., GGJr., Roosevelt and Purdie. It lived up to its billing.
Another serious conflict arose. Nth Power, the up-and-coming monster band with Glaspie and Hall. I took the road less travelled to the forest for more Earphunk. I was rewarded with another awesome set from this NOLA quintet. The great surprise for the band and us was the arrival of George Porter, Jr. As the band explained, they had never before played with their hometown hero. It was simply deluxe, smiles all around.
This night, Umphrey’s McGee was playing one two-hour set (two separate sets the night before). I decided to go check out the Nicholas Payton Trio in the Music Hall first. I love UM, but this was a very fortunate choice.
Nicholas Payton is a NOLA trumpet player who emerged in the 90s out of the straight-ahead jazz cauldron that produced players such as Wynton Marsalis. He has more than a dozen CDs to his credit, a true jazz giant. You know I love to funk, but this was a beautiful, masterful respite. Payton was joined on stage by a truly amazing rhythm section: double bass player [??] and drummer Corey Fonville. I could have watched just those two. But Payton was amazing, a double threat.
Double threat? I’ve never seen anybody, to quote Christian Ryan (Holey Miss Moley and Leisure Chief), play trumpet with his right hand and comp on the Fender Rhodes with his left. If he had never picked up his trumpet that night, I would have said he was a great keyboard player. But he did both with great style. He also played the Hammond B3 organ and clavinet.
Payton featured a “number” of songs from his summer release, Numbers. I know we heard “Two” and “Five.” More than anything, I kept hearing Hubcaps (Freddie Hubbard) in his playing. Fellow NOLA compatriot, George Porter, Jr., popped on stage for a great sit-in and solo. WOW. Just WOW. Also, how are you not loving a guy who titled one of his CDs Payton’s Place?
As I headed back to the amphitheater, UM was still keeping thousands of heads bopping and nodding with the second half of their set. When they “finished” at 10, because I had not read the schedule carefully, I thought they were done and started to head up the hill. Wrong again, as usual. They came back out for their encore, and as the synthesizer worked its way into an ethereal, spacy vamp, the bass started romping, and suddenly there was… Nicholas Payton! And for ten minutes – the best ten minutes of Bear Creek 2014 music for me – Payton and Umphrey’s McGee made me think I was listening to 1980s-era Miles meeting STS9. The song was “Day Nurse.” You cannot download it fast enough (it’s up on archive.org, bless ‘em). SICK, SICK, SICK.
Up the hill, Zach Deputy was reminding me why I love Zach Deputy and also why I sometimes don’t. Shortly into his set, ZD hit an irrepressible dance groove, and everybody was dancing. It was impossible not to. After a time, however, he segued into a reggae-ish tune much less melodic than before, and I became uninterested. Time for some Lettuce!
Bear Creek stalwarts Lettuce were delivering over on the Purple Hat stage. Alecia Chakour had joined them for much of the set I saw. You would think that I should have spent more time with Lettuce, but I was heading for TAUK, round two, in the music hall. Their blazing set the night before at the Forest stage helped to cut the night chill. What would happen inside?
The crowd erupted less than thirty seconds into the set. Wait! That was all the FSU fans watching the Noles squeak by Miami on the TVs over the bar. No matter. Back to music, I heard a saxophone, and I spotted Skerik on stage just before the band introduced him. Skerik is also a BC hero. He has played at previous events in the Dead Kenny Gs, Garage A Trois, silent disco with Freekbass (and Dennis Stadelman of CopE), and most impressively he organized the Orchestra At Large during the 2013 edition Sunday which was legendary. That’s the only word that fits.
TAUK proceeded to throw down a superb set before a packed house. And something else was going on. Maybe it was just inside my head, but I really don’t think so. Sonically, it was just incredible. I had seen them five times previously, but the sound this night was perfect. Kudos to the band and the sound men. As usual, they mixed songs from Collisions, their new release, with ones from Homonculus and some of their favorite covers, including “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Death Without Honor or Humanity (Kill Bill Theme).”
I knew I’d missed half of the Dumpstajam, anchored by the Dumpstaphunk boys. In years past, they have tackled entire nights of other artists’ music, such as Led Zeppelin, Sly Stone and George Clinton, so I was delighted to waltz in just as they rocketed into one of my very favorite P-Funk tunes (from Mothership Connection), “Unfunky U.F.O.” It was NOT ‘unfunky!’
So that was the first song I heard. Then, honoring their Zep set at Wanee, they veering into “Black Dog,” with Glaspie singing and drumming up a storm. Out came Taz. And he Tore. It. Up. The place was going bonkers. When the song finished, Tony Hall, or maybe it was Ian Neville, announced, “Tomorrow he’s giving me lessons!” All of these musicians were so nurturing, so warm in welcoming Taz to the musical Bear Creek family. It was a joy to behold.
So if you have two superb bass players in your band in Hall and Nick Daniels III, of course you need George Porter, Jr., on stage! And with that, and two Nevilles on stage, it was back to the Meters’ Rejuvenation for “People Say.” [You don’t HAVE Rejuvenation? With “Just Kissed My Baby,” “It Ain’t No Use,” “Hey Pocky A-way” and “Africa?” What are you waiting for?] It was superb. I know they closed with something else, but my brain was in a small puddle at that point.
The Heard, from Chicago, got the last slot of the night in the cozy Music Hall. It wasn’t as cold as Friday night, but thawing out was still a really good idea. This band had an absolute knock-out punch. Their syncopated horn lines were just amazing. Then Roosevelt Collier appeared on stage, and for the second time Saturday we got to hear Rosie tear up “Put Your Hands Together.”
Later, Carly Meyers and Nigel Hall sat in for a deluxe take on the Crusaders’ “Put It Where You Want It.” By the end of the night, we were also treated to Hartswick and some Nevilles. Adam Dietch and Nick Casserino of Lettuce rolled in, as did trumpeter Farnell Newton, and somewhere along the line “Red Hot Momma” spilled out all over the place. If memory serves (and there is no guarantee of that), the show finally closed with Simon Allen of the New Mastersounds returning the favor (the Heard horns had played with NMS Friday night) on drums and an Earphunk guitarist and several more horns joining in on “Shake Everything You Got.” And, despite the clock creeping toward 3:40, everybody in the placed complied!
So you know that 15 and a half hours of music wasn’t quite enough. Off to the silent disco!
The last pair of DJs were just getting started at the silent disco. I open my chair, stick the headphones on, pull my hood up, and chill. Most people are dancing. Whatever works. I’ve heard Vlad the Inhaler before. He certainly had lots of fans, but his mix is a bit too dubby for me. I switched over to channel 2 to hear Chews. I only discovered as I was typing this that Chews is the drummer for Earphunk. Why am I NOT surprised?
Chews apparently tapped into my subconscious, because he knew exactly what I wanted to hear. James Brown, Brothers Johnson, War (“Galaxy!”) and last year’s surprise delight Space Capone (“Back to the House!!!”). What a superb set, with deep house stuff betwixt and between. At the end, Chews got a great round of applause and chants of “CHEWS CHEWS CHEWS!”
Great to see Robert and Jordan of Serotonic (and their much better halves, Katy and KelliAnn), Clay Watson, Adam from Infinite Groove (well, I saw you), Winston, Jeff and Teresa, Volkemon, Captain Mark, Kelly B, the Gov’nah, Nicole and the little Gov’nah (Warren), and the rest of the troops at Camp Shenanigans.
It’s already Sunday.
And this, I am proud to say, is review number 100. My continued thanks to those who offer me encouragement and tell me they enjoy reading my scribbling. I do it for myself, yes, but I also do it for you. THANK YOU. You know who you are.