Fest Nest

All Funky Signs Lead To Bear Creek

All Funky Signs Lead To Bear Creek

From the moment we saw that sign, my entire body buzzed with excitement. “Festival Parking: Turn Left” may not seem like anything special, but at the time, we had just finished a four-hour car ride fueled on perpetually growing anticipation, and once realized we had finally made it, we knew exactly what would come next. Or at least we thought we did…

From the moment we saw that sign, my entire body buzzed with excitement. “Festival Parking: Turn Left” may not seem like anything special, but at the time, we had just finished a four-hour car ride fueled on perpetually growing anticipation, and once realized we had finally made it, we knew exactly what would come next. Or at least we thought we did…

It had been two years since I had been to my first Bear Creek, and I could not have imagined a better way to celebrate than by bringing along a group of friends who were attending their first. Upon arrival, we scored a primo camping spot directly next to the Silent Disco. After setting up our tents and settling by the fire pit, we shared a handle of whiskey and a slap bag, and we were off to the races.

As always, the Motet brought some Colorado flavor to the Porch Stage, and led the audience through a dance-evoking journey of tribal funk. The band was firing on all cylinders and played off the energy of the crowd very well.  The highlights of the set included “Don’t Get Fed” with Roosevelt Collier sitting in on his pedal steel guitar and “Gettin’ To Know You” (by Parliament Funkadelic), featuring Nigel Hall on keyboards and vocals.
The true beast of the Creek, however, was that of Galactic. Although I had gone into their Friday night set with high expectations, within the first five minutes, the NOLA Funk all-stars had completely shattered any of them. Mike Dillon sat in for the entirety of the set, which certainly added to the melodic power. When Maggie Koerne and David Shaw (the Revivalists) joined the band on stage, they evoked a powerful energy promoting the band to truly take off. The band fed off of Shaw’s undeniable swagger and Koerne sexy, seductive stage presence and escalated the melodies flawlessly. One of the hands-down highlights of the set was “Baby I got Your Money,” featured Skerik on saxophone, Shaw on vocals and Roosevelt C. on his famous axe. The set also featured what I believed to be one of the best moments of the weekend, when Galactic was joined by Shaw, Corey Henry and Chali 2na for an outrageous “From the Corner to the Block,” that jovially made me throw my hands in the air, bounce up and down, and scream at the top of my lungs. The set closer, “When the Levee Breaks,” featured Shaw on vocals, and certainly closed the set with a bang.

Following Galactic, the nightlife propelled as Greenhouse Lounge, Kung Fu, and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe all took their respective stages. GHL provided a raging dance party on the Porch Stage, featuring a blend of EDM and instrumental jamming. The trio’s set featured sit-ins from Gabe Mervin of the Motet, Khris Royal, and Dr. Collier. Kung Fu funked up the Music Hall with some extra spicy psychedelic space funk. The amped up set featured some classic covers of the Funkadelic, Herbie Hancock and Prince, as well a scorching rendition of “Paragon,” featuring Collier on his pedal steel. As great as the aforementioned acts were, the highlight of this timeslot had to be Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. It was my first trip to the Tiny Universe, and I loved every moment of it. The rest of the band beautifully complemented Denson’s supreme saxophone skills and the Ray Charles tributes were some of the most heartfelt melodies of the festival. Suwannee regular Zach Deputy also joined the band on vocals for a portion of the set.
As midnight struck, a herd of attendees stampeded toward the Amphitheater Stage in anticipation for the awe-inspiring Bonobo Live Band. Known for having one of the most organic sounds of any producer, Simon Green aka Bonobo, utilized his live ensemble to seamlessly translate his mental melodies into a live performance. The textural transcending bliss uplifted the audience on an intercultural odyssey of global rhythms and sounds. The set featured music inspired from every corner of the globe and included a wider range of styles than I had ever seen from any “electronic” act.  The music was perfectly accepted by the visuals, which accented the performers without being an overpowering presence.

Following Bonobo, the Silent Disco kicked off and the late-night shenanigans commenced. The highlight of the Silent Disco performances was performer Jeff Randall who’s ass-kicking DnB sparked an audio inferno within every listener’s headphones.

Saturday afternoon featured some fantastic day sets from the Bernie Worell Orchestra, Lucky Costello, George Porter and the Runnin’ Pardners, the Mike Dillon Band and Galactic. The daytime act provided a hearty serving of funk to warm everyone up for the heavy hitters of Saturday night.

At 5 p.m., thousands gathered around the Amphitheater stage in anticipation for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Bootsy Collins. As the set began, the Funk Unity Band took the stage in space suits and prepared for lift-off. After building the excitement for a few minutes, Bootsy finally took the stage, complete with his star-shaped LED bass and sequin blue suit. His presence was like no other musician I can describe. The entirety of the performance featured costume changes and hilariously funky antics, as it was truly a celebration of all things Bootsy. The set highlight was a flavorful P-Funk melody featuring classics such as “Mothership Connection” and “Dr. Funkenstein.”

After the conclusion of the Bootsy Celebration, Ghost Owl, The New Mastersounds and Chali 2na and the House of Vibe allowed attendees to pick between psychedelic experimental rock, classic deep funk and funk-infused old school hip-hop while they geared up for the main event, the Roots.  This timeslot was certainly the most conflicting, as all of the acts playing were on my list of must-sees, but nonetheless, each band played a great set.

By the time the Roots took the stage, it was hard to imagine what kind of set to expect. The vibe was all over the place because such an eclectic group of acts had performed that day. Starting off with some heavy, energetic hip-hop, the band really awoke the crowd. They did a superb job at building the tension during an intense jam before dropping into funk classic, “Jungle Boogie,” and really getting into the thick of the funk. The fusion of hip-hop, classic rock, big band funk, and sheer, raw energy yielded in a true body-quaking throwdown. The highlight of the set came during “Seed,” when the band took off on an epic rock medley with “Sweet Child of Mine,” into “Bad to the Bone,” into “Who do you Love,” into “You Got Me,” into “Immigrant Song,” into “Welcome to Jam Rock,” back into “You Got Me,” and finally into “Apache,” before throwing down “Men At Work” to conclude the set. By the time the band left the stage, the urban jazz-fusion act had blown a hole in the minds of every person in attendance.

Wasting no time, Dopapod kicked off as soon as the Roots finished. Despite missing their usual drummer, Eli Winderman, Rob Compa and Chuck Jones seemed to have established a solid synergy with stand-in drummer Scotty Zwang (Greenhouse Lounge), and seemed to communicate on stage very well. As always, Winderman’s spacey sounds were the set’s staple, as he relentlessly blasted the crowd with his Moog synthesizer. The band did slow down “Trapper Keeper,” which I thought felt a little off, but overall, they were still able to churn up the energetic, face-twisting jams that fans have come to love.

The highlight of the Saturday late-nights acts included a free-for-all superjam hosted by Lettuce and Dumpstaphunk at the Amphitheatre Stage and the Nth Power’s performance in the Music Hall. The superjam featured copious “anything goes” type jams as the musicians jammed into the wee hours of the morning. It was really amazing to see so many musicians enjoying themselves on stage because it made the music all the more enjoyable. Following the superjam, the Nth Power (featuring members of John Brown’s Body, Dumpstaphunk, Lettuce, Jennifer Hartswick Band and Toubab Krewe) took the stage in the Music Hall for some soulful late-night funkification. After playing with what seemed to be every single act of the weekend, drummer Nikki Glaspie truly went off during this set, incorporating copious rhythmic stylings and thunderous backbeats.

Although I was forced to leave early on Sunday, Skerik’s Orchestra at Large certainly burned its place in my memory, as the wonderfully weird king of swing led an ensemble through an incredible set. Featuring copious musicians from throughout the festival, the completely improvised set was a perfect Sunday afternoon selection. The Jennifer Hartswick band also played an extremely uplifting set that featured some fantastic covers and a supreme sit-in from George Porter Jr.

Looking back on it all, it is difficult to call it anything other magical. Celebrating my two-year anniversary was a big milestone, and it made it all the more enjoyable to celebrate with friends who were just seeing that world for the first time, as well as seasoned veterans who have helped show me the community I have grown to love. It was all perfectly completed by manageable weather and amazing music. Everything really came full-circle during Bear Creek, and it made me realize how special the Suwannee Family really is. As I reminisce about the enchanting experience, I can’t but help but smile and look forward to next year. Suwannee has become like home to me, and every time I leave, I try to imagine what it will feel like the next time I see that familiar “Festival Parking: Turn Left” sign as I cruise down the dirt road.

Photos by Melodysiac © 2013



December 12th, 2013

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