Review And Media | Bear Creek Music Festival | Florida

Words By: B. Getz
Images By: Clint Bliss
Videos By: Randy Bayers and Jeremy Sewell

Bear Creek Music Festival :: 11.14.13 - 11.17.13 :: Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park :: Live Oak, FL

Check out B. Getz's full review after Clint's gallery!

The Bear Creek Music & Art Festival is one of a kind. Yes, there are hundreds of music festivals, large and small, from jambands to funk to electronica and all points between. They literally dot the map, from spring through fall. Every year just before Thanksgiving, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park plays a delightful host to thousands of funkateers and fanatics alike. Normally, the time of year and location call for a frigid party after the sun goes down. Yet on this occasion, the weather gods were happy to oblige with warm temperatures and very little condensation. The myriad of musical heavyweights that descended on Bear Creek 2013 responded in kind. This year's event saw some of the most monumental and riveting musical collaborations in the festival’s storied history. From Philadelphia to Britain, with the usual suspects from NOLA and NYC in tow and a visit from the Mothership, all the regions of rage were firmly represented.

The seventh installment Bear Creek began in Live Oak, FL on Wednesday, November 13. Several bands and hardcore fans congregated at the Technaflora Music Hall with the proceeds of this first evening going towards the Michael A. Family Fund to benefit longtime S.O.S.M.P. production manager Michael Allegretto, whose wife Shelley tragically passed away earlier this year. A typically philanthropic cause for event organizers Big IV Productions, they were assisted by musical donations from artists that have come through the Bear Creek pipeline, like The Malah, New Mastersounds and festival favorites, the returning Toubab Krewe. South Florida live hip-hoppers Art Official brought the noise, did not sweat anybody’s technique and set the tone Wednesday night with a set that was all things jazz, funk, and boom-bap flames.

The people of Bear Creek began to arrive en masse mid-day on Thursday as temperatures warmed up to the sixties. Attendance was strong, despite the close proximity to S.O.S.M.P.’s newest event Hulaween, over Halloween weekend. Bear Creek is Florida’s true fall classic, and it was almost as if Hulaween allowed the Park, its staff and the vibe to properly warm up, a veritable preseason of sorts, before the professional funkateers and veteran ragers arrived for Bear Creek. Once things were in full swing on Thursday, attendees were reminded of just why this is undoubtedly the best fest held on these hallowed grounds. Same as it ever was, our senses dripping in serendipity, thick and dense as the Spanish moss rolled betwixt Live Oaks trees, as far as the eye could see. Bear Creek VII, The Illadelph MothaShip launched skyward, the forecast called for bomb droppings, badassery and bliss.


Bear Creek lore tells the tale of The Malah and their famous renegade late nite set, deep in the Suwannee Woods at the 2008 installment of the event. This year, they returned for their fifth appearance at Bear Creek. Rooted in Colorado (by way of South Carolina) for the past few years, the livetronica trio busted their second set over two days that did not repeat a song. Long on earthy rhythms, mid-tempo BPMs and ethereal melodies riding sonic wavelengths unique, the longtime Suwannee favorites provided a thorough sampling of their evolving styles. The set- ending run of “Counting Days,” “Octahedion” and closer “Soundtracks of Dreams” had Uncle Charlie’s Porch Stage cooking, as the majestic sun set over the horizon. Conversely, The Pimps of Joytime provided the first of two nearly identical shows on the Amphitheater Stage. Brian J. and Co. have a distinctly Prince-flavored sound, and new drummer John Staten (ex-KDTU) provided a ray of light toward the future, his John Blackwell-esque runs kept things more interesting than standard Pimps fare. Favorites like “Janxta Funk,” “Cardia” and “Jump Off” impressed new fans, but the set-closing sit in from organist Joey Porter (The Motet) on “Body Party/Pimpin” and “GFM” was most well-received by the Creek massive.

Toubab Krewe is one of the most beloved bands within the Bear Creek family. Making a triumphant return to the festival’s bosom, the world-music wonder tore down the walls of genres and sonics on the Porch Stage. Boasting new drummers Terrance Houston and Weedie Braimah, the forever-dynamic, now- improved wrecking krewe flew their truest colors. Led by their General, percussionist extraordinaire Luke Quaranta, Toubab performed on a myriad of indigenous African instruments. The band mined an ivory coast for their native sound, and explored ancient Malian traditions in a modern context. The Krewe reemerged from their Suwannee slumber with red herrings from a forthcoming new album, and the soundtrack to an 80-year old Japanese (once) silent film. West African guitar licks danced amidst zydeco and blues themes; “Bamana Niya” and “Lamine’s Tune” were Toubab originals that opened global portals of dance mechanics and spirituality. When joined by Khris Royal and Suenelo’s Adrien Gonzalez on “Colombia”, Toubab Krewe boarded a titanic vessel, and the search was on for new land. Icing on the cake came Friday afternoon, when founding member David Pransky rejoined the Krewe for a romp thru the Peruvian Especial “Carnavalito.”

The Technaflora Music Hall was the site of two roaring performances on Thursday night. Hailing from Austin, TX, Brownout brought an onslaught of eccentricity and incendiary rhythms, and shook the now-teeming Music Hall to its core. Martin Perna (Antibalas) joined the team for the evening, as did keyboardist Will Rast. Originals fried and electrified as Brownout made their presence felt and heard with authority. Never one to miss out on the heavy, Artist-at-Large Skerik hopped onstage to join the celebrations with demonstrative saxophonics. To conclude their ceremonial Creek cherry-popping, Brownout covered Neil Young’s timeless anthem “Down By the River” with panache and verve, a rarity for the band, deliverance for us fans. Yet it was an apropos journey south of heaven that left our mouths agape in the wake of a Brown Sabbath, the music hall awash in windmill air guitar, horns and organs summoning Ozzy’s adolescent nasal croon. A giant among men, drummer John Speice IV pounded out pulverizing Bill Ward bombs on the sinister Sabbath segue “Into the Void > Hand of Doom.” Speice and his Texan minions drove us all hellbound; as Iommi sludge announced to all that ‘something wicked this way comes,’ and by all means, Brownout meant business.

Last to take the Music Hall stage shortly after 1 a.m. was Nashville’s Space Capone. A buzz band in many circles (and recent favorite of festival curator Paul Levine), cries of “Ca-Pone!” rang out far and wide as the brainchild of frontman Aaron Winters also made their Bear Creek debut. Immediately, a teetering dance party broke out, uptempo funk tunes bopped and skipped with a bit of a British feel. Winters’ smooth falsetto betrays shades of blue- eyed soul and AM radio R&B. “R.U.D.T.F.? (Down to Funk)” and “A-Rod” saw the six-man squad get the discoteque jump-and-jivin’; sit-ins from the ubiquitous Roosevelt Collier and Khris Royal brought the wail on “Good Love.” Again, it was organist Joey Porter (The Motet) who dialed it up a notch on Rick James’ slutty “Give it to Me Baby.” When Space Capone dropped their most recognizable song, “I Just Wanna Dance,” it was Soul Train 2013 at the Technaflora Music Hall. While comparisons to Jamiroquai or Hall & Oates seemed premature, Space Capone has certainly dug out a vibrant niche for themselves in the Bear Creek community.

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