Review And Media | Bear Creek Music Festival | Florida

FRIDAY

Profit, the impressive new project from Andrew Block and Greg Vogel, started things off early on Friday, taking the Campground Stage by storm around noon. Showing off chops and a little attitude, Profit got paid in droves of people who awoke to their progressive funk. Nigel Hall and Khris Royal got busy too, and Block gave his fellow Florida faithful a treat by bringing out local songstress Rachel Murray. The connection was appropriate; as the singer is currently making her way up the NOLA ladder much like Block has over the past decade. This is Bear Creek personified.

Having signed a deal this month with Wind-Up Records, The Revivalists showed Bear Creek just what the freaking fuss was about with a couple of prodigious sets, including Friday’s beastly performance on the Purple Hat Stage. Formed on a Birch Street porch in Uptown New Orleans roughly five years ago, their rapid, rock-star ascension and undeniably sultry energy had the women swooning en masse. Delivering their rock and roll styles with flair, drenched in scents and not-so-subtle sounds of the Crescent City, The Revivalists left many of us reeling. In an “Only at Bear Creek” moment, percussionist Mike Dillon and pedal-steel player Roosevelt Collier emerged. Instead of a band original or go-to cover song, vocalist David Shaw led the ensemble through a colossal “Forgot About Dre,” complete with perfect Marshall Mathers rhyming, staccato G-Funk rhythms and a lap-steel battle between Collier and Ed Williams that made the song, and the set, the sound of true revival.

For nearly fifteen years Antibalas have been proficient Afrobeat ambassadors, breathing new life into the genre they revere, and playing shows worthy of the Shrine in Lagos. In the Festival setting, beneath the grooves and layers of horn blasts, the message can get lost in the shuffle. As Fela Kuti exclaimed “music is the weapon,” so frontman Amayo showed up onstage in war-paint, ready for battle. The Brooklyn-based band, whose name means No Bullets, delivered ridiculously tight chops and chanted fierce indictments of corporate greed and capitalism. "Dirty Money" from this year's eponymous Daptone LP served a forceful statement of discontent, while the unreleased gem "Gold Rush" piled on incriminating Babylon evidence. "We're gonna end tonight as we began 15 years ago, with the music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti!" founder Martin Perna declared before the massive ensemble launched into "Alagbon," a focused and frantic Fela rarity. With that, the Amphitheater Stage/Shrine court session was properly adjourned.


[Antibalas]

Connecticut’s prog-funk phenoms Kung Fu provided two high octane sets at BC, and continued their upward progression in our scene. The ever-enigmatic Todd Stoops bounced and sizzled atop synths, a mad scientist gone concert conductor. Kung Fu can be counted on for choice covers, Bear Creek calls for the best. Tackling Funkadelic, Prince, Reuben Wilson and Living Color, the band were also augmented by members of The Motet and Nigel Hall. On Friday, clad in ninja-wear and wielding his axe like a sword, guitarist Tim Palmieri displayed vicious chops and verve in parroting the Van Halen guitar clinic “Eruption.” Late in their Porch Stage set, Stoops and Co. did more of the unthinkable, dropping the classiest cover of the weekend in the form of Steely Dan’s unfuckwittable groove “Green Earrings.” Palmieri channeled Denny Dias’ archetypal solo and Stoops crooned in his best Donald Fagen form.

Similarly, The Motet took their stages by storm, luscious grooves and shrewd musicianship brewing and stewing in an Afro-funk meets prog-jazz fusion; bodies were affably whirling to the rhythms Friday on the Porch Stage. The Colorado-based band has been at it for a decade; their sound has developed in most fantastic of ways, thanks to founder/bassist Garrett Sayers and drummer Dave Watts, along with vibrant vocalist/percussionist Jans Ingber. Whilst sticking to their true roots of funk and jazz, The Motet incorporated electronics to their music, to go along with a heaping portion of soul. It was clear to all that funk is their first name, and Roosevelt Collier’s lap-steel on “Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed” went hard. Their covers game was no slouch either; also augmented by prominent sit-ins. The collective somehow provided salient takes on Fela Kuti (“Cheap Shit” with Weedie Braimah on djembe), P- Funk (“Gettin to Know You” with Nigel Hall on keys and vocals), Prince (1+1+1=3), and Ohio Players (“Love Rollercoaster” featuring Steve Watklins of Juno What?).

Even if you came to Bear Creek specifically to catch the infamous NOLA crunk collective Galactic, chances are you walked away from their sets talking about vocalists David Shaw (The Revivalists) and Maggie Koerner. The Louisiana singers have been alternately touring with Galactic, and each had a set with the band to sincerely strut their stuff. That’s not to say the band’s jams were anything to brush aside, as the veritable five-piece were atypically animated and certainly stellar, but it was their guests that garnered many of the oohs and ahhs. If not the guests, then it was their cover songs that stole the show. Shaw delighted and dazzled with versions of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s timeless “Aint No Love in the Heart of the City”, and was also joined by Chali 2na for a rollicking version of their own “From the Corner to the Block.” One of the highlights of the entire festival was Shaw and Galactic’s outlandish shimmy through Old Dirty Bastard’s “I Got Your Money,” with the inimitable Mike Dillon on percussion. Uncle Charlie’s Porch Stage hosted Galactic’s second gig and clearly this was the lady’s night. Ms. Koerner purred on her own “He Calls Me Mama” and roared over Galactic’s “You Don’t Know.” But the little rager that could brought the porch down with a mammoth version of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” that prompted many beating hearts to shout away.

Greenhouse Lounge is the living, breathing, true Suwannee success story, the live- electronic trio having graduated through the ranks/years to become another beloved Bear Creek gem. Taking the Porch Stage with a swagger, Dave McSweeney (bass) and Zach Weinert (guitar and production) sanctioned a fiesta that will go down in Creek chronicles as a night to remember. Mixing in tracks from their newest release Freak Out/Now Reflect and welcoming back drummer Jon Wilkes to the fold, GHL were in tip-top form with a relentless set of rumba rage. Khris Royal always enhances Greenhouse gasses, his future-sax was crème brulee icing on top of “My Body (remix)” and “Rated R.” Longtime McSweeney homeboy Roosevelt Collier lent pedal-steel to the astounding “Price Ain’t Right,” along with Gabe Mervin (The Motet) on trumpet. Yet it was the final few songs that both moved our asses and grabbed at our heartstrings: seminal GHL composition “Koto” made its long awaited return, a staggering bust out of sizeable proportions. The debut of “Pop It” was substantial, the one-two punch of “Alias” and “Silhouette,” aided by the sultry vocals of Juanita Parker Urban and Myrna Stallworth, absolutely shut down the Porch, and solidified Greenhouse Lounge’s Bear Creek bold font forever.


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