Review And Media | Bear Creek Music Festival | Florida

One of the most revered and cherished performances in Bear Creek history was that of Bonobo Live Band in 2010, who produced a brook of organic electronica that served to arouse the inner- naturalist within the festival. The news of Simon Green and Co.’s return was greeted with elation when this year’s lineup was announced and in 2013 Bonobo would ornament the Amphitheater Stage with another display of lush, orchestral electronica. Launching the set with “Cirrus” from newest album The North Borders, Green was joined by drummer Jack Baker and the exceptionally talented woodwind/multi-instrumentalist Michael Lesirge. Soon the live setup would swell to encompass a three-piece horn section, bassist, keyboards and the breathtaking singer Szjerdene (pronounced “Jhurdeen”). The exotic songstress’ vocals fit naturally early (“Towers”) and deep into the set (“Transits”).

Various band members glided seamlessly in movements that ebbed and swayed with sharp intricacies, the music traversed between ambient and aggressive. Not content on staying behind the tables, Green would play bass guitar and walk around his elegant ensemble, immersed in the vibes.Midway through the set, Bonobo dropped solo production performance on his AKAI APC 40 and MPK 25, the light rings around Simon aglow. Green furiously tapped and twisted Black Sands’ “Kiara” and a grandiloquent “Ketto” off of Days to Come. The band smoothly joined back in with some jamming and solos to satiate this particular audience, as did the brown note tuned to our bass chakra. A run of Bonobo classics including “Nightlite,” “Reccuring” and “We Could Forever” showed tight and eclectic playing from everyone onstage, as these tracks have been performed for years with the live band. Another titanic selection, “El Toro,” delighted dancers with its bossa nova and horn/string interplay. “Know You” saw Green wailing on drum pads, as the intertwining male and female vocal samples rang out over jungle beatscience. Bonobo Live Band concluded their superb and sophisticated set with a mouth-watering take on “The Keeper.” For those who doubt the “soul” within electronic music, this was mind-boggling truth to the contrary.

Robert Walter’s 20th Congress is fully back in session, and their double dose at Bear Creek left few stones unturned. Buoyed by Walter’s magnificent new album, Get Thy Bearings, RW20 were a perfect choice for the late night Music Hall scene. The unsung hero, per usual, was Walter’s longtime foil Cheme Gastelum on sax, who has logged time with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings in recent years (BC 2012). Cheme blew hard and heavy, his carnival melodies soaring atop the Hall with definition and authority. Drummer Simon Lott was a gangster, anchoring the boogaloo grooves with confidence, locked in with bassist Chris Stillwell in true garage funk fashion. Set highlights included “Inversion Layer,” “Kool is Back,” “Who Took the Happiness” and set closer “Don’t Hate.”


The Mike Dillon Band supplied the most original dance music at Bear Creek. Period. His punked-up freak- jazz and twisted psychedelic afro-rock kept the Porch Stage raging, shaking and gyrating with heavy, vibraphone- driven vamps, and spasmodic raps. Dillon and Co unleashed a steady stream of infectious rhythms, unbridled rage and hypnotic percussion. The exploding energy of trombonist Carly Meyers is undeniable; her twisting and contorting her body movements mimicking snappish movement of her horn’s slide. When she wasn’t on stage bouncing and singing along with Dillon, she snaked through the audience, blowing a whistle and assailing a tambourine with a drumstick; Myers is a spicy hot drum major with a smile. Percussionist Weedie Braimah joined on “Monk Meets Fela” and Roosevelt Collier jumped into the fray for a cover of The Stooges’ “1969.” Cult favorite “Carly Hates the Dubstep” soared to new heights, while Stanton Moore of Galactic, a longtime Dillon foil, also found his way to the kit for some proper skin bashing.

[Mike Dillon Band]

Bootsy Collins is nothing if not a character, the original Rubber-Band Man even “wilder than the Taliban.” With flamboyant costumes, tawdry stage banter and star-shaped bass and shades, often lost in the funk fog is the fact that he's one of the genre’s preeminent showman. Unique vocal styles, bombastic bass rumblings and his thunderous clique, the Funk Unity Band, laid the foundation for a slow-ride through Chocolate City, establishing Bootsy Collins as Bear Creek 2013’s bass Baron Von Funkenhausen. Kicking things off with a dripping “Ahh…The Name is Bootsy, Baby” from his classic Rubber Band era, chants of “We Want Bootsy” from his crunkadelic krewe and the Creek massive serenaded the legend onstage for a two hour funk odyssey. Released in the year of my birth year, “Bootzilla” sounded fresh as ever with a snapping horn section and wall of wah, as did the slow and swanky Bi- centennial “I’d Rather Be With You.”

Original P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell emerged for his juno-bass anthem “Flash Light,” but nobody needed ANY help finding the funk - better yet, people we begging for it (“Tear the Roof Off (We Want the Funk”.) “Hey Bootsy, baby! Why yo face like a star?” No less glide in his slide, Bootsy continued a buoyant boogie-down with “Mothership Connection (Star Child).” “If ya hear any noise, its just me & the boys… Hit me! Ya gotta hit tha’ band! (Bootsy slipping in his perfectly placed vocal-adlibs: “Yabba Dabba Doosie!”). When the guys (and a few phenomenal female singers) landed in Glen Goins-led B section of “Star Child” (forever memorialized for my generation by The Chronic’s “Let Me Ride”), many in the audience belted in unison: “Swing Down/Sweet Chariot/Stop and Let Me Riiiide!” G-Funk, Suwannee-style, the Mothership regulating, and hovering amidst the live oak trees; Bear Creek was a white-chocolate city, Sir Paul Levine as Dr. Funkenstein, …and everybody sang “Swing Down… I WANNA RIIIIDE!” Bootsy Collins and the Funk Unity Band’s Saturday sunset spectacle will go down forever in the BC bible, The Helping-FUNKY Book.

[Bernie Worrell]

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe also provided two sets of funkification and R&B steez at Bear Creek 2013. Friday night’s get-down on the Purple Hat Stage saw first families of funk send horn Capos to do proper biddings on their behalf. After KDTU fired through “The Hen,” saxophonists Ryan Zoidis (Lettuce/Shady Horns) and Cheme Gastelum (RW20), trumpeters Gabe Mervin (The Motet), Igmar Thomas (Shady Horns) and trombonist Jonathan Lloyd (DubConscious) joined Denson and trumpet/flugelhorn player Chris Littlefield to create a veritable wall of brass that nearly overpowered the congregation. Amplified by guest organist Will Blades and former KDTU percussionist Mike Dillon for the duration of the set, guitarist DJ Williams solidified his role as Diesel foil, and new drummer Max McVeety made his presence felt. KDTU’s old-school anthem “Front Money” was a blistering dose of classic Denson dynamics and Blaxploitation power. Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot” and White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” drove the Creek massive into an uncontrolled frenzy, these familiar joints rang out beyond and reverberated back again with vitality.

Bear Creek legend Zach Deputy delivered his patented “Island-Infused Drum n’ Bass Gospel Ninja Soul” sets, the one-man-band having yet another cultish, scene-within-a-scene at this festival. He performed two sets on stages proper as well as a candid and clandestine set deep into Sunday night’s campgrounds, as is his annual custom. His scene stealing collaboration with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the Ray Charles Soul Spectacular, was some of the most buzzed about over the long weekend. Keyword: Deputized! Other spirited KDTU Bear Creek sit-ins included Roosevelt Collier (“My Baby”), George Porter Jr. (“Bougainaville”), and Skerik on “The Duel.”

As a child, I would watch Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” video and wonder why people would be so overcome with emotion that they would cry hysterically, faint and be carried out of the crowd lifelessly. That mystery was solved, twenty-five years later; when the ‘Legendary Roots Krewe from Philly’ obliterated Bear Creek’s Amphitheater Stage. After living out a dream (thanks to festival curator Paul Levine, who arranged for me to bring my hometown heroes onstage), I assumed the position riding the rail directly in front of emcee Black Thought. The entire Amphitheater was packed to the gills, people were screaming the band’s name with a vehemence! Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson led ‘The Illa-Fifth Dynamite Foundation’ as they launched into a gargantuan run of classics; “Table of Contents” gave way to “Next Movement,” ‘Hot Hot Music’ filled the dank air. The following seventy-five minutes was a whirlwind of unparalleled hip-hop fury: Capt. Kirk, Kamal Gray, Knuckles, Tuba Gooding Jr., Ray Angry and Mark Kelley followed their leaders thru the swamp and beyond. Roots chestnuts like “Proceed,” “Step into a New Realm” and “Mellow My Man” were delivered with vigor, the songs and style fresh to def.

See Black Thought on tha red carpet, steppin’ outta spaceships
Wit’ a glass of Chiraz, and two ‘around-the-way’ chicks!

©Black Thought of The Roots

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