Review And Media | Bear Creek Music Festival | Florida


Sunday at Bear Creek is when the strongest thrive, and this year was to be no different. Boasting basically the Nth Power as her backing band, Bear Creek empress Jennifer Hartswick Band blessed the festival’s hallowed grounds. Inviting her longtime foil George Porter Jr. onstage for a delightful take on Bill Withers’ “Aint No Sunshine,” Hartswick provided a spellbinding soundtrack to start the final day of the festival. Her guttural moans on the eternal Stevie Wonder stomp “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” were amplified by Khris Royal’s sultry sax and Nikki Glaspie’s steady syncopation. Her usual partner-in-crime, the lovely and talented Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman, was the yang to Carly Meyers’ yin; Cressman’s elegant, harmonious trombone a soothing landing for our collective elevation.

Skerik’s Orchestra-at-Large is a Bear Creek treat, a collection of BC family and Artists-at-Large come together every year for a proper SuperJam. Skerik, the only Artist-at-Large for all seven Bear Creek festivals, was general leading his krewe through a thoroughly improv’d set, with Mike Dillon on trap drums no less. Enlisting an entourage of James Casey, Natalie Cressman, Freekbass, Eric Krasno, Ryan Zoidis, Khris Royal, Jonathan Lloyd and several others, Scary-Eric shocked more than just one monkey with sadistic sledgehammers of soul.

Roosevelt Collier and Nigel Hall's Gospel Surprise was once again a priestly Suwannee benediction. Reprising their renowned turn at Purple Hatters Ball, members of the Royal Family joined extended Bear Creek family for this dynamic assemblage. A run through touched and spirited numbers like “Standing on Shaky Ground,” “Higher Ground” and the Nikki Glaspie-sung “God is a Good God” lifted souls. James Casey went and told the congregation; he caught the Holy Ghost with impassioned vocal runs only possible on Sunday morning. Nigel Hall’s stirring, tender tribute to the dearly departed George Duke (“Uncle Remus”) is already branded in the hearts and minds of Bear Creek’s privileged masses. This is why we Bear Creek.

Lettuce’s annual closing set at Bear Creek is traditionally, without a doubt this writer’s favorite. This year things were a little different as Lettuce’s founder/drummer Adam Deitch was forced to miss Bear Creek due to his commitments with the Pretty Lights’ Live Band Analog/Future tour. This literally kept me up at night in the days approaching BC, so I enlarged a photograph of BC’s thunder conductor and affixed it to a broomstick; it was important that Deitch was here with us to bring it all home. The hardest working woman in show biz, Nikki Glaspie, assumed her throne and proceeded to annihilate the ‘RealDeitchBeats’, hers the funkiest foundation this side of “Lettsanity.” The Royal Family was in full effect as Nigel Hall and Alecia Chakour took the stage, their R&B chemistry en fuego on “Do it Like You Do.” “Blast Off” saw the powerhouse army (better yet, the Navy) of Jennifer Hartswick, Skerik, Natalie Cressman, Cheme Gastelum, and the Shady Horns detonate the stage with bright and bombastic brass heads and solos. Adam “Shmeans” Smirnoff and Eric Krasno took turns as axe-murderer and “Big Baby” Jesus Coomes forgave the sinners with atypical bottom-end bluster and bravado. This year, the funk Gods allowed for an encore; Lettuce delivered a mammoth version of their Big Apple anthem “Madison Square. ” Glaspie, Coomes and the krewe built the mid-section jam to a fevered and furious crescendo, before dropping down into one last murderously chunky, stomp-yo-feet rage, the patented Mike Tyson knockout. If you don’t know, you had better ask somebody!


After the final set, we went to yet another Fiyawerx Productions, LLC post show party, at their holiday- themed amusement park of a cabin. These NOLA ‘hosts with the most’ were so very generous all weekend, facilitating and networking many us of with our favorite artists, be it an introduction, or a sit down; many new friendships were born - Fiyawerx style! As per BC tradition, Paul Levine saw to it that the remaining bands, staff and a few hundred lucky fans were treated to legendary all-star jam sessions - the infamous “SundayNight Staffterparty.” Shuttles arrived at the Fiyawerx party to cart us all deep into the woods, to an oasis amidst the oaks. A cavalcade of stars paraded across the small, makeshift performance area; we grubbed down on catered food and spirits while dancing and dreaming with whatever energies we could muster at the late juncture. Tears, hugs, and yet even more rump-shaking ensued; glasses were raised- asses were dropped- and all was right in the world.

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