Derek Trucks Makes Surprise Appearance at Collaboration-Infused Bear Creek Music Festival
The 2009 Bear Creek Music Festival was predominantly the brainchild of Paul Levine, and he booked the festival with a distinct eye toward collaborations. They came fast and furious all weekend at this cozy Florida festival. Artists at large Kofi Burbridge and Skerik played with a slew of different acts and on Saturday night Derek Trucks made a surprise visit, lending his hand(s) to Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk and Soulive. There are too many moments of cross-pollination and flat out specialness to mention all of them, but here are the summaries of a few…
The festival had barely begun Friday (Thursday night featured a Perpetual Groove-headlined Kickoff Party), when Kofi Burbridge was onstage with the Tommy Talton Band for Taltons Color My Sleep and My Baby Dont Shave, the latter of which segued into Getaway Cars. Kofi remained on stage for the set-closing trio of Van Morrisons Into The Mystic, Allen Toussaints On Your Way Down, and Stephen Stills Love The One Youre With. Afromotive was joined by Dave Watts (Motet) for their entire set on Friday, which included Yako, One Way Go and Blinded from their Scare Tactics CD. Members of Afromotive stuck around to appear with the Legendary JCs on an inspiring version of We The People. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band was joined by Kofi Burbridge for Handa Wanda during a set in which they also offered the title track of their new Marvin Gaye tribute release Whats Goin On. Meanwhile, Nigel Hall joined the Sam Kininger Band on electric keyboards for People Make The World Go Round and then shared keyboard duty with Burbridge on the set-closing Late Night. Dumpstaphunk brought the New Orleans to both of their sets and along the way they also brought Skerik up for an exploratory Livin a World, while the Burbridge/Hall keyboard duo peppered Dumpstas final number, Meanwhile.
On Saturday the Bear Creek crowd was treated to a rare non-New Orleans performance from Dr. Claw which features members of Dumpstaphunk and Lettuce (Ian Neville, Eric Krasno, Big Sam, Nick Daniels, Adam Deitch and Bear Creek de facto Mayor Nigel Hall). Kofi Burbridge and Sam Kininger joined for this entire set which featured God Made Me Funky, Leave Me Alone, and a bass-driven complete reworking of Stevie Wonders Higher Ground. TR3 (featuring Tim Reynolds) delighted the fans of shreddery, during a set where the trio unveiled some material from their forthcoming first-ever official release (including the Cave Man and Victory Express pairing which opened the set), and covers of Neil Youngs Ohio, Led Zeppelins How Many More Times and James Browns Sex Machine. Deep Blue Sun endured some logistical difficulties, taking an unplanned break after which they rewarded their fans that did the same with an extended take on Another Day. The Robert Walter Trio performed one of this reporters favorite sets of the weekend, featuring a good bit of material from his latest release Cure All, including the title track and a coupling of Rivers of Babylon and Snakes and Spiders which set the table for the rousing Walter staple 2% Body Fat that closed his performance. Lettuce offered its second blistering set of the weekend (the band performed a late night set the evening before) yet this time they were joined by a slew of guests, including Derek Trucks. Trucks would remain onstage until the version of Curtis Mayfields Move On Up that closed the set. Nigel Hall brought his new wife onstage (he proposed to her and married her at the Suwannee Chapel earlier that day, Burbridge played flute during the procession) to moisten the eyes of many. The Move On Up lyrics, peace you will find into the steeple of beautiful people had special resonance on this night.
Dumpstaphunk stood and delivered again Saturday night, repeatedly working the crowd into a frenzy with their unbridled energy. Skerik joined for Standing and Eric Krasno, Nick Daniels and Nigel Hall were each pivotal to a funkified slant on the Rolling Stones Miss You. Derek Trucks joined Dumpstaphunk as Ivan Neville was introducing the band. Ivan Neville frequently assigns occupations to his band members during the introductions, and Trucks walked across the stage to goad his own alternate occupation out of Neville. Neville then told the crowd that Trucks worked at a manicure, pedicure shop.and hes also a hairdresser. Trucks joined for the next forty-five minutes or so highlighted by the crafty placement of The Sopranos Theme in the middle of John Fogartys Fortunate Sun, frequent references to The Chambers Brothers War, and a powerful rendition of Let a Woman Be a Woman, Let a Man Be a Man. Other guests during this set, considered by some to be the centerpiece of the festival, included Adam Deitch, Big Sam, Kofi Burbridge and all of Lettuce. Thank You Fah Lettin Me Be Mice Elf, and New Orleans (a Dumpsta reworking of the Cajun funk standard Africa) brought this Super Jam set to a rousing close. Soulive had to follow this performance and they did so with the strongest set of the weekend. Ivan Neville joined Neal Evans behind the keys for One In Seven Cannonball, and Alladin featured Rashawn Ross (DMB) on trumpet, Sam Kininger on alto sax, and Ryan Zoidis on tenor sax. Derek Trucks stepped up for Outrage and Kofi Burbridge joined in for Vapor. Then the night sky was lit up as the entire ensemble joined for stellar readings of Babble and Tighten Up, the latter of which featured Nigel Hall on vocals. The New Mastersounds kept things going late in the night, thankfully performing in a heated concert hall (the temperature dropped late Saturday), and their set was augmented by Skerik during 6 Underground and Ivan Neville and Papa Mali for Thermal Bad.
Rebecca Jean Smith got things rolling Sunday, joined for her entire set by the talented acoustic guitar work of Kenny Oliverio (Dread Clampett). Kofi Burbridge augmented the duo for most of the set, lending flute to Step Up, Terry Gibbs Step Up, Hank Williams Preacher, David Vais Trumpets and a few songs from her new CD Ode To Ghost Rose including Grapes To Wine, and The Drift. Donna Hopkins kicked her set off with a debut of Keep Talkin Love and later covered Holly Howells Release. Burbridge brought his flute to the stage to lend embellishments to SPSC (from Hopkins forthcoming CD which has the working title Coming Alive), Battlefront and the set-closing take on the traditional Ill Fly Away, which was preluded by Matchbox featuring Big Sams brawny trombone. Tishamingo performed what could be their last set for a while, southern radio icon Wildman Steve gave People See a distinct washboard backbeat, and Matt Grondin (Inca Maya) and both Burbridge sat in for a version of The Bands Chest Fever that left the crowd roaring. The hybrid experiments never stopped, as even during a weekend-closing (very) late night set from the Tallahassee Allstars at the tiny onsite Tree House stage, The New Mastersounds gradually took over the stage and offered a long jam of their own, one final special moment in a weekend so full of them that even the account listed here is decidedly partial. Report by Rob Turner