Bear Creek: Funk in The Florida Sun
Collaborations were abundant over the past weekend as the Bear Creek Music and Arts Festival returned to Live Oak, Florida. Temperatures soared to the upper eighties during the day and sunk to below freezing at night as fans gathered for three days in order to celebrate all that is funk.
The first full day of the festival featured performances by Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, recent Brooklyn Bowl Monday night residents The London Souls, and an energetic set by George Porter Jr. & Runnin’ Pardners, just one of many projects featuring a member of the extended Meters family.
The Anders Osborne Trio—made up of Eric Bolivar, Carl Dufrene and Billy Iuso—took the stage to a packed crowd on Friday, performing a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree” that featured George Porter Jr. and Stanton Moore, as well as Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer.” Jamie McLean also joined the band for a bit. Karl Denson’s set also featured numerous collaborations and covers, including The Rolling Stones’ “Bitch,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin” featuring The Lee Boys pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier, as well as “Dead Flowers” and “Moonlight Mile” with Anders Osborne. Chali 2na debuted a new live backing band for his afternoon performance at the festival, which included renditions of “Freedom,” “What’s Golden,” “Quality Control” and “One More Chance,” all performed in his classic baritone voice. Other highlights of the night included a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” by Soulive featuring special guest Corey Glover of Living Colour, a collaboration between George Porter Jr. and The Russel Batiste Band for “Cissy Strut,” and a surprise sit in by Freekbass, The London Soul’s Chris St. Hilaire and dopapod’s Eli Winderman during Turkuaz’s set.
While a lot of the buzz about Bear Creek was centered around the Trey Anastasio Band, there was still ample music to check out other than the side project of the Phish frontman on Saturday. Thirteen piece afro-beat group Zongo Junction opened the main stage, performing funk and soul numbers inspired by Fela Kuti, yet made accessible for the dance floor. Jazz-fusion veterans Medeski, Martin and Wood were joined by John Scofield for one of their sets, which included “Little Walter Rides Again,” a cover of The Beatles’ “Julia,” “Uninvisible” off of the quartet’s 2002 acid-jazz tinged release of the same name, and sit-ins by resident “artists at large” Roosevelt Collier once again on pedal steel and former JB’s saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis.
The also welcomed New Orleans drummers Johnny Vidacovich and Stanton Moore during their other set.
Ellis sat in with Cope earlier in the night for a cover of “Pass The Peas,” a song that he regularly played with James Brown’s backing band in the early 1970s. Ellis was joined on stage by Jonathan Lloyd, an Atlanta-based trombone player most famously known for fronting the ska group Lloyd’s Rocksteady Review. The New Mastersounds set was filled with collaborations from performers all over the bill, including New Orleans drummer Johnny Vidacovich on “Pure,” Roosevelt Collier on “This Ain’t Gonna Work, and singer/songwriter Zach Deputy and Greyboy Allstars keyboardist Robert Walter.
Although lacking the collaborative spirit that the festival seemed to foster, Anastasio didn’t let his guard down during his two and a half hour set, performing covers of The Charlie Daniels Bands’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” and “Ooh Child” by The Five Stairsteps (a song Trey regularly covered back in the Trey Trio tour of 1999). The set also included Phish originals “Alaska,” “Sand” and “Gotta Jibboo,” as well as TAB staples “Push On Til’ The Day,” “Cayman Review,” “Simple Twist Up Dave,” “Burlap Sack & Pumps,” and a few others. After the Trey set came the “Dumpstajam,” which featured the aforementioned artists at large, Zach Deputy, Eric Krasno, Billy Iuso and the Lettuce horn section for freeform jams that included a take on The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” and Sly and The Family Stones’ “I Want to Take You Higher.” Other highlights of the night included Pee Wee Ellis sitting in with the Funky Meters for “The World Is A Little Bit Under The Weather,” Ivan Neville joining The Funky Meters for “Ain’t No Use,” a collaboration between the Snarky Puppy horns and the Jen Hartswick Band for “Blame It On The Boogie,” and a Fela Kuti medley during the Break Science set that featured members of Lettuce’s horn section.
The final day of the festival climaxed in a giant superjam on the Purple Hat stage, featuring a performance by the “Orchestra at Large,” which included Reed Mathis, Will Bernard, Skerik, Johnny Vidacovich, Nikki Glaspie, Pee Wee Ellis and Roosevelt Collier. Dumpstaphunk were the final band to play, joined by both George Porter Jr. and Pee Wee Ellis for portions of a whopping set that included a cover of David Bowie’s “Fame,” Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box,” and the Dumpstaphunk original “Put It In The Dumpsta’.” As the final notes filled the scenic park fans wrapped themselves in sweatshirts and sleeping bags, ready to sleep off three days of completely unscripted funk.