If you’re one of those people who loves getting down and can never seem to get enough low end or brass in your life, get your booty down to Live Oak, FL this weekend for the 7th Annual Bear Creek Music Festival.
In just a few short years, Bear Creek has quickly risen through the ranks of the crowded festival scene to reign supreme as one of the few can’t-miss festivals on the funk/jam circuit. Boasting a who’s who of New Orleans royalty, and the funkiest bands from Brooklyn, Austin, Cali, and everywhere in between, this festival consistently delivers one giant ass-shakin good time year after year. I’ve been known to call it the best fest east of the Mississippi, and have yet to meet anyone that’s been there disagree with me. In fact, it’s one of those festivals that artists circle on the calendar and look forward to as well — a rare chance to hang out and collaborate with their fellow musicians.
For the sake of generalization, Bear Creek is an extremely intimate fest that is essentially two parts JazzFest at night, one part JamCruise minus the bluegrass, with a dash of electronic music and a Silent Disco to keep the party going into the wee hours for good measure. Do I have your attention yet?
To top it all off, Bear Creek is situated at one of the most picturesque festival camping grounds I’ve ever seen, The Spirit of Suwanee. Located in northern Florida, the site has the vibe of the nearby Everglades, with a lake surrounded by Cypress trees and Spanish Moss. While the natural beauty is second to none, the amenities that the campground offers are very atypical for a festival as well: golf carts, a general store, log cabins and treehouses, and hot showers taboot! Suwanee plays host to a bunch of different festivals over the course of the year (The AURA Music & Arts Festival, Wanee Music Fest, Springfest, Magnolia Fest, and The Purple Hatters Ball, to name a few), but for my money, Bear Creek is the creme de la creme year after year. Festival founder Paul Levine consistently books bands that slay live and this year is no exception.
At the top of this year’s bill is the legendary Roots crew and funk god/space traveller Bootsy Collins of Funkadelic fame. I have heard nothing but raves about Bootsy’s live show with his Funk Unity Band, so this is sure to be a set to remember. The usual suspects are also in the house: The New Mastersounds, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Galactic, The Motet, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, and The Pimps of Joytime will all be laying it down with two sets apiece, and in keeping with one of the best festival traditions out there, the two dirtiest funk bands on the circuit today, Dumpstaphunk and Lettuce, will close down the fest with back-to-back sets on the main stage on Sunday.
Other bands that I am particularly looking forward to include soul-singer Lee Fields who absolutely blew away the late night crowd at High Sierra this summer, Bonobo who is performing a rare full-band set, the always funkarrific Brownout, and New England prog-jam supergroup Kung Fu. Antibalas, the best afrobeat band around, will also be making an appearance, as will New Orleans band The Revivalists, who have been having a banner year and gaining notoriety well beyond their hometown with their engaging mix of rock and soul. This will also be my first chance to check out The Nth Power, Dumpstaphunk’s ferocious drummer Nikki Glasspie’s new four-piece with Nigel Hall.
Last but certainly not least, everyone’s favorite evil saxophonist Skerik is leading this year’s Orchestra-At-Large, and what sort of tunes he’ll lead the assembled masses in is anybody’s guess. This is sure to be just one of many artist collaborations throughout the weekend — you know you’ve got yourselves a good time when the only question floating around in the air is where George Porter Jr and Robert Walter will sit in next.