Bear Creek: Friday
Words & Photos By Joe Davidson & Amy Pania
Friday Review 11.12.2010
I woke up to Friday morning realizing that I couldn’t fight off what turned out to be an abscessed tooth. Luckily my friend, a local, hooked up a brief visit to the dentist to get some antibiotics and some pain killers so I could make it through the weekend. After I made it back to the venue I booked it over catch the tail end of the second set of the weekend from John Brown’s Body.
John Brown’s Body played an afternoon set on the porch stage. Promising another look the day before, the band delivered. It’s very easy for reggae bands to be monotonous, but not this one. Most reggae I’ve listened to is lead by an arsenal of percussionist, but JBB draws focus from every member. The horn section was a crucial element to the band’s sound playing more of a rhythm part than an occasional accent.
I noticed a large crowd had already assembled in the amphitheater as I walked down to the stage in anticipation for the second Toubab Krewe set of the weekend. TBK has become one of my favorite acts out on the circuit with their unique blend of percussion, jam, and soul they give during every song. TBK’s Friday evening set began with an introduction of continuous drumming for well-over five minutes. TBK announced “This is the best music park in the country!” The crowd “wooed” in unison and the consensus was apparent.
The orange and red glow of their lights symbolized a tribal dance party as bodies swayed and heads bopped. As I migrated to the VIP tent directly across from the Amphitheater and the early evening dusk disappeared into the night’s darkness, it was obvious they were setting the mood for the remainder of the night.
I’ve heard much about Everyone Orchestra in the past couple years and was very excited to see it in person. Matt Butler had such a great presence on stage, like he belonged there. I had never seen anything like it: a host of diverse musicians brought together by one man who conducted each song. Artist for this set included Garaj Mahal, members of Toubab Krewe, Jeff Mosier, Jen Hartwick, Kofi Burbridge, and others.
Shortly into the second song Butler held up a sign that simply said “E.” The group started slowly trying to figure out what exactly to do and suddenly meshed together perfectly. Butler would single out musicians calling for a solo or to speed up or slow down the tempo. Towards the end of the same song he started to write messages for the crowd incorporating them into the show; I’ve never seen crowd participation to this degree before, amazing.
Perpetual Groove opened up their weekend with a set at the amphitheater. P Groove played a solid set including a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” which had the fans jumping around with arms up, literally everyone was singing along. They progressed into a lengthy, powerful, twenty-minute jam.
Halfway through the set we headed up to camp to get some dinner. We could hear the set just fine from camp as they were still on the same jam. We wandered back up to the stage area in anticipation for a set from Zach Deputy.
Zach Deputy started his weekend with a night time performance on the porch stage. I’ve been watching him grow over the past year and I was so happy to see that the stage area filled up just before he took the stage. I’ve never seen so many people at that stage before, at any of the Suwannee festivals. Zach stepped up and threw down the best set I’ve ever seen him play. Song after song he was feeding off the crowd and throwing it right back.
We walked over to find a nice place to sit down and take a load off and watched a few more songs of the spectacular set. The crowd continued to dance away all the way up to the end of the set, very impressive considering there were five other stages going.
While heading over to the tent stage we ran into a friend who informed us that Soulive and Umprey’s switched stages, so we headed for the amphitheater to catch Soulive. I walked up to the photo pit trying to secure a good spot and waited and waited. Ten minutes later the band to the stage and started to groove immediately.
With a jazzy foundation laid down by the keys and the drums, the guitarist was free to run up and down the fretboard. I was very impressed by this group. They are one of those bands who make a lot of sound with just three members, as if there were a large group on stage.
Umprey’s opened with “1348,” an indication that they would not disappoint! Their characteristic heavy metal/jam sound that typically drives their fans nuts as was evident with the screams, chants, heads bouncing all over, and an arsenal of hoopers to the side of the stage.
The guitar work of Brendan and Jake worked so well together. Roosevelt Collier added his incredible steel guitar skills on “Women Wine and Song” combined with Joel Cummins on keyboard—the sound that stood out the most during the song. After completing an intricate heavy guitar jam, Brenden, the bass player said, “Got to love it when it works out like that.”
The band then broke into “Barracuda,” a Heart cover featuring Jen Hartswick of the Trey Anastasio Band on vocals. The combination of her powerful vocals with guitar made this cover more enjoyable than the original.
The set closed out with “Hangover” featuring Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 on vocals. “Fucking love all of ya’ll,” said Brenden just before he left the stage.
The New Mastersounds played their first set in the tent closing out the day of music. This is another band that I didn’t know much about before the festival. After a short delay working out sound issues the band got right to it. I was pleasantly surprised to hear what was coming from the stage, a good rock and roll band. The front man was the first to catch my eye; he was having more fun than the crowd was.
I caught myself watching more than taking pictures while I had my three songs to take photos, I couldn’t help it. The communication between the band was incredible. As soon as a song was ending they would just look at each other and would seamlessly break into another, a new song with a completely different rhythm. After a couple of straight rock songs they broke into a few “jam” tracks. The front man’s energy was spreading around the stage and halfway through the set the entire band was all smiles and having a blast. With a couple of songs to go the group was joined by Roosevelt Collier from The Lee Boys on his new stand lap steel guitar. The sound blended perfectly.
After a couple jams Roosevelt headed off stage, the band played their finale and the night came to end for us. We headed off to the warmth of the fire and passed out.