Bear Creek: Saturday
Words & Photos By Amy Pania & Joe Davidson
I felt the ache of covering six stages when I woke up to the frigid morning. We hung out at camp for a few hours listening to the morning sets from Saltwater Grass and Rubblebucket. After lounging for a while we gathered our gear and made our way to the stages.
George Porter & the Runnin’ Pardners were at the Amphitheater playing an afternoon set. I loved the overall energy of the band, especially George. The good vibes were flying around as the three o’clock sun was shining through the Spanish moss covered Live Oaks.
I was happy to see Dubconscious on the bill. The band has taken a few years off from touring to pursue other endeavors and side projects. They were better than I remembered. I’ve always been quite fond of Dub when executed properly and these guys were up to the task. The percussionist was the first member to stand out to me.
He played a Djembe for most of the set but busted out an arsenal of blocks, claves, and other percussion gizmos. The guitar playing front man has a very unique voice that represents the band well.
After the ride back up to the Amphitheater I prepared myself for a set from the Maceo Parker Band. I’ve seen a lot of shows in my time and this was a particular treat for me. I was very happy to see this act at the festival; it was a chance for me and others of younger generations to witness the roots of music, to see real musicians.
The presence of Maceo was second to none. He connects with his audience in a way that I had never seen before. Ambling around the entire stage he absorbed the crowd and exhaled it out through his sax.
I felt honored after the leaving the show, as if I had just matured musically.
I was disappointed to see that Moe. and the Bonobo Live Band were playing at the exact same time at conflicting stages. I decided to hit Moe. first and run over to the tent to catch the tail end of Bonobo. As we entered the Amphitheater I stopped for a second in awe, in the seven years I’ve been attending shows at this magical location I had never seen so many people packed in. The vibe was so powerful it lifted me out of the bubble of pain I was in and provided some relief for a while. We entered the gate into the photo pit and were met by a wall of photographers, oh the joy of headliners. I found a way to squeeze through the pack and set up stage right, the only bit of comfort I could find. A large roar came from the crowd as soon as the house music stopped and the band took the stage. Bass player Rob Derhak came out on crutches, sitting down with his cast covered leg on a chair in front of him. He later humorously mentioned his broken ankle and told the crowd in the back that he wasn’t being lazy.
The band started with “The Pit” which slowly gained speed up to the climax of heavy guitar solos and strobe lights encompassing the entire stage that were close to giving me seizure. I tried to take two shots in the chaos of the strobes and decided to wait it out.
After conditions were back to “normal” there was a five minute xylophone solo that was completely mesmerizing, reminiscent of Zappa. I wedged myself in front of the bassist, got the shot I was after and surrendered, I couldn’t take the pit anymore.
Once we made it out of the gate we were faced by the insane number of people that were in the amphitheater and decided to walk up to the top and sit down.
I was so drawn into the Moe. set that I almost missed the set from the Bonobo Live Band. I was surprised to see such a large crowd at the tent because of the huge group at the Amphitheater. I made my way up to the front and sweet talked my way up into the photo pit because the three song limit was long gone. I was told that I could have one minute and had to be out. As soon as got into position the lights turned bright red and were pointing straight at my lens, covering the shots shot with a glare. I looked at my test shots and laughed to myself thinking, oh well. My minute was up and I had nothing. The sound coming from the stage was amazing, it sounded better than the recordings I’ve heard by him. A beautiful soundscape was created and the female vocalist was a real treat.
The New Deal was a gem of the evening. Walking into the pit and only seeing a bass, drums, and keyboard set-up, I didn’t know what to expect. The sound created by the trio was astonishing, it sounded like there was a large group on stage.
Amidst the cacophony the band was still able to be clear and precise with their jams. The band broke into a fast jam early into the first song of the set and created a spark early.
Communication between the group was fun to watch, each member looking at each other with great smiles and occasional shouts.
Cope from Tampa, Florida has been gaining momentum the last few years and were happy to throw their local touch on the festival.
The late night Music Hall set was a big opportunity for the band. The band stepped up and rocked the house. With big smiles they were in nonstop motion for the first two songs. A few songs in, the guitar player picked up an empty bottle and started to use it as a slide on his Strat.
The result was a swampy sound similar to the environment of north Florida. I stayed for a couple more songs and headed off to the tent to prepare for the last set of the night.
The crowd was treated to a set from Lettuce to close out the night of music. With the funk bouncing all around the tent, the energy of the show was unparalleled all weekend. The crowd, mostly decked out in costumes, was nonstop the entire set, as was the band.
It is obvious how deep the roots run for this band while observing the chemistry between the group. Being lifelong friends, the members build upon each other to create a powerful sound that can’t be denied.
The straight funk was a great way to prepare for the chaos of Saturday night, and chaos it was.
As the stages were shutting down the party moved to the camping areas and didn’t stop all night. I went to camp after Lettuce, sitting down and not moving for a couple hours due to the wave of tired that swept through my body. I could hear the insanity of Saturday night going off all around me but wasn’t able to get the energy to go explore. Zach Deputy played an unscheduled show on top of his U-Haul in the early morning hours in the vending area. I could hear him but still couldn’t find the motivation to wander. We lounged by the blessing of the fire for a while longer and finally surrendered to the exhaustion with madness ensuing all around.