Sunday, November 25, 2007


Sunday, November 18, 2007
Live Oak, FL

During our recent week-long Thanksgiving vacation at the beach, we managed a little getaway to the Bear Creek Music Festival, where we got to see some great live music. The site was an hour east of Tallahassee, and about a 3-1/2 hour drive from the condo in Santa Rosa Beach (near Pensacola), where we were staying with Carley's parents.

With the small, laid-back crowd and the main stage set under a canopy of tall oak trees, the ambience reminded us of being back in northern California. As patrons, we could not have asked for a much better experience, in such a beautiful spot, and not having to wait in line for anything! The unfortunate aspect of the small crowd is that the promoters probably lost lots of money, making it not so likely that the festival will be back next year.

Bear Creek Music Festival took place from Friday to Sunday and featured over 40 bands, including several late-night shows. The biggest name on the bill was Little Feat, who headlined on Saturday night. However, due to our travel and parenting constraints, we missed them and only caught a few acts on Sunday afternoon and evening. No complaints, though, since the three that we saw were the ones that we already KNEW we wanted to see, since they were already among our favorite live acts that are touring these days.

First up was the young British instrumental funk quartet, New Mastersounds. We first saw these guys at New Orleans Jazzfest last spring, and they play a tasty blend of retro-soul-jazz-funk, heavily influenced by the likes of Grant Green and The Meters from the early 70's. The uncontested star of the band is guitarist Eddie Roberts, seen here with bassist Pete Shand. Shand's bass-playing is also a joy to the ears...and the hips!

Drummer Simon Allen holds down the hip-shake grooves with style.

Keyboard player Joe Tatton has fit in very nicely with the band since replacing their original keyboardist a couple of years ago.

A special guest sat in on trombone, but we're not sure who he was.

The view from the stage. There were not a whole lot of people checking out the New Mastersounds set, but those that were present were not disappointed.

The festival also featured a second stage, where we checked out Skerik's Maelstrom Trio. This stage did not have the benefit of the shady canopy of trees, but it did have a beautiful backdrop of trees covered with Spanish moss.

Skerik is a saxophonist from Seattle who plays in a variety of projects and has become something of an underground cult hero. His distinctive pioneering style has been dubbed "saxophonics", and all of his musical projects are adventurous in one way or another. Maelstrom Trio features Skerik playing with a couple up-and-coming hotshots from the New Orleans music scene:

Simon Lott is a total badass on the drums. He made his breakthrough playing with legendary jazz-funk guitarist Charlie Hunter.

Brian Coogan is an in-demand keyboard player these days, having played with several top names in the improv-jazz-rock touring scene, including Galactic's Stanton Moore and Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing.

As is typical of Skerik projects, the Maelstrom Trio delved into a variety of musical styles, including rock, funk, and several styles of jazz. In particular they were fearless in their explorations of modern free jazz, occasionally even using their voices as musical instruments (as Skerik demonstrates in the photo above).

During one of the more "out-there" jams, drummer Simon Lott even played a small horn in a most disarming way. This part of the show reminded Rob of a parody of the Beatles' "Revolution #9" (from the White Album), though it was more likely inspired by some of Frank Zappa's early work with the Mothers of Invention.

The show featured mostly original music and improvisations, but also included a couple of recognizable covers: the Charles Mingus standard Better Get Hit In Your Soul, and a classic rock cover that totally escapes our memory as we write this 2 weeks after the show. (Maybe a Hendrix cover?) Overall we were blown away by the musicianship and interactive improvisation of the show, but we also agreed this was not the type of music we'd regularly put into the CD player.

Headlining the Bear Creek Festival was one of our top 3 touring bands these days, Umphrey's McGee. Formed in the late 90s at Notre Dame University and currently based in the Chicago area, Umphrey's combines prog-rock music structures, fusion-jazz improvisations, blazing guitar virtuosity, tuneful melodies and a hard-rock-metal edge, creating a unique trademark sound that has earned them a growing fanbase across the country.

Umphrey's McGee is led by singer-guitarist Brendan Bayliss, who named the band after his cousin Humphreys McGee (who coincidentally is now a lawyer in Oxford, MS, about 45 minutes from our house).

Second guitarist Jake Cininger was added to the band in 2000, and he brings the jazz-fusion and heavy metal aspects to the band. Watching him play guitar from the front row (as we did) can be a jaw-dropping experience! (To the left is keyboardist Joel Cummins.)

Jake got in our face! Towering over us while standing on the stage monitor/amp, he stuck the guitar down in front of our camera for what could have been a great close-up photo if Rob had been ready for it.

The best parts of the show were when guitarists Jake and Brendan dueled it out in blazing flashes of virtuosity. In the background is percussionist Andy Farag. (We never did get a good photo of drummer Kris Myers.)

Rounding out the band is Pittsburgh-native Ryan Stasik, who shows off one of his many hats while holding down the bass end.

It was great being able to watch the band from the rail, where we could clearly watch the guitarists do their stuff.

Unlike most bands at the festival, Umphrey's played 2 full sets and an encore. Known for their audacious covers, they played all original material until the very end, when they busted out Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run", and then encored with Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song". We loved the show so much that we wasted no time paying $12.95 to download a perfect-sounding recording of it from

Here's what they played:

Got Your Milk (Right Here)
Eat >
2x2 >
Jimmy Stewart >
Thin Air

Nothing Too Fancy
Sociable Jimmy
The Bottom Half
Believe the Lie
End of the Road
Band On The Run

Pay the Snucka
Nothing Too Fancy
Immigrant Song

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