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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Saturday, November 17, 2007 to
Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Tupelo, school is out the whole week for Thanksgiving, which is much different from where Rob grew up in Pennsylvania. Having the whole week off gave us 9 continuous days of vacation, which is a good thing. We needed it!

We spent most of the week with Carley's parents in Santa Rosa Beach, near the Florida Panhandle resort town of Destin.

Carley and Rowan were in good spirits for the roadtrip - despite being in the car for about 7 hours each way. The photo above was taken in the parking lot of Felix's Fish Camp restaurant, just outside of Mobile, Alabama, about 2/3 of the way from home.

Felix's sits on the edge of the Mobile Bay, with huge windows offering views of the USS Alabama Memorial Park and the downtown skyline. It may not be California or Colorado, but this was probably the most interesting view we saw along the 7 hour trip - much better than the endless stretches of flat nothing-land. Thankfully, the menu was even better than the view. We'll definitely be back.

To deal with the long car-ride, Rowan demanded a steady stream of toys and food. In the photo above he tested out a pickle; shortly after the photo was taken, however, the pickle was thrown to the floor. Overall, though, we have to say the trip went pretty smoothly. :-)

Possibly the best thing about our vacation is that it gave us a chance to take lots of photos of Rowan, which was desparately needed. He's been growing so fast recently! He just started walking in mid-November, at 14 months, and the changes are coming more quickly than ever!

Rowan never seemed to get bored with exploring the long as there were toys around. By no coincidence, the condo was the same one we stayed in for the week of July 4th and for the week of Spring Break.

Another great thing about our vacation was getting to see Carley's brother, Barrett, who came up to meet us at the condo on Thanksgiving. These days Barrett is living in Gainesville, FL, working for a start-up company that is developing a video game for Ignition Entertainment (a huge multinational video game corporation).

Gainesville was about 4-1/2 hours southeast from our condo, but we were feeling adventurous, so we left Rowan with Carley's parents for a night and took a roadtrip to see Barrett's new bachelor pad. (Not for long! The wedding is in April.) Gainesville is a pretty nice, medium-sized, progressive-minded city. It is also home to the University of Florida, best known for it's NCAA football and men's basketball teams, both of which won their respective national championships in 2007.

Our roadtrip to Gainesville also included a stop at the Bear Creek Music Festival in Live Oak, FL. This was conveniently located about halfway between Gainesville and our condo in Santa Rosa Beach. At the festival we saw a few of our favorite bands and enjoyed a beautiful, laid-back atmosphere that reminded us of being back in northern California. Click here for a full review and lots of photos of the festival.

Back at the beach, it was a little chilly for swimming, but nice enough for playing in the sand and getting our feet wet.

Nevertheless, Rowan was determined to get in the water any chance he got!

He was absolutely fascinated by the waves, shrieking and giggling with joy each time one washed up over his feet.

Needless to say, he protested loudly and forcefully when we finally decided it was time to go back up to the condo and warm up.

Another eye-opening experience for Rowan was the hike we took at nearby Grayton Beach State Park. We are both outdoor enthusiasts, and we're hoping that Rowan will be too.

Rowan wasn't able to do much actual hiking, as you can imagine, so we had to carry him for most of the hike. (It's time for us to get a baby-carrier-backpack!) In the photo above, Rob teaches Rowan how to make a "raspberry" (also known as a "Bronx cheer").

Rowan got to check out all kinds of new things, like the spongy deer moss that was all over the ground on parts of our hike.

Also of interest was the Spanish moss that hangs from trees all over the state of Florida.

Even the sand was completely fascinating!

As usual, however, Rowan's favorite piece of nature was the ubiquitous pine needle, which is nothing new to him, since our backyard has hundreds of thousands of these.

Fortunately he seemed to instinctively know to stay out of the spiky-leafed saw palmettos.

On Thanksgiving Day we got dressed up casual and went out for a big holiday lunch at the absolutely incredible Cafe Thirty-A. This is by far our favorite restaurant in the area, and it's worth going out of the way for. Fortunately, it was only a 15-minute drive for us. We liked it so much that we ate there twice in less than a week. Unfortunately we weren't able to post a good photo of the family all together because Carley's Dad insists on not having his photo appear on the Internet.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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