Bear Creek isn’t just a typical music festival. It’s a phenomenon. Meaning Bear Creek is;
- something known through the senses rather than by thought or intuition
- a temporal or spatiotemporal object of sensory experience
- a rare or significant fact or event
Bear Creek Music and Arts festival is all of these and so much more. So much has been said about this event already, that all that is left for me to offer is my direct personal account of my Bear Creek festival experience. Here goes.
To repeat myself, Bear Creek is no ordinary festival. It’s a family gathering; composed largely of people, staff, and artists who have been involved in each and every of the 5 years BC has been happening. If you don’t believe me then check out this quote off of this year’s schedule from festival organizers “Lyle and Paul”;
“Lyle and I are humbled to work with the finest staff in the music festival business. Nearly 100% of our crew has been working with Bear Creek since year one. We rarely welcome new staff to our team because of the dedication these amazing individuals have for Bear Creek, this loving musical community, and eachother”
I saw this element for myself when Matt, a sales director for the Spirit of Suwanee park where Bear Creek is held, personally golf carted me and my crew around in the search of the perfect campsite. He found us possibly the best campsite at the park, and then gave us his card just in case anyone challenged our right to be there. This is what you will find at Bear Creek; people who want you to have the most fantastic time humanly possible.
It’s not just the staff that make the Bear Creek family. There are the artists… many musicians who play Bear Creek once can never get the festival out of their heart. There is a definitive style of music that typifies this festival; jazz-funk with specifically many artists that originate in New Orleans. For those that have grown up musically outside of this genre; it is not possible for us to imagine the solidarity, the love and pride, or the FUN these people have on stage… unless you go see it for yourself. They freely interact with the crowd, consistently show up and jam for eachother’s shows, and don’t stop reminding you that there is no other place on earth like Bear Creek. There is just no describing the ways in which the music reaches out and makes you a part of the Bear Creek family.. but it happens, and it is BEYOND addictive.
The people who orchestrate this festival know this, and they make it last as long as they can. Bear Creek festival starts on Wednesday night and has music straight through to Sunday night with several bands playing 2 sets; its a non stop party of music and love. Many of the bands are made up of different artists from other bands in attendance like Dr. Klaw and Chapter 2, so there is a definite continuity of sound throughout the festival. For some this is a strong positive quality; for me, in the past, it seemed to lend a homogenous quality to a lot of the performances… a sameness from act to act. But with the talent and the energy and the love that these artists bring, its really nothing to complain about and often culminates in some truly amazing moments where the musicians reveal something totally new, or some part of each other not seen with other acts. Also, I think Bear Creek brought some real variety to the table this year with artists like Trey Anastasio, Big Gigantic, Beats Antique, Hairy Apes BMX, and Freekbass and Skerik Silent Disco. Staples of the scene for the past couple years include George Porter and the Running Pardners, Soulive, Dr. Klaw, The Funky Meters, The New Mastersounds, Lettuce, Zach Deputy, Snarky Puppy (the Return to Forever of our generation), and Dumpstaphunk (featuring AMAZING new female drummer Nikki Glaspie). The other element really providing variety the way ONLY Bear Creek does is the “Artists At Large” component. This is a list of artists that can (and will) show up on almost every stage at Bear Creek; spontaneously jamming with anyone who will let them. It’s a truly amazing quality I can’t find, but always crave, at any other festival.
In Ivan Neville’s words, “First and foremost we are music fans.”
And its true, you can tell that every artist who plays at Bear Creek is in awe of, and enjoys playing with, every other artist.
So what makes Bear Creek so special?? I got the chance this year to speak with band members of Earphunk, who we have written about several times before and who actually introduced us here at The Way Live Should Be to Bear Creek. They played their first two shows ever at Bear Creek this year, which were both absolutely fantastic. What, I asked them, makes Bear Creek what it is?? After we all conceded that its almost impossible to distinguish everything that makes the festival so unique, Paul Provosty, guitarist, said,
“People who come to Bear Creek seek this festival out, which makes it special. You don’t hear any of this music on the radio, so the people that come here really want to be here.”
(Check out our Earphunk CD review)
It’s very true, and I do think the small size of attendance at Bear Creek is part of what keeps it so intimate. Everyone who goes to Bear Creek is always so thankful and so happy to be there… its not hard to find people who have been going for 3 years or more.
There is so much to be said about Bear Creek. There is the beauty… the landscape and trees everywhere dripping with Spanish moss. I don’t have the stomach for psychedelics that I once did, but they are virtually unnecessary at Bear Creek because the scenery is so gorgeous and trippy at night. There is the lake, and the river, and Frisbee golf, hiking trails… if you can find time around music to spare for them. There is the general safety and comfort in a smaller sized festival, in having access to real bathrooms with showers, and the happy-to-assist staff. There is the set up; a natural ampitheater stage, multiple outdoor stages, indoor stages for when its cold at night, even an onsite general store, craft village, and food parlor. There is the constant appreciation and support for visual artists with gallery space and constant live painting.
Friends… get the hint. GO TO BEAR CREEK. Support one of the most amazing musical phenomena in the United States. Come join the family.
On facebook: Bear Creek Music And Arts Festival
Review by Heather Omand of The Way Live Should Be