Gargoyle staffers remember 2010 Bear Creek Music & Art Festival

By Ryan Buffa and Philip C. Sunkel |
Photos by Philip C. Sunkel IV

Day 1
By Ryan Buffa

Once I arrived at Bear Creek I was in awe. The campground was covered with tents blocked off with tapestries with album covers like the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix.

Streamers hung from branches covered in Spanish moss and lights strung between the trees. Girls walked the grounds barefooted, and wore nothing but flowered skirts and bikini tops.

On the road to the stages vendors displayed handcrafted jewelry, band t-shirts, glass art and paintings. The Suwannee Music Park is truly the Southeast’s most beautiful venue.

As I walked through the campsite and into the venue, I felt like I just crossed the border into a foreign country: a complete culture shock. The people wore costumes, huge furry top hats in neon colors, tie dye shirts and bare feet, or wore nothing at all to display their tattoos and piercings.

It was as if it was a competition of who could wear the most outrageous outfit or who could be pointed out of the crowd the best.

I stuck out like a sore thumb and looked like I didn’t get the memo about the costume party.

Upon nightfall, everything changes. Suwannee Music Park exudes a magical feeling. As darkness covered the park, everyone at the festival released a contagious energy that made me want to dance along with the crowd and say hello to everyone I saw.

Fire dancers played in the middle of the crowd, forming circles of people standing in awe. Girls danced with hula hoops that had colorful lights and flashed in the dark, mesmerizing intrigued bystanders. The paintings glowed and the stage lights took on its own personality as it shined across the crowd.

At the campground stage, Where the Wild Things Are cutouts of all the characters surrounded the side of the stage to fit in perfectly with the vibe of the campsite: we were all Max and friends playing in the forest.

The old trees stretched towards the stars and the Spanish moss hung like a protective canopy. I felt like I regressed back to childhood as I ran through the woods of the campsite and laughed around the campfire with my new friends.

Flagler College student, Cooper Neil said, “Bear Creek was like going back home. The music and the people made me feel right at home.”

ToubabKrewe played their instrumental infused American/Mali musical styles at the outdoor amphitheater, where the only seats provided are the hammocks hung between the trees and wooden steps in order to provide a large space for people to dance to the beat. Charli 2Na of Jurassic 5 made a guest appearance on stage to drop some old school rhymes on the new school drum beats provided by Toubab.

John Brown’s Body played at dusk on Friday to start the night off just right. The mix of reggae and dub step created a modern edge reggae sound that made people move their feet. The energy flowing through the crowd seemed like the festival was ready to start a revolution of love.

This was JBB’s second time playing at Bear Creek. After their first appearance in 2008, several markets opened up for this modern reggae band to tour all over Florida: “We didn’t really come this far down south so much … it’s been really good for us. It’s a great festival,” said JBB’s drummer, Tommy Benedetti.

John Brown’s Body originated from Ithaca, NY and Boston, Mass., which is why they have strayed from the typical and predictable reggae sound that might normally be heard coming from the docks of St. Augustine’s “Reggae Sundays.” Benedetti said, “It’s not your traditional ‘fun in the sun’ type reggae necessarily…We’re not trying to be Rasta. We just try to love the music that we love and we’re lucky enough to get to play it.”

John Brown’s Body took hold of their roots and musical inspirations to create a new reggae noise and deliver a modern, laid back, urban reggae sound to the Beer Creek Festival.

“It’s our duty as musicians in 2010 to do our own thing,” said Benedetti. “So we don’t want to rehash things that have been done before. We just want to take the inspirations of the people before us to try to become our experiences and where we’re from.”

The ability of JBB to filter all the influences that spark the fuse to their creativity produced a feel good sound perfect for unique festivals like Beer Creek.

The cold crept over the music park as the sun set. The campfire and the energy of the dancing crowds were the only source of heat. It provided plenty of opportunities to meet new people who all are at the festival to have an eccentric experience no matter the conditions.

I contemplated leaving as I was unsure if I could make it through the cold of the night in a tent and sleeping bag, but I knew that if I left I would miss out on a worthwhile experience.

That experience occurred as Papadosio hit the campground stage. The crowd thickened and the lights intensified as it bounced off the lake behind the stage. Papadosio’s Electronic/Dub sound had the campsite moving.

As I gazed at the people I realized that I was not the only one whose jaw had dropped by the visual pleasures the show was providing. The colorful lights went wild as it matched the beat. A white light paused over the stage during the breakdown of the song and all I saw was a Spanish moss curtain and the illuminating lake behind phantom figures with instruments.

Day 2
By Philip C. Sunkel IV

Saturday’s lineup of music was just as stacked as the night before. Unlike the freezing night before, the day was filled with warm sun and good vibes.

Most of my afternoon and morning was spent wandering the festival and campgrounds searching out friends. The place was a maze of dusty, dirty roads filled with people clad in clothing that could only lead people to believe they are Hippies.

As the sun turns to dusk and dusk turns to darkness, Suwanee changes completely. Just like the night before everything seems like a different world.

Glowsticks, Glowing Hula Hoops, Fire Dancers, Costumes, you name it was out there at night time. Suwanee is like a giant playground for adults to indulge in their hidden inner child.

One of the most outstanding sets I saw on this evening had to have been the crazy beats of Break Science inside the purple hat tent. The crowd went wild to the drum beat infused electronic tunes pumping out of the speakers.

Half-way through Break Science’s set my clothes were dripping as if I had just run through the rain. I could not help but to keep dancing even though I was profusely sweating to the mesmerizing drop of the bass.

As the set ended, I walked out into the freezing night with the hot sticky sweat clinging to every inch of my body. I was freezing and sweaty hot as I made my way through the large field towards the amphitheater.

Walking back to the campsite to regroup with friends I caught a glimpse of the always reliable set of Perpetual Groove, who if you haven’t seen, you’re missing out.

Moe came on early in the evening playing to a packed amphitheater at Suwanee. Lead singer Rob Derhak limped onto stage with a broken leg but

kept the party going the second he picked up his bass.

Soft colors of beautifully blended hues expelled from the lights behind the members of Moe as they strung together their Jammy rock songs. Strobe lights and smoke machines added the lights creating an experience which can only be described by witnessing it in person.

Shortly after Moe, I wandered back over to the purple hat, which is really just an oversized industrial “party” tent, to see The New Deal’s set.

As the three members whirled together their electronic dance beats I could not help but notice the satisfaction on everyone’s faces, band included. The music seemed to lift us all away from our everyday problems and bring us together to experience the joy of this weekend.

Once I left the comfort of the purple hat’s heat, I trudged through the brisk cold to the amphitheater where Ivan Neville’s Dumpstajam was preparing to take the stage.

As the band came on stage to play their funky soul jams the crowd leaving

The New Deal show began to fill the empty tiers of the amphitheater.

Before I knew it the cold was replaced with the heat of a couple thousand bodies moving to the rhythm. Dumpstajam’s set was like a dream lost in a freezing cold haze of modern day funk.

The final set of the night was Lettuce. I had seen Lettuce once before at Bear Creek the year prior, and knew I had to catch another one of their amazing lively sets.

As lettuce laid down their funked out jazz tunes, the giant tent began to fill to its capacity. There were so many people in the tent the ceiling began to drip with moisture from all the condensation leaving the peoples sweaty bodies combined with the cold outside.

As Lettuce continued to produce jazzy dance beats I caught great photo after great photo. The room was filled with movement only produced at festivals like this one.

Leaving the Purple tent I felt a little dismayed that my evening was coming to a close, as was Bear Creek 2010.

Walking back to my campsite at around 3 a.m. I noticed some unusual lights in the woods not too far from where I was camping. I walked the road and could not believe what I saw.

Pandora or the “visual pleasure center” as my friends and I referred to it as consisted of: day glow plants which looked like they were straight out of Avatar, crazy green laser lights, strobe lights, dub music, and glowing items all over the place.

When I arrived at my campsite I regrouped with my little crew and we set out to walk around. Not even five minutes later we came across the party bus.

As the truck passed by, I caught a glimpse of a man with a mustache leaning out and saying in a low deep voice “we got couches.” From what I could tell, someone had taken an old delivery truck and converted it into a giant living room complete with couches and tables.

For my friends and I that was more than enough to get us in the back of that truck which happened to contain about 20 people. The truck swayed back and forth as a group of complete strangers danced their faces off to the music played over the truck’s speakers.

Five minutes later, my group is back on the road looking for another adventure. The last stop we make is at a drum circle located not far from the festival grounds entrance. As we listened to the beats of the drum circle escape into our ears, we all knew our night and weekend was finally coming to a close.

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