Artists eager for 2011 Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival

By Phillip C. Sunkel IV |

The 5th annual Bear Creek Music and Arts Festival will be held in Live Oak, Fla. at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park on November 10-13. The park will host a large number of legendary music acts. Lettuce, Galactic, Zoogma, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Trey Anastasio Band, Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood and the Funky Meters are just a few of the acts performing.

Unfortunately for the band FLT RSK, they will not be playing Bear Creek this year.
“This will be the first Bear Creek that I haven’t played,” said Matthew Woolley, drummer of the band FLT RSK.”Whether with DubConscious or FLT RSK, I’ve had the honor to play every Bear Creek festival since its beginning, four or five years ago. Bear Creek is a family reunion for so many people, including me. It’s always a treat to spend time with friends from all over the country that come to celebrate great music and good times.”

FLT RSK also had to pull out of the Blackwater Music Festival in September.

While Woolley was at his girlfriend’s mother’s wedding, he said he got a little carried away and fell off the banister he was sliding down. He said he fell 20 ft. onto a concrete floor. It left him with two broken wrists and a broken hip, he said.

“Gonna still try to go to the festival if I can find some friends willing to push me around in a wheelchair,” said Woolley.

While Woolley said he will try to convince his friends to push him around Bear Creek, others cant wait for the festival begin.

“Bear Creek, to me, is just great music all the time and that’s whats so special about it, its not just about any one particular show,” said Bear Creek festival director Paul Levine, 42. “Everyone feels like its one big community as opposed to one big crowd. Artists and staff, everybody is a part of it.”

Bear Creek started in 2007 and with each passing year, it has added new elements.

“We had a festival in [Tallahassee] called Down On The Farm for a number of years,” said Levine. “That came to its conclusion and there was still great energy for an event to happen in North Florida at the time. I got together with Lyle Williams, who is the owner of Big IV productions, and we decided to start Bear Creek.”

Zoogma moves the crowd into a frenzy of dancing with their tripped out electronic rock dance music.

Levine said he is proud Bear Creek is constantly evolving.

“We added a silent disco this year to help with our late night music, music will go in there till 5 a.m.,” Levine said. “Music’s also gonna run in the music hall until 5 a.m. to satisfy some of our late night guests.”

Levine said he is not concerned about complaints.

“The park has a lot of neighbors and they’re very generous to allow the park to operate the way it does,” he said.  “They are very tolerant. One of the things they have asked is that we turn down the music at 2 a.m. We tried it with the circus tent and other tents in the past, but it didn’t really stop the noise from escaping the woods. So we’re gonna deal with that by going until 2 a.m. outside. That’s the time they feel is fair and we agree. We’ll go later in the silent disco and music  hall and still be able to accommodate a few thousand guests.”

Levine said alot of what makes Bear Creek so special is the cohesiveness of the staff that works the festival.

“A lot of the people on this crew have been working together for six, seven, eight years,” said Levine. “When you have a staff that care about each other, your event, the music and the fans so much, and given that much time to work out the kinks, it translates into a better show.”

Ryan Nall, bassist of the band Zoogma, agrees.

“Last year was our first Bear Creek,” he said. “We stayed the entire time and got the full experience as a band. And as a, you know, festival participant. We camped and were in the audience for the majority of the shows. It was great, man.”

Levine said because Bear Creek exists to celebrate the arts, it continues to be popular.

Zoogma rocks the house at Freebird Live on Oct. 27. Catch Zoogma at this years Bear Creek Music Festival.

“Artists feel very comfortable at  Bear Creek, a lot of them are here for two days,” he said. “We try to make a real creative environment to bring together dozens and dozens of artists and treat them with respect.”

The environment Levine and Big IV productions has created is working. With a lineup stacked with so many talented acts, it will be difficult to catch every show.

“I’m excited to see John Scofield, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Trey Anastasio,” Levine said. “Jennifer Hartswick’s band on Saturday night is gonna be an amazing experience. Its always amazing to have Lettuce here and Dumpsta and all those bands.”

Zoogma will be playing at this year’s Bear Creek on the purple hat stage on Saturday.

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