The 2012 Bear Creek Music Festival at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park was a funfest filled with incredible music, an abundance of food, and amazing artists. Nowhere could you turn without seeing smiling faces, dancing, and people just having a genuinely good time. The lineup for the festival was incredible. Thomas Wynn and the Believers belted out soulful, heartfelt tunes while March Fourth Marching Band got the crowd dancing with their impressive 20 person set up. Zach Deputy wowed the crowd with his one man show, and Umphrey’s McGee put on three shows with an amazing light display. Artists were painting and showing their work during performances, and creative juices were flowing anywhere and everywhere.
While many artists and bands performed at the festival, Groovelive chose to spotlight three bands/artists that stood out in particular. We were also fortunate to sit down with bands Bright Light Social Hour, The Heavy Pets, and Zach Deputy and discuss their Bear Creek experiences and plans for 2013.
SPOTLIGHT: BRIGHT LIGHT SOCIAL HOUR
Jack O’Brien – vocals, bass
Curtis Roush – vocals, guitar
A.J. Vincent – vocals, keyboards
Joseph Mirasole – drums
Bright Light Social Hour managed to draw quite a crowd for both of their performances, even with a show that happened to be scheduled at the same time as the beloved Umphrey’s McGee. Once the band started to play, the crowd couldn’t sit still, and were soon up and dancing for the entirety of each performance. Along with their soulful tunes and mesmerizing lights, their act was hard to beat.
Q: What was Bear Creek like for the band? Did you guys have any interesting experiences while at the festival?
Jo: It was a trip! We have a special place in our hearts for festivals and the crowds at them, and Bear Creek definitely didn’t let us down. The crowds were really fun both nights, and particularly dancy (or hippie groovin’) which I’ve got a soft spot for. All the Spanish moss trees are worth going for alone – the lake in the middle of one of the campsites is nuts, the natural amphitheatre qualities and production of the main stage was incredible, and everyone couldn’t have been nicer. A.J. ended up wandering around the festival both nights, and staying with random people he met, vagabond (or friendly hobo, considering how dirty he was) style.
A.J.: For one, wandering around a camping festival with friends from Florida (and really, all over) was a really great time; lots of memories made. Dr. Klaw was amazing! Sharon Jones has more soul than the earth, and Charles Walker and the Dynamites just laid down a deep, deep groove. The festival was amazing. Easy to bounce around, meet people, find things… The Silent Disco was so strange in a good way. The lights for one, but you walk up, and all you hear is slight mumblings and feet. Then you put on your headset, and you drop into this weird space where you can flip from two completely different things, and you don’t know what everyone else is dancing to. It was great. Had a GREAT time at Bear Creek.
Q: Your song “Detroit” seemed to have a much different feel than a lot of the other songs you performed. It appeared to invoke a different kind of emotion from the crowd. Everyone seemed to be almost in awe. What’s the story behind the song, and do you get this reaction often?
Jo: The song was written awhile back, when Detroit was seriously being hit hard by the recession. In short, it’s about an auto-worker who is forced to move elsewhere to find work, while lamenting the separation from his partner. Although, secretly, I’m pretty sure I just want it to be about the ills of exploited labor. We’ve been heavily inspired by Detroit’s musical history, from classic Motown and soul to Detroit being the birthplace of techno, and wanted to take something from the spirit of their music to tell the tale of what the city’s people were going through, and unfortunately are still going through. The reaction to the song is surprising and humbling a lot of the time.
Q: We have to ask you about Jack’s mustache. Could you guys ever have imagined that Jack’s mustache would be so popular with fans? He seems to have risen to fame right along with the band.
Jo: Definitely wouldn’t have guessed that Jack’s stache would have ridden along our generally hairy coattails. Although lately the poor guy’s been trimmed down and reduced to a mere mortal’s status on Jack’s upper lip. The stache had his time, his videos, his website, and his fair share of BBQ and beer pass through him, so hopefully he can rest in peace now in stache heaven, surrounded by other mustaches in history, learning their secrets of infinite virility.
Q: Do you guys plan on going back into the recording studio after you’re done touring?
Jo: Absolutely. We’ll be home for the next several months where we’ll be writing the rest of the album, recording it, and throwing daily dance parties to appease the rock and roll gods to ensure the whole process goes smoothly.
Q: Over the summer, you guys experienced a devastating loss when you were robbed of your equipment. A few months later, do you feel like the band has recovered from losing a lot of your equipment?
Jo: I think we’ve recovered fully, and in some ways, even better than before. The gear theft was a good chance for us to experiment with some different sounds, and I’m really happy with what we ended up getting. Jack has a 51′ style P-Bass that’s ugly and awesome as all hell. Curt picked up one of the best playing Tele’s I’ve ever held, and the new guitar amp is a lot warmer, woolier, and friendlier sounding. After such a terrible thing happened, the whole experience really showed us how incredible our fans and friends are. And it’s taught us that even when your most precious, sentimental life possessions get taken away, things move on and the stuff doesn’t really matter.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Jo: A) Thanks so much to everyone that helped us out when our gear was stolen, and if you didn’t help, still thank you for not stealing any of our remaining things.
B) Life’s too short for tiny headphones. I always get my headphones from Headphonage.
C) More neon at rock shows, please do your part.
D) If you’re considering a haircut, reconsider.
E) House and techno, give it a shot.
SPOTLIGHT: ZACH DEPUTY
Although a solo act, Georgia native Zach Deputy wowed with his multi-genre, multi-instrumental performance. He had the crowd moving and energized with his unique beats and soulful voice. He even played a few covers driving the audience wild and provoking hundreds to sing along with Adam Sandler’s “Sloppy Joes”. Zach’s sound has obviously been influenced by multiple genres with many of songs reminiscent of classical guitar, R&B, hip-hop, and classic rock. If you haven’t given Zach Deputy a listen yet, you’re missing out!
Q: How is Bear Creek going for you so far? Are you having a good time?
Zach: I’m having a great time. Yeah, I’m having a good time. We got here early and set up early and acclimated. So, I’m actually getting some sleep.
Q: Are you catching any shows?
Zach: A little bit. You know this is my life, so I’m kind of jaded when it comes to this. This is every weekend, so I’m rarely in the front row anymore. I’ll go check out bands when it seems to happen. But usually I’m low key, hanging out with friends and trying to catch up. You know, you get overwhelmed in life when you have too many close friends that have to catch up. It’s like two hour or three hour pockets where you feel like you’re not rushing your friends. So you’re actually visiting and trying to catch up. I don’t know, it’s hard to catch up at a show.
Q: What are your plans when you’re done touring?
Zach: I’m going home–my sanctuary. It’s been a while, and I can’t wait to sleep in my bed. It’s going to be a good night. (Laughs) I’m going to thank the Lord real quick, and then I’m going to go to sleep.
Q: You have a unique style that blends so many genres. How did you develop your sound?
Zach: I think I slowly but surely just quit trying to be anything and then I was just myself. I think the sound has always been there. I don’t know, the less I think the better. The less I try to be anything the more it’s just me. It all comes off of where your heart is, where you’re from, and where your family is from. I’m from Georgia, so I grew up in the church with gospel all my life–a loud-ass Pentecostal church that my grandma used to go to. And I grew up where everybody played blues in all the jazz clubs. My dad is a Motown freak and [likes] beach music. My grandma listens to Calypso, Afro-Cuban, merengue, salsa, and I grew up listening to that like it was something on the radio. And, I grew up in the 90’s, where the hip-hop era reached its max, so that’s where all the hip-hop comes from. I’m a product of the 90’s. So you have the time period, and the region you lived in, where your parents came from and what they brought to the table with your heritage. That all plays into what you are and who you are musically.
Q: Do you play classical guitar?
Zach: I do, but I’ve never like…I’ve written pieces. My grandma is Spanish and Puerto Rican, and I learned how to play classical guitar for her. I wanted to write her a song that made her think of her parents. You know what I mean? That’s where that style came from. I do it all wrong, though. I’ve played with classical guitarists. I do weird things with my finger that they don’t do. I only use three fingers to do everything and they use four fingers for everything.
Q: Let’s talk about your album Another Day. How would you describe its sound to people who haven’t heard it yet?
Zach: I describe it as an R&B album. Some of my fans totally didn’t get it, but I make albums because I like it. You know my first album was more islandy-funk. My second album was more like gospel-funk-soul. You know, this one is straight up R&B.
Q: You perform as a solo act, but on your album you have a full band. What let you to performing solo rather than having a band back you?
Zach: I don’t know. (Laughs) It’s cheaper. Here’s the thing, I would prefer to have a 12-piece band, but I wouldn’t necessarily prefer to have a 5-piece band. My ultimate fantasy is to have like a 12-piece band mixture between Tito Quintet, Ray Charles, and James Brown on stage. If the fans ever pay me enough money, I will deliver that, too.
SPOTLIGHT: THE HEAVY PETS
Jeff Lloyd – guitar, vocals
Mike Garulli – guitar, vocals
Jim Wuest – keyboards, vocals
Tony D’Amato– bass, vocals
Jamie Newitt – drums, vocals
The Heavy Pets arguably drew in some of the largest crowds at Bear Creek. The energy and soul the band for which the band is well known had those in attendance on their feet and dancing from start to finish. Their show was also full of surprises with special appearances from local artists performing acts such as silk rope gymnasts and a solo brass performance. The band did not disappoint and played their hearts out, and this was not lost on the audience. If you haven’t seen THP yet, it’s a must for your bucket list.
Q: How is Bear Creek going for you guys? Are you having a good time?
Jim: Awesome. Awesome. This is our first time playing the Uncle Charlie’s Stage. Every Bear Creek we’ve played was either the Purple Hatter Stage or the Hall, so this has been a lot of fun getting on this stage. I remember seeing P-Groove the last few years playing on this stage, and we definitely enjoyed their set. So I think we had an equally nice sunset groove happening.
Q: How would you describe your sound to potential fans?
Jim: You know, I think the first thing I would say is that it’s original. We write all the music that we play. We’ll do the very occasional cover, but we have three to four songwriters in the band depending on the night and the set list. There are a lot of different styles with the different writers, so you can catch some disco, some reggae, good old rock-n-roll, some lighter acoustic stuff, and a little Americana. You know, it’s a lot of fun playing set list to set list to see what we’ll end up playing. You’ll get a different band every show.
Q: Who does most of the song writing?
Jim: The two guitarists and me. You can usually tell who wrote the song by who’s singing it. We really like to break it up and not sing consecutive songs too much. It gives us a chance as vocalists to get a break. It’s pretty easy to say that it’s even. We usually do have an even set list. Overall, I would say Jeff has the most tunes.
Q: What is your song writing process?
Jim: It depends on the songwriter. I like to pretty much have everyone’s part written when I bring it to the group. Right now we’re working on one of Jeff’s tunes where we’re kind of just feeling it out with the band and working through it as a group. It can take longer; it can take shorter. It depends on the amount of time we have to rehearse and what we’re trying to focus on. It’s fun for me to take so many different approaches. We’re always pushing ourselves and trying to come up with new sounds. I feel like if you try and get away from formulas it helps spurn creativity.
Q: How would you say your sound has evolved since you guys started playing in 2005?
Jim: There’s been a lot of personnel changes you know. As for Jeff and Mike, the core members, I feel like their songwriting has come a long way. You can always hear the influences in people as they mature as musicians, and it’s really fun to listen to what those guys are coming out with in contrast to something they wrote 10 years ago. You know, I feel the same way with myself, but not as much. I’ve always kind of enjoyed playing the dance music and funky stuff, so it’s still kind of my focus. Definitely, the more you listen to music the more you change as a musician and songwriter.
Q: What artists or musicians have influenced you as a musician?
Jim: Well, my father was a huge influence on me. He was a saxophone player in a wedding entertainment band in the 80’s. I always remember him putting on a tux and hitting the town every weekend night. He raised me to be a piano player to accompany him. You know, I went through a period where everything my dad liked wasn’t cool, so I wasn’t into jazz at all until high school. I really dove into jazz then and since transitioned it into more rock, electronic, and reggae, but the jazz element has always been what really inspired me to practice and play piano when I was 14 to 15. Whatever makes you play your instrument at that age, that stuff is not going to leave you. You’re going to have that with you for the rest of your life.
Q: When did you start playing piano?
Jim: Very early, in first grade. I started taking piano lessons when I was 6 or 7. I took it for granted and quit when I was in 4th grade and wanted to play the guitar and really got into Nirvana and Soundgarden. I would play the piano in my family’s house when I wasn’t taking lessons, and my dad was like you are playing the same thing all the time. He wanted to me to take just one lesson with a jazz piano teacher when I was in 8th grade. I was open to it, and it changed my life. I’m amazed at how you can improvise on a piano and the freedom of that.
Q: Did you play with your dad?
Jim: Still do! We jam together now, but we used to back in the day play Christmas songs at the retirement home or at the mall and little gigs like that.
Q: Do you see yourselves doing this 10 or 20 years down the road?
Jim: You have to, you know. It’s not like we’re in it for the money. We’re in it because it’s our passion and you have to visualize the best possible scenario. You have to see yourself getting better and see yourself growing and getting a bigger fan base. That’s what we want, so absolutely; we would love to do this. We’ve made it this far, 7 years since the band started. It’s the love of my life, my business, and it’s festivals like this that make us feel like we’re on the right path.
Q: What do you guys plan on doing after you’re through touring?
Jim: Well, we have a tour coming up in the Northeast starting Thanksgiving week. We have some cool New Year’s plans. We’re playing in Philadelphia with Brothers Past, so that will be a huge show for us. We’ll come home, and we have some home gigs. Hopefully we’ll get in some studio time and try and get some new recordings out.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Jim: We’re really happy that all of the south Florida fans made the trek up here to north Florida to Bear Creek. It’s just awesome to see so many people who feel it’s worth it to hop in the car for 7 and a half hours or whatever it takes to get up here. It’s part of what makes this festival so special for us. We play for an hour and 15 minutes then we just hang out with our friends.