Odetah Camping Resort in Bozrah CT hosted Max Creek’s festival September 8 and 9, 2022.
The thirtieth edition of Camp Creek began on Thursday night, and despite working most of the day i was able to get down to Odetah and insides, parked, and raring to go right around dark. I unfortunately missed the opener Mikaela Davis. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the jamband harpist and I was sad to miss it. Thankfully there was plenty more musical fun to be had that night to open the festival.
So the first band of many that I caught this weekend was to be the band Melt, a new band for me and a relatively new band to the scene. I can’t really recall hearing that they’ve been on any festival lineups that I have seen this year, so I came in with fresh ears and no expectations. And I have to tell you, Melt does not disappoint.
The band lineup is what you expect out of a standard funk band with horns from drums, bass, keys, guitars and lead vocals, plus a two piece horn section. With a band lineup like this you basically come in with two big questions: how great are the vocals, and how funky is the band? Melt was able to answer both questions in their roughly ninety minute set.
The band is comprised of Veronica Stewart-Frommer (lead vocals), Eric Gabriel (vocals, keys), Marlo Shankweiler (Guitar), Josh Greenzeig (Drums), Coulou (Trumpet), Lucas Saur (Bass), and Nick Sare (Saxophone). First question: how good are the vocals? Eric Gabriel sings a few songs in this set from behind the keyboards and is a decent vocalist for sure. But the lead vocal in this band is not in quest as Veronica Stewart-Frommer gives notice that she is someone to watch from center stage. She has a command of her voice that contradicts her age, displaying range, dexterity, dynamics, and a complete toolbox of singing skills. She is something else, and you can not help but be completely riveted by her performance. Anyone else making their living on the microphone ought to be a little scared of this powerhouse, and with a little luck she will become a superstar.
The band in general reminds me of the band LAWRENCE, another funky young band with a powerhouse vocalist. It’ll take Melt a little while to gain the experience, chemistry, and continuity to equal where Lawrence is at this point, but Melt gives every indication that this is a likelihood. The whole band displays more than proficiency, and any time you choose to focus on any instrument you see a player that that has all the skills, some flair, and tremendous upside potential. Guitarist Marlo Shankweiler shows why this band does belong in the jam band scene and is shockingly creative while being able to shred at the drop of a hat. Everybody in this band has something to offer an audience and I look forward to the next time I get to see them.
As the band’s set came to a close they returned for one more bringing the full version of the song that they teased us with during sound check, Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine” and they were able to bring every bit that this standard has to offer. Steward-Frommer disappeared while the band was holding down the jam, for an extended period. Emerging from the lake adjacent to the stage as if from the Mists of Avalon, she re-took the stage to finish the show soaked not only from the water from which she came, but also from the total experience and clear joy that the whole band felt as a result of this opening night’s set.
Our appetites were whetted, but the night was not over. The temperature was starting to drop and we slid into sweatshirt weather while everyone took the five minute walk from the beach and main stage area up to the after hours social club. With the night air getting cool, the Beau Sasser trio heated up opening night. Justin Henricks (Wurliday) on guitar, Bill Carbone (Max Creek, the Z3, and a zillion other projects) on drums, and B3 master Beau Sasser (Kung Fu, Uncle Sammy, Melvin Sparks, Alan Evans and more) on keys and vocals. They opened the after show party with “Everything I Play Will be Funky, From Now On” and was this sentiment realized pretty immediately.
The social hall filled quickly and the dance floor got down from the get go. This trio is very comfortable with each other and are in no hurry to end any funky jam, wringing every bit of sweaty goodness from each selection. Things got hot quickly, and in just the short time we stuck around (one must pace oneself on a long weekend festival like this one) the big takeaway on this night was that Justin Henricks was on fire.
Clearly this band is Beau Sasser’s band, but Henricks took several solos early on that displayed both his skills and his point of view. Sasser has shared the stage with some incredibly amazing guitar players from Tim Palmieri in Kung Fu to Danny Mayer in the Alan Evans trio, to boogaloo guitar master Melvin Sparks. Henricks showed that he belongs on this list of great players, running up and down the fretboard with both ease and creativity. He can access impressive acrobatics when he wishes, but seems instead to be more at home with tasty licks and flair, and a strong desire to create the most cohesive trio unit possible.
I am certain that this band lit an inferno that burned deep into the night, but we wisely strolled back to the bus to ensure that we didn’t blow a weekend’s worth of energy on the first night.
Even though Thursday night was the early bird official opening of Camp Creek, there wasn’t a hurry to get going on Friday. I took to the sunny day and spent the late morning and early afternoon catching up on a little bit of work, picking up on a bit of Wifi here and there. We also got to explore the extensive camping and RV areas as Odetah, which along with the beautiful lakefront, a pool and hot tub that also features some kiddie water features, has other cool amenities like a general store and horse shoe pit. From the Oasis cafe snackbar through the security and campground support staff, the hosts seem to have grown accustomed to the Camp Creek crowd while now hosting for the third time. Friday afternoon had the gates open for non early bird people, and the whole family started to gather for a weekend full of fun.
As afternoon turned to evening the music started for Friday night, with Jay Stanley’s Drummers of Peace and Equality took the main stage. I noticed as I recognized one player after another from the New England music scene including bassist Chris Ball (the Medicinal Purpose, Llama Lasagne and many other bands, dummer Dave Noonan (Green Island, and stints in everyone from rice to the Equalites, the Alchemystics, and nearly every band in western Massachusetts), singer I-Chele (Taproots and others), guitarist Dan Thomas (the Mary Jane Jones), singer Simon White (Rhythm Inc), Jason Metcalf (the Alchemystics, Rhythm Inc, and many other bands) and a whole slew of others. Jay Stanley leads the band from center stage on percussion, and explained the ethnic origins of the songs and the instruments that he was playing. It was a great set with a bit of an education lightly sprinkled in, so that we could all come away knowing a bit more about world music and drumming. I was able to catch two songs that concluded the set on audio:
The tradition for Friday night at Camp Creek has been, at least for the decades I have been going, to be mostly bands that involve members of Max Creek. So that continued with the Marks Brothers. This quartet features Mark Mercier on keyboards, Mark Paradis on guitar Brian Konopka on drums and Dave Stoltz on bass. Their Friday night sets are solid and the perfect appetizer for a weekend of Max Creek. In terms of these Creek adjacent projects, the Marks Brothers feels the closest to Max Creek to me. With strong lead guitar, a strong focus on Mark Merceier’s keyboards and vocals, and a general jamband meets Americana vibe in front of a crowd of Creek Freaks- the audience was in the palms of these musicians. The set was spirited and every year it feels like the Marks Brothers set gets a little bit better.
The final main stage act of Friday night was the Rolling Thunder Revival, a band that takes on the spirit of the original Dylan led ensemble by playing a nice mix of music concentrating on Bob Dylan but touching on other artists and projects related to band members. This ensemble was recently assembled by Rob Stoner, an original member of Rolling Thunder Revue and though he is no longer playing with them the Rolling Thunder Revival now contains: Kate Hubbard – Vocals, Scott Murawski – Guitar and Vocals, Jeff Bowen – Bass and Vocals, Jeff Martinson – Guitar and Vocals, Dani Battat – Keys, and Bill Carbone – Drums and Vocals. The resultant sound definitely evoked rolling thunder, both literally and as a throwback to that original 70s ensemble.
Start Over ->
Things Have Changed
Heart of Mine
E: Maggie’s Farm
The Kings took the after show slot up in the social hall but the comforts of the bus were calling out to us. This was a very nice two day warm up for Camp Creek and we were feeling ready to go! Our appetites whetted, we were able to slip into dreamland imagining the hours and hours of Max Creek that lay ahead of us on this beautiful weekend bridging the summer festival season with start of autumn. Stay tuned here for more of Camp Creek 2022.
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