It was a glorious and sunny weekend for a picnic…the Bear’s Picnic that is, which was held in the scenic rolling hills of central PA. I arrived Thursday night, met my camping neighbors, and set up camp on the site of a small animal husbandry type property complete with grange buildings, animal pens, and stables. Thursday night got things started with a band called the Swamp Daddies. I seem to remember mostly all Grateful Dead covers but they threw in Neil Young’s Down by the River and Dear Prudence by the Beatles as well. The Swamp Daddies were an enjoyable and fitting band who got the festivities rolling for the early arrivals.
I missed a few of the bands during the rest of the weekend due to some previous commitments which required me to leave the festival grounds. I did make it back Friday to catch the end of Stir Fried. The current Stir Fried line-up consists of the legendary New Rider Buddy Cage on pedal steel, Jan London guitar, John Markowski on rhythm guitar/song writing and vocals, Vince Lorenzo on percussion, Joanne Lediger on vocals, Rawn Randall on Bass, Jimmy Blackford on Drums, and Rod Kohn on the Hammond B3 Organ. The New Riders of the Purple Sage headlined Friday evening with their usual country rock and Deadish/Dylanesque sound. David Nelson’s vocals rang out across the field as people swayed and grooved to some classic tunes. A few selections from the 2009 release of Where I Come From were included and Mr. Nelson mentioned that some songs on the CD were written in collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. (RIP John "Marmaduke" Dawson) After a lengthy and enjoyable New Riders show, it was off to the late night shack for Cabinet. Cabinet is a skilled group of young bluegrass pickers reminiscent of Cornmeal and some other bands who have burst onto the jamgrass scene. Cabinet hails from the Scranton and Wilkes Barre area of PA and play their own unique style of "rust belt bluegrass" with a great cover of Midnight Moonlight that had the hands a slappin and the toes a tappin.
I made it back from another morning run to State College in time for east coast legend Mark Diomede and the Juggling Suns. I am used to seeing these guys after dark so the atmosphere was a little different than usual. At this point, many people were conserving their energy in the 88 degree heat and chilling in the shade or back in the woods wading in the creek. Mark’s guitar wailed on tunes such as Droplets, Wicked History, Obsession, and the old Bruuuuuce Hornsby tune The Way It Is (just to mention a few) One solid set of jamming and I was glad to take it in. The Hickory Project and Spikedrivers played after the Juggling Suns and sounded great.
The highlight of the entire festival for me though was still to come. At approximately 8:00 P.M., Steve Kimock and Crazy Engine featuring Jerry Garcia Band keyboard player Mr. Melvin Seals took the stage. It was a pleasure to view these virtuosos play an array of jazz and R & B infused instrumental jams as well as sing the old Little Milton classic (made famous to Deadheads by Jerry and Merle Saunders) That’s What Love Will Make You Do. Steve Kimock certainly seems to bask on stage as he plays with his teenage son, John, who is quite a talented young drummer. After Kimock and Crazy Engine it was off to the late night shack for a great old school Dead set performed by Philly area cover band Splintered Sunlight. It had just turned Sunday so we got a Samson and Delilah (and a set closing One More Saturday Night just for the hell of it I guess) Some of it was foggy, but nestled in between (in no certain order because I simply cannot remember) was a rousing New Speedway Boogie, Mama Tried>Big River, Truckin, Next Time You See Me, Brown Eyed Women, Box of Rain, China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider and I also remember a Tangled Up in Blue encore that rocked the metal farm structure that we boogied in. I apologize for not remembering the Splintered Sunlight setlist, not being able to stick around on Sunday, and thus failing to mention more of the bands. I do know that I can say to the Bears Picnic organizers and musicians….."Thank you…….….for a real good time."