Max Creek Haunted Halloween Bash with Conehead Buddha, October 26th, Lake George

After celebrating their 41st Anniversary weekend at Lake George’s Fort William Henry Inn and Conference Center in April 2012, jamband fixtures Max Creek returned to the same venue for their Haunted Halloween Weekend Bash. Weekend events such as Creekend, Camp Creek and StrangeCreek Campout take on a family atmosphere with people traveling from all over New England to get their Creek on.  I attended the first night of the two night stand and it was a solid kickoff to what is always a great night of music. It’s probably appropriate for me to issue this disclaimer: I’ve probably seen Max Creek more then any other band including the Grateful Dead and consider myself a Creek Freak so I may be a little biased!
Opening the first night of festivities was another veteran genre blending jamband, Conehead Buddha. When I entered the auditorium at Fort William Henry, the place was relatively empty with most people milling around outside or hanging out at their hotel rooms which faced the lake and the auditorium.  I never caught Conehead Buddha 1.0., so I was unfamiliar with them and it was a most pleasant surprise. I was instantly caught up by the groove of the band, which had dressed up in costume as a zombie mariachi band. They were  laying down infectious grooves of ska, jazz, funk, reggae and salsa. Completely unfamiliar with their catalog, I just let the music take control. I did catch teases of The Allman Brothers “Jessica” in one song.  And they got saxophone!!, as well as trumpet, trombone and percussion. I would have loved to hear them launch into “Hey Pachuco” because they had me wanting to break out my best impression of Jim Carrey in the Mask.

Being a Halloween Ball, there was a costume contest and there were prizes awarded both nights for best costumes in several categories. The judging went on the first night between the stage change. On my night there, there were some awesome costumes that included a Bedouin and a Belly Dancer couple, a pair of Hula-hooping kitty cats, a Lumberjack with a Chain saw,  Raggedy Ann and Andy, and a Jellyfish to name a few.

Max Creek took the stage at the fashionably late time of 11:20 PM with only keyboardist Mark Mercier in costume. This was the second show I’ve caught with the ‘noobs’,  the very talented Jamemurrell Stanley on percussion and the equally talented Bill Carbone on drums. Over the years, the drums have been the section that has had a rotating cast of characters while the core trio of  Scott Murawski (lead guitar and drums when he takes to the kit),  John Rider (bass), and Mark Mercier (keyboards) have remained intact. I was a big fan of the ‘Gregs’ and the other ‘Scott’ and of course the late great Rob Fried but going back to a percussion drum setup vs drums, the latter has added a color to the music missing since the passing of Fried.

The core three took turns on vocals with Murawski on his own original “If you Ask Me”,  Mercier on cover “After Midnight” and Rider on his original “Devil’s Heart”, which featured some great interplay between Murawski on guitar and Rider on his bass.  The energy upped a notch on the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” before Mark Mercier took on country ballad  “Long Black Veil”.  There is always a bust out or two at Max Creek shows and up next was the seldom  played “Silver Jack”. It was then  Murawski’s turn to get playful on the lyrics of  “Trippin'”  (Scott heard someone had the best little kitty in town).  Set oneclosed with Warren Zevon’d “Werewolves of London”, which I was surprised they broke out the first night. Barking and baying and a vocal jam ended the first set at about 12:50 AM. With eight songs averaging over 10 minutes each shows why Max Creek is a jamband legend.

After a brief intermission the band returned to a room that had emptied out. Creekenders had returned to their rooms to get prepared for the second set and were a little slow to return.  As Set two opened with “Louisiana Sun”, steam gathered and the room was soon full again. John Rider then launched into “Blood Red Roses”. For some reason I always think of pirates holding up glasses of grog and singing along when I hear this song but two young male Creekers in front of me engaged in a ‘mosh’ dance. After some Auld Lang Syne teases, Mark Mercier launched into another of his original ballads “Said and Done”. I’m not sure how Mark remembers all the lyrics and I think he changed them here and there but I am always captivated how his rich voice draws you in to the tale he is telling on his ballads. “Southbound Train” had some excellent harmonies before drummer Bill Carbone took to the vocals on “I’ll be Your Baby Tonight”.  “The Same Things” blended into a spacey jam with just Scott and the drummers as Mercier and Rider left the stage, later followed by Murawski while Rider came back on with the drummers. I left shortly after Rider returned and missed “Slow Down” and one of my favorite Murawski originals:  “You Let me Down Again”. They closed the night and early morning with “I Shall be Released” and “Signature”.

Max Creek will be playing the semi-local Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT on November 24th and for those shut out of Phish at YEMSG (like myself), on 12/31/12, the NYE Masquerade Ball will be held at The Great Hall in Union Station, Hartford, CT.

Set I: If You Ask Me > After Midnight > Devil’s Heart > Bertha, Long Black Veil, Silver Jack, Trippin’, Werewolves of London
Set 2: Louisiana Sun > Blood Red Roses>Said & Done, Southbound Train, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonite, The Same Things > Drumz > Drumz & Bass > Mojo, Slow Down, You Let Me Down Again
Encore: I Shall Be Released, Signature
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