Almost seven years to the day since their last Burlington, VT show and less than a week after their return from Jungle Jam, the four day festival in Jaco, Costa Rica that they co-headline with the Grateful Dead’s Bill Kruetzman (Creek guitarist Scott Murawski works double duty and performs with both groups; you may have seen him with Mike Gordon’s band as well), Max Creek rides a surging wave of enthusiasm, visible in both the performers and their fanbase, into the Higher Ground. A little more than a year after the group lost two drummers and gained a drummer and percussionist, the lineup has gelled, the jams are happening, the songs are tight, and the band is exciting.
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In those rare instances that a band reaches its fourth decade, it’s usually because of super-stardom. It’s easy enough to keep things together when each member has a jet and techs on retainer and the world tour rolls around every few years. But that’s not how Max Creek has done it. In 40+ years Max Creek has been small, big, regionally-huge, medium, and any other size one can think of; they’ve never graced the cover of Rolling Stone, but you’d be hard pressed to find a music fan in the Northeast that hadn’t heard of them.
Well then, how did they do it?
If you knew Max Creek you’d answer simply, "they just did." Creek lacks pretense; there is no hip style or genre-title that can define them. From the beginning they’ve mixed anything they liked-rock, country, reggae, soul, calypso-in with their own excellent songs and it’s all just come out sounding like Creek. As such they’ve never been the hot item in the flavor-of-the-year club yet they’ve also never gone out of style. Moreover, Creek exudes confidence but lacks ego; each member is an incredible musician but that’s never been what it was about.
But that is all things Creek is not, and what Creek is is far more important. The band is certainly joyous, and their stage is full of smiles and laughter, both during and between songs. All one has to do is glance into the crowd to see that the feeling is contagious. Creek is also much more engaging than the average five-guys-with-instruments, sculpting lengthy shows on-the-fly from their 200+ song catalog with rockers, ballads, deep jams and crowd sing-alongs all tucked into their perfect places. And Creek is, most definitely, a family. 40-odd years in, the audience is a multi-generational stew; it’s not uncommon to witness old-school Creek Freeks getting down with their teenage (or older!) kids.
Creek itself is multigenerational. Though the "front line" of guitarist Scott Murawski, keyboardist Mark Mercier and bassist John Rider has remained intact since the mid-70s, the back line recently shifted. Long time drummers Greg Vasso and Scott Allshouse both moved on from group, opening the door for the drums and percussion team of Bill Carbone and Jamemurrell Stanley, neither of whom were alive when the band was founded. By all accounts, the band is soaring on the new energy of two.