40 Years: Max Creek
All the years combined, they melt into a dream …
It’s been 40 years. Wow.
No, I haven’t been seeing Max Creek for the entire time, but trust me, I have been on and off for a good portion of those years.
Last night, I got a rare opportunity to see Max Creek, once again, in quite an intimate setting. Well, technically, it wasn’t the entire Creek, but three of the 40-year veterans of the band got together and played a Wednesday night gig in Hartford for an estimated crowd of, I’d say, no more than 200 people. Yea, in the land of Max, that’s quite intimate. But, what do you want for a Wednesday night? Sort of reminded me of old times, yea, the good old days of Max Creek.
In the beginning, there was a creek flowing through the land of Max. And it was good. Hence the name Max Creek…
It’s difficult to say where to start. I’m not going to go over the band’s history, other than to say that when I first started seeing the band, there was a guitarist (Scott), bass (John), keyboardist (Mark), female vocalist/hand percussionist (Amy), and two drummers. I recollect the drummers being referred to as the “Bob Squad.” Admittedly, I started seeing Max Creek because, at the time, to us they were a Grateful Dead cover band. Well, maybe not a cover band because they definitely played their own tunes, but did do Grateful Dead covers. After one of the drummers left, the band added a percussionist (Rob). Rob’s arrival sort of completed the sound this band seemed to have looked for, a sound that would take the band in a different direction than it’s first decade. After a time, Amy left the band, too.
When I was younger, I use to see this band all the time. They were semi-local so it wasn’t unusual for me to see them every Thursday and Friday, or Friday and Saturday night. They played in bars, at small parties; heck, I’ve seen them multiple times here at UConn outdoors at the Quadrangle. After the secret got out how wonderful this band really was, coupled with the fact that real life got in the way, I only saw them when it worked for me.
Fast forward many years: I continue to see Max Creek when I can. I took lots of years off from seeing them but during time I wasn’t seeing them, I was still listening to them; and they were only getting better and better. I had always been a huge fan of John Ryder’s. He built his own bass, and that was enough in my young impressionable years to hook me. (I don’t know if he still does make them, but man, he still can play!) It was his bass playing that attracted me to the beauty of that particular instrument, his particular sound. The whole time I was absorbed in John’s bass playing, I had overlooked Scott Murawski’s guitar playing. I suppose at first, maybe I didn't see it as phenomenal as what it’s become, but whatever the reason, it’s only been the last four or five years that I’ve re-discovered what an amazing guitar player Scott really is. Scott has been branching out from Max Creek doing other projects: he played guitar in BK3, a band formed by Grateful Dead’s drummer Billy Kreutzmann, with Onteil Burbridge and Scott on guitar; he does guitar work for Mike Gordon (of Phish) when Mike tours solo. In fact, I’ll be going to one of their upcoming shows in November. I can’t express enough what a fine guitar player Scott has become. To me, he is definitely one of the five best guitar players that currently walk this earth, without a doubt!
I certainly can’t overlook Mark Mercier’s place in the band. Mark is a master at the keyboards; always has been. What Mark adds to the band’s sound is quite extraordinary. His remarkable style and signature definitely defines and completes Max Creek’s sound. In earlier years, I don’t recall Mark being as prominent on vocals as he’s become. He’s now singing machine, and that’s fine with me.
What it boils down to is, whether you want to admit it, that Max Creek has nothing short of a phenomenon. I mean, after all, how many bands have endured 40 years and still attract new fans? Though a bit of a paradox: though they’ve become are very popular, they really still are our little secret. Individually and as a band, they are nothing short of exceptional. Sure, they still play some Dead cover tunes, but no way can you call Max Creek a Grateful Dead cover band; you'd be mistaken. They have become a multi-generational band, too, which is sort of cool. There are folks I see at shows that have been seeing Max Creek as long as I have been going, then there are folks that probably could be my kids, and are just discovering their wonderfulness; and everyone in between. I can say, if you’ve never seen Max Creek in their 40 years of being together, I highly suggest it. They’re playing a ton of shows in November, some locally, to wrap up their 40th year of playing.
Man, I love these guys; always have. They surely have been and always will hold a place in my musical heart.
So, on to 41, boys? (See ya in November.)
You can check out their website at: www.maxcreek.com
You can even hear Max Creek more than just occasionally on The RustyString Cafe, which airs Sunday mornings from 0600 - 0900.
"Doing radio the way it use to be; the way it should be."