Giant Bear 

Bears are everywhere these days. Stephen Colbert rails against them, and from Brooklyn's Grizzly Bear to Arkansas's own Bear Colony, it seems like they're taking over. From Memphis comes Giant Bear, and judging by their performance Saturday night at Whitewater Tavern, they have a few things with which to differentiate themselves from the other sleuths of bears out there.

Their tunes were an inspired mix of rock, bluegrass, funk and even a hint of classical. What sets the five-piece “Orchestral Funkabilly” band apart from the norm is their inclusion of cello and violin, courtesy of vocalist Jana Misener. Most of the other musicians traded instruments throughout the show, and lead vocal duties were shared as well between Misener, mandolinist/guitarist Mike Larrivee and bassist Robert Humphreys. Only the drummer, Jeff Nuckolls, and guitarist Jeff White stayed put on their respective instruments. For a few songs, Scotty Gerardy from opening act DirtFoot on baritone saxophone, joined the group. Cello, mandolin, and baritone sax are three instruments that don't often find themselves playing in the same band, and it is a credit to the band's sense of adventure that they can make it work.

The group's diversity was further highlighted by their choice of cover tunes. Halfway through their hour-long set, the band tore into “Head Like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nails, a song that works surprisingly well in a country-song format. And with the saxophone added to the mix, a certain propulsion was lent to the proceedings that broke up the traditional bounce of bluegrass rhythm. If Morphine came from Tennessee instead of Massachusetts, the sound might be something similar.

Misener was the standout performer of the group, belting out the evening's other cover tune, a raucous version of Dolly Parton's “Jolene,” with backing harmonies by Larrivee, Humphreys and White. The band was at their best on this song as drummer Nuckolls laid down tight funk rhythms underneath the otherwise conventional bluegrass instrumentation. Unfortunately, for much of the show, Misener's distinctive cello remained buried in the mix underneath the bass guitar. Her violin playing, however, was fiery and virtuosic. This stood in contrast to guitarist White, whose improvisations seemed hesitant and somewhat out of tune. Tuning problems overall seemed to follow the group, particularly with the multi-part harmonies.

Through it all, the band remained energetic as they plowed through their set. Their willingness to experiment with disparate styles and timbres, as well as their overall exuberance, generally outweighed any auditory uncertainties. Saturday's show ran too quickly into the 1 a.m. closing time, and the crowd was left wanting more rampage from Giant Bear.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Arkansas Times Staff

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Latest in Music Reviews

  • Cher in North Little Rock

    March 28, Verizon Arena
    • Apr 3, 2014
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers at Verizon

    The Red Hot Chili Peppers took a slightly different musical path to its May induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame than most of their fellow honorees.
    • Oct 31, 2012
  • Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Sept. 30

    The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra opened its season Saturday night with a return visit by the 28-year-old violin virtuoso Augustin Hadelich, who had appeared with the orchestra in the Beethoven concerto two years ago.
    • Oct 3, 2012
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Belk bowling, b-ball

    • Good analysis, something completely lacking from the daily newspaper's sports reporters/columnists.

    • on December 9, 2016
  • Re: Resurrection, reflection

    • http://hairtransplantncr.com/ hair transplant in delhi hair transplant ncr hair transplant cost hair transplant cost in…

    • on December 8, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation