Recently, Mammoth enjoyed its 16th Annual Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza, organized by Mammoth Brewing Company. The event is held at an outdoor, wooded venue known as Sam's Wood Site, and draws more than 5,000 people. It's a busy time for Steve who stays alert and on call throughout the entire weekend in case the bears get wooed to the event site by the possibility of a free snack or a taste of beer.
The event kicked off on Friday, Aug. 5 and the headliner for that evening was the harmonic Blues Traveler. Shortly after the Blues Traveler bus had arrived onsite (they had been broken down for five hours on the drive to Mammoth), Steve received a 911 call for a sow and her clubs that had wandered too close to the event. The group of bears had become frightened, and were clinging to a tree, unable to climb down because of the gaggle of onlookers.
Steve arrived on scene and talked to the crowd, gave them stickers and let them get photos of the bears. He then asked the crowd to dissipate so that the bears could come down and head back out into the woods. The crowd obliged, but what happened next was something that even Steve (who has been in some pretty unexpected situations) would never have guessed would occur. As the bears came down the tree, John Popper and the rest of the Blues Traveler gang came out of their bus to watch.
"Popper was staring at the bears and then he turned and looked at me and said, 'I've seen you on T.V.'," Steve said of the surreal experience. "I've seen you on T.V.," Steve replied to the rocker.
Popper wanted to give Steve a harmonica, his trademark instrument, but Steve knew the group was tired and told them to go get some rest and he would get the harmonica later.
That evening, Popper took the stage with a Don't Feed Our Bears sticker not only on his amp, but also on his beverage cup. About three songs into the set, Popper stopped the music to talk about the Bear Whisperer.
"Steve is a badass, we all know that," Popper said. "And anyone who feeds the bears is a jerk."
"It was really cool for him to buff out the bears like that," said Steve, who had taken the stage at the beginning of the show but didn't feel like he got the message across as well as Popper. Whoever spread the word, the event did not experience any serious bear problems.
Photo Credit: Tiffany Henschel
John Popper gives a shout-out to Steve Searles and the bears at the 16th Annual Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza.