With just two weeks until the 10th Anniversary Wanee Music Festival at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL, festies are making their preparations and chirping with excitement. This year’s festival, marking the start of the season for many jamband fans, will be a special one with the announcement of the end of touring for the festival hosts and originators, The Allman Brothers Band. Fans are speculating about the future of the Wanee itself, although there have been no hints that there will be an end to the festival, after all, the festival, Gregg Allman stated in 2008 when he could not play due to illness, is “our baby.” Fans are also speculating about the band’s sets at Wanee ranging from concern about Gregg Allman, whose recent bronchitis has resulted in the rescheduling of shows slated for March, to guessing who, if any, special guests might appear with them, many hoping for a surprise Dickey Betts reunion. I’m not holding my breath, but of course the conjecturing is all part of the excitement.
What we do know is that there is no such thing as a bad Wanee! So what makes this a “must go” festival?
1) The Music: The lineup speaks for itself. Wanee continues to deliver a solid assembly of revered musicians, exciting newcomers and heady jammers. Perhaps there was a little disappointment with no Bob Weir or Phil Lesh on the bill, and the Lynyrd Skynyrd headliner has perplexed a few (though “Freebird” was for Duane Allman), but truly there is no one here we wouldn’t want to see.
The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trey Anastasio Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Ziggy Marley, Blues Traveler, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Hot Tuna Electric, moe., Rusted Root, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk (Music of LedZeppelin), Soulive, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Walter Trout, Rob Garza, Blind Boys of Alabama, Melvin Seals & JGB, Bobby Lee Rodgers, Futurebirds, Berry Oakley’s Skylab, Matt Schofield, Break Science, Pink Talking Fish, Sean Chambers, The Yeti Trio, The Hip Abduction
Aside from the headliners, and let’s face it, that could easily include half the line-up, here are five bands people are chatting about the most:
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
CRB!!! This will be their first show of the year, after Chris and Adam taking a one year hiatus to tour with the Black Crowes. It comes just before the release of their third album Phosphorescent Harvest, so the show is sure to offer up some tasty new tunes. And of course there’s Tedeschi Trucks Band, so we’ll be looking for an encore cover of “Turn on Your Love Light,” featuring Chris Robinson trading vocals with Susan Tedeschi, a performance that happened many times over this past year, while TTB and TBC were on tour together.
Melvin Seals & JGB
A most welcome Dead presence! These “keepers of the flame” don’t make their way to the south very often and it’s been two years since they’ve played at Wanee. For some of the younger heads, this will be their first time seeing them and nearly everyone we’ve spoken to or forum we’ve looked at has JGB on it. Personally, I’m looking hoping for a “Tough Mama” and “Cats Down Under the Stars” to be included in their set!
Making a return to Wanee, these jamband favorites also rarely tour this part of the country, and there are a lot of fans who have never seen them, so they are at the top of the list. These mystical freaks also have a new album out, The Movement, so we are sure to get some new grooves mixed older picks. Rusted Root founder & front man, Michael Glabicki says, “The Movement is an extremely joyous recording with seriously deep undertones. It is a culmination of everything we have learned it is truly is a career record for us.” (www.rustedroot.com) I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a Ziggy Marley sit-in or vice-versa!
Pink Talking Fish
EVERYONE seems to be talking about this band! Who are they anyway?
Pink Talking Fish features Eric Gould, founding bassist of Particle, and a revolving cast of established players in the national music scene. Pink Talking Fish is a Hybrid Tribute Fusion Act that takes the music from three of the world’s most beloved bands and creates a special treat for fans of the music… Although the music from each act is different, Pink Talking Fish has discovered that fusing the material together creates an amazing story. The epic emotion of Pink Floyd…. The funky, danceable layering’s of The Talking Heads…. The multitude of styles, unique compositional structures and pure fun of Phish…. to merge these three into one gives music lovers a special experience…. Its purpose is to heighten people’s passion for this music by creating something fresh and exciting for fans. Discovering connections is part of the fun: Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” seamlessly fitting in the middle of the composition of Phish’s “You Enjoy Myself”. Perfectly placing Phish’s “Sand” into the groove of The Talking Head’s “Slippery People”. Segued collections from all three acts such as …Mike’s Song > Have a Cigar > Once in a Lifetime > Weekapaug Groove. These ideas are the spirit behind Pink Talking Fish. (http://www.pinktalkingfish.com/about.html)
Oh Ya! I’m there!!
D’Phunk does Zeppelin
This should be quite interesting and mind-blowing! Those who were lucky enough to be on Jam Cruise this year already got a taste of Dumpstaphunk performing “Immigrant Song” with drummer Nikki Glaspie taking lead vocals. This is from a 2012 interview with Nikki:
I know you were exposed to rock later in life and remember reading that John Bonham of Led Zeppelin is one of your favorite drummers. What is it that attracts you to rock music, as it’s so different from your Berkley background of jazz improvisation?
Well that’s exactly it (laughing)! It’s so different from jazz; it’s the exact opposite. I like it because there’s a heartbeat, so to speak. With funk, it’s like a train that just keeps going. It’s like chugga-chugga-chugga and it does not stop. Rock is in your face and for a drummer it’s awesome to just bash the drums. I think Led Zeppelin is probably the greatest band of all time. http://tomtommag.com/2012/10/nikki-glaspie-dumpstaphunk/
You can get a taste of this dumpta-psychedelia here from the folks at FunkItBlog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Qnu9IKMSTw#t=819
2) The Pre-Party!
People begin arriving at the camping grounds as early as the Sunday before, and by Wednesday night there is a sizable crowd. To campWednesday night is an extra $20 a person (with your ticket). It’s worth it, not only to claim your spot and get settled in. It’s really when the party starts. This year Wanee brings back the Happy Hour with music starting at 3PM with Honey Island Swamp Band, The Heavy Pets, Cope, Juke and The Politix.
3) The Campgrounds
Spirit of the SuwanneeMusicPark has been called one of the best festival sites in the nation for a reason. The park itself is a 700 acre resort on the SuwanneeRiver. The festival grounds are on one corner of the park with plenty of room to camp all around it and back toward the river. There are over 800 RV sites with water/electric as well as ample primitive camping sites with your vehicle. This is not “lot camping” or “leave your vehicle 5 miles away and tote your gear.” Not to mention it’s beautiful with its soaring pines, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss and star-filled skies. Some of the camping is a 10-15 minute walk from the stages. Many people bring their bikes or rent golf carts. It’s the best way to get around, especially if you decide to explore the park, take a dip in the river, visit the bat house, or partake in the drum circle and late night camp parties. There is a “quiet” camping area for those who need their beauty sleep, though quiet tends to become a relative term at any festival. There are also bath houses (showers and restrooms) on site, and plenty of port-a-lets that are constantly being cleaned by park staff. Hot water does run out quickly though. (A $35 portable shower kit available on amazon.com is definitely worth it.) There are also a few places to charge phones and camera batteries as well as find free Wi-Fi, though it does tend to be slow, as is cell service.
4) The Vibe
The last few Wanee festivals have had good sized crowds with around 25,000 in attendance (some estimates are even higher). But the vibe is still chilled and friendly and an incredible party. People travel from all over the country to attend and I’ve found myself camping next to people I still call friends. Everyone is there to have a good time.
Having said that, this is not really a family festival. You’ll see few small children and that’s probably best.
You can’t bring backpacks or drinks into the actual festival grounds, but I’ve never seen anyone’s car searched entering the campgrounds or pat downs entering the festival. I have heard of a few camp site searches, and I know there are undercover cops there (in the camp and festival sites), but in the many, many festivals I’ve been to at Suwannee, I’ve never seen it and have only seen one person given a ticket and one “incident.” That includes Wanee. The number of arrests and the “invasiveness” of security are minimal compared with some other festivals. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless though. A little discretion goes a long way. And the SOSMP staff is knowledgeable, helpful, and there to ensure everyone has a great experience.
Something that very cool about Wanee (and all the festivals at SOSMP) is that you never know who you will see… on stage or in the crowd. Sit-ins and guest appearances are the norm. But you’ll also see the musicians roaming about, checking out other bands, shopping the vendors in the midway – even Gregg Allman has been spotted in the crowd enjoying the festival, as well he should!
5) The Cost
The cost of admission as well as the food and drink prices is on par with other festivals of this size and quality of lineup, if not less. Camping is included. Showers don’t cost extra. There are no “hidden” fees. There is a general store on site and everything is fairly priced. I’ve paid more for festivals (tickets plus) and gotten far less.
A three day general admission ticket is $205 plus fees. Friday March 28 tickets increase to $228. Three nights of primitive camping are included for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. VIP tickets are sold out.
Get your tickets now and come get your Wanee on!! at http://bit.ly/Mvn6wu
And don’t forget your cans of food! Wanee is partnering with Conscious Alliance to host an ‘Art That Feeds’ Food Drive. Bring 20 cans of food to receive a FREE poster!! Learn more at http://bit.ly/MzmYef