Wanee Sure Sounds Like Paradise
Where do you go when you want to see some amazing live music and be surrounded by some of America’s most beautiful scenery? The Wanee Music Festival is the place to be I hear. That’s why I’m starting my great American road trip with a jaunt down to the the Florida pan handle for three days, filled with music, sunshine and good times. Any good road trip needs to have a rockin’ soundtrack. The loaded lineup featured at Wanee Music Festival 2012, April 19th to 21st, should provide just that. The festival is headlined by classic jam rock titans the Allman Brothers Band and Furthur with an overflowing assortment of supporting acts. I’m unsurehow I’m going to fit all this fantastic music into 3 days, but I’m going to have a blast trying.
Let the good times roll on down to Live Oak, FL. Site of the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and home to this upcoming musical adventure. The park is easily accessible from Interstates 75 and 10. If you don’t happen to be on a road trip and are traveling from afar to enjoy the weekends festivites there are several close airports located in Gainesville, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. All will have you in Live Oak, unpacking your dancing shoes, within 1.5 hours. It being Florida you can expect some beautiful weather even for mid-April. Typical highs range in the mid 80°s which is ideal for soaking up some rays while getting your groove on. Word to the wise though fans, don’t forget your sunscreen and to drink plenty of water, even in April Florida gets plenty hot. No one likes kickin it to Leftover Salmon while feeling like a California Raisin. Night time can bring a serious drop in temp with lows in 50°s (even 40°s!) so come prepared with some heavier clothes for late night excursions.
We’re here, we’re rocking, where are we staying? Like all the good festivals of recent years, Wanee offers several options when you just need a place to lay your head. Old school primitive camping is available in a backdrop that’s hard to beat. One of the perks Wanee provides is a surreal landscape in which the park is located on. Nestled on the banks of the Suwannee River, the park allows you to enjoy the natural bounty with swimming, canoeing, horseback riding and hiking when you’re not engulfed in melodic bliss, that is. Campfires are permitted, but please remember to review the parks rules concerning fires. Don’t piss off Smokey the Bear, he is a bear after all. For those fans that aren’t down with popping up a tent there are an abundance of RV lots with all the fixings. There are also onsite lodges with most of your basic amenities and a couple close hotels if you want to put some distance between yourself and possible late night shenanigans. If you’re like me then there’s a good chance you forgot to pack an essential ingredient to a killer weekend. Have no fear, Wanee is here! A general store in the park has everything (*almost*) that you might need to keep on keeping on. Showers, restrooms, port-o-pots, potable water and ice vending can be found in several spots throughout the park. Wanee has everything you need to have an amazing weekend… and yeah some incredible music to bring it all together.
The lineup for Wanee couldn’t be better suited for my tastes. Two bands that could easily headline their own festival joining forces to become a two-headed MegaHeadliner. South of the Mason-Dixon line big time rock show? You better believe the Allman Brothers Band will be there bringing the heat jams and soul-touching melodies. Of course their influence can be felt all throughout this country and beyond. I know a warm summer’s night back in 1998 in the pavilion of Great Woods Amphitheater forever changed my life. It was my 2nd concert and it was like a rudder on the boat of fate leading me towards unimaginable times of joy and happiness. That night I was introduced to a true rock and roll show and all that goes with it. Back in those days they had Dickey Betts as their front man who could absolutely shred it. The pure energy that I felt flowing at me from this band pumping on all cylinders is something I’ll never forget.
While Dickey is no longer with them, the ABB always keep rolling down the road. I’ve seen them many times since and they never disappoint. Soldiers of the road and champions of the fans, Greg and Co. continually give their all to make every fans experience a memorable one. Classics such as Melissa, Jessica, Brandi (ok that last one was another bands lyrical cooing, sorry Looking Glass hahaha), Whipping Post, One Way Out, No One Left To Run With, etc are always in abundance. Heavy hitters of the classic rock genre coming from left and right. Lyrics that speak to any man and every man. My soul is shining brightest on those days that I’m lucky enough to be at an ABB show. A couple rare cuts and an occasional cover in their own bluesy rock style round out a night you’ll surely be reminiscing about with your kids on down the road.
The Big Man is gone, but the band carries on. There is one band that truly ignited my love for music and later crafted my appreciation for the art of the live show. The Grateful Dead have been, are and always will be my favorite band. From the moment I put on their first self-titled album and Golden Road started to course through my brain I was hooked. Is it psychedelic rock? Is it bluegrass? Is it hard rock? Hell, is it disco? There is no true label that could be placed on the Grateful Dead and that’s part of what made them so special. Great musicians playing awe-inspiring music with fabled lyrics. Wanee is a perfect spot to listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock your soul.
The Grateful Dead has taken many forms since Jerry died all while maintaining the true focus and goal of the original band. To bring the fans on a musical voyage to maximum audible ecstasy and possibly a bit of enlightenment. Furthur is the latest reincarnation to follow Casey down the tracks. Listen to the raw gut busting solo of Viola Lee Blues and tell me you don’t feel at least slightly altered afterwards. The band plays a mix of songs from all the different eras of the Dead making for some intriguing set lists. A Cold Rain and Snow opener can easily segue several decades later to Throwing Stones and back again for a Cream Puff War. High soaring peaks of Estimated Prophet can cascade back into soothing serenades of Broke Down Palace. Amazing highs mixed with mind boggling improvisation capped off with mellowing acoustics all wrapped in a layer of community. After all its more than just ashes when your dreams come true.
Wanee comes across as almost a family affair when reviewing the supporting acts. Greg’s son Devon Allman brings his own talented band Honeytribe to the festival. The musical talent gene can be seen in full effect when the Allman heir hits the stage. Branching out further from the ABB tree are Warren Haynes with his band Gov’t Mule and Derek Trucks with his wife in the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Both with signature styles that were finely tuned while each spent time, both separately and on occasion in unison, as the lead axe man for the ABB. Furthur has its share of familiar faces filling out the band list. Old friend Mickey Hart joins the party with his band as well as new friend Jackie Greene in the impressive gathering known as Trigger Hippy. The familiarity and cohesion felt by all these talented musicians can only stir up thoughts of possible all-star collaborations at Wanee.
Speaking of all-stars, the North Mississippi All-Stars continue a jam-packed lineup. You can’t help but shake your hips when this southern power trio takes the stage. In my humble opinion you don’t get much better guitarists under 40 then Luther Dickinson (don’t worry I didnt forget about you Derek Trucks). Their sound comes together with the strong support of Chris Chew on bass and Luther’s brother Cody on drums, washboard, guitar and I think I even saw him pull out a kitchen sink one night. Classic rock veterans Bruce Hornsby and Ray Manzarek bring their bands to Wanee for some revitalized hits while Zach Deputy and Particle lay down some future classics. Dumpstaphunk and Big Sams Funky Nation will provide us with our daily dose of funk. Caution: overdose of funk might lead to extreme booty shaking. I can’t think of a better way to start my great american road trip then a musical feast in a current day Eden. What a long strange trip I’m sure it will be. Hope to see you there!