Wanee’s Where You Wanna Be
Wrap up of 2015 Festival
Spirt of Suwanee State Park, Live Oak, Florida
Widespread Panic, Gregg Allman, Gov’t Mule, Earth, Wind & Fire, Cheap Trick, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, Butch Trucks & Very Special Friends, The Word featuring: Robert Randolph, John Medeski, Luther Dickinson, Cody Dickinson & Chris Chew, Hot Tuna Electric, JJ Grey & Mofro, Galactic, Zappa Plays Zappa, Leftover Salmon featuring Bill Payne, Yonder Mountain String Band, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes featuring Doyle Bramhall II, Raw Oyster Cult, Dragon Smoke, The Revivalists, Home At Last – The Nth Power Performs Steely Dan, Tea Leaf Green, Bobby Lee Rogers Trio, Pink Talking Fish, Eric Lindell & Company, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Twiddle, Natural Child, Jacob Jeffries Band, Juke
Eee-Le-ven (11) years now, this four day party in the woods of North Florida has been going strong and this year was bursting at the seams with highlights to spare. Many were wondering what was going to happen when the perennial headliners, The Allman Brothers Band hung it up in October of last year. “Whipping Post” was performed no less than three times, twice by Allmans alumni. Widespread Panic ably headlined both Friday and Saturday nights.
Muggy and mostly overcast, the weather never stopped the shows or slowed things down. There was the occasional downpour, but the rain passed soon enough. The party started on Wednesday, but I can’t account for it as I arrived on Thursday during a stellar performance of salt kissed blues by Miami’s Jacob Jeffries Band. Wanee veteran act Bobby Lee Rogers Trio played a stunning set on the smaller, more intimate Mushroom stage.
The Mushroom Stage was the only one available for shows on Thursday. Royal Southern Brotherhood delivered the best show I’ve seen from them to date. Guitarist Devon Allman chose the bands performance of “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone, to fall on one knee, and ask a stunning blonde one can only assume he already knew, to marry him. She said “yes” before the band and an audience of thousands. All star band Raw Oyster Cult served up a solid show, with the highlight being an epic reading of the Grateful Dead classic, “Morning Dew.” Hot Tuna Electric followed with a typically amazing set.
There was a sedate start to Friday’s festivities with ABB biographer Alan Paul discussing the expanded paperback release of the official band history, ‘One Way Out.’ Twiddle came quick on their heels with their own memorable brand of reggae-dub-jam shredding. Jaimoe’s Jassz Band did not disappoint. With a strong horn section and a limber rhythm section, JJB always delivers a notable show.
A true sign of respect and admiration is how many fellow musicians come out to catch an artists set. For Zappa Plays Zappa the less well known players wandered out among the crowd. More well known names and sidemen, put on ball caps pulled down low so they could listen without being interrupted by well meaning glad handers. And the A-listers, they lined the wings so they could check out the seriously impressive musical histrionics of these young players led by Dweezil Zappa. He ran through fan favorites such as “Cosmic Debris.” “Dancing Fool,” and closed with a stunning rendition of “Whipping Post.” with a reprisal of “Muffin Man.” it was nothing short of musical perfection. Of the many shows over the years, Zappa Plays Zappa stands out as a Wanee highlight for the ages.
Widespread Panic closed the Peach Stage with a brilliant three hour set. Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk kept the party hopping till the wee hours with their post midnight 70’s set.
Natural Child was an unexpected surprise for this years show. They started off Saturday on the Mushroom Stage with their raw, Stones meets Waylon Jennings filtered through Iggy Pop interpretations. The Revivalists were sharp with their New Orleans party stylings. But it Was Butch Trucks and Very Special Friends who ran away with Saturday’s show.
You knew it was going to be a great set when Jaimoe introduced the act. Taking the mic, he said, “My friend, and my brother, Mr Butch Trucks!” Trucks along with Allman band members, Oteil Burbridge and Marc Quinones also included some choice musicians to round out the line up. He took a moment to note “this is a first for me, to share the stage with my son Vaylor (on guitar). He was the cute little boy on the ‘Brothers and Sisters’ album cover. He’s not so cute now.” Vaylor, an accomplished player in his own right, held his own and earned his spot on the stage.
On vocals was Lamar Williams Jr., son of Lamar Williams who was ABB’s bassist during part of the 70’s. This formidable line-up plowed through an all ABB set with the fervor of someone just finding religion. Butch Trucks closed the show saying, “This is the first full show I’ve played since October. Man I needed that!”
Cheap Trick were as good as they always are. And were well received. And if I can quote myself, “Only assholes don’t like Cheap Trick.” which is all you really need to know about their hit filled hour and a half. I did miss seeing Bun E. Carlos though.
Gregg Allman followed on the Peach stage with an animated delivery of both solo hits and songs from the ABB catalog. Allman took the stage in good spirits and commented on what a great venue the park is. “I’m No Angel,” “Come and Go Blues,” “Melissa,” were all warmly welcomed by the audience, but Allman has once again re-interpreted the most mythical of songs in his back catalog. He wrapped up the show with a Latin Jazz flavored reading “Whipping Post.” Allman’s willingness to invert and re-write his own hits speaks to restless nature as an artist.
WSP were lithe and displayed an adventurous streak with their extended jamming on Saturday night. The crowd sang along on the choruses, and the delivery was cathartic.
Naysayers keep your negativity in check. This years festival was well attended and enthusiastic. If this year is any indication, there are years yet left for this to keep on keepin’ on.