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Wanee Music Festival ~ 4/10-12/2014 ~ Spirit of Suwannee Music Park ~ Live Oak, FL

Written and Photos By: Joey Pye

It is that time of year again when The Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) has music lovers and festival goers pouring in from afar. Wanee Music Festival is one of, if not the biggest festival held there annually. In the past, it generally produces anywhere from 20-40 thousand attendees. This year, the anticipation of meeting that goal was far from boring. There was a shift in the date, unusual band billing and on top of that, the co-headliner, Lynyrd Skynyrd, was double booked for Saturday at another venue. It had been a few years since I had been back to Wanee and wanted to see how these conflicts were going to be resolved. Despite the mix up, all the wrinkles were ironed out and everything went smooth. Skynyrd ending up playing on Friday before the Allman Brother’s Band and the rest of the schedule was spread out comfortably. The only, and mind you very hard scheduling decision of the weekend, was between Tedeschi Trucks Band and Melvin Seals and The JGB.

The overall sound for all shows was great, barring a few hiccups during the Blues Traveler set, but each and every band brought their “A” game. There wasn’t a bad set all weekend and every single one was worth the price of admission. I can’t tell you one show in which I wasn’t impressed or for that matter blown away. SOSMP has a special place in my heart as I attend all festivals here and in fact, had a little one of my own, when I was married there. I can’t describe the value and magic that place has, without getting goosebumps and conjuring up a silly grin on my face. The park not only puts a very high standard on the lineup and quality of music, but also in the comfort of stay and friendly atmosphere. I don’t know of any place that has the scenery, campsites, line-up and atmosphere comparable to what SOSMP has to offer.   So with all of that said, here are my top 10 moments or events at Wanee 2014:


10) Thursday Night- Thursday night initially looked like it was going to be a night that we would just hang back and the shows would be of little concern or priority. Boy, were we ever wrong. Thursday was Hot Tuna Electric and Soulive, both of which were in the running for best sets of the festival. Hot Tuna turned up the heat real quick with a cover of Bobby Rush’s “Bowlegged Woman”. Soulive was highly underestimated and new to many fans. If you like the band Lettuce and can image them as a jazzy fusion, BOOM. Soulive is made up of Lettuce members Eric Krasno and Neal “The Hawk” Evans, along with drummer Alan Evans. They covered The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and encored with “Come Together” making Thursday night a must, as well as a lesson for anyone ever thinking of just attending the weekend and playing hookie.


9) Freebird- As a Jacksonville native, Lynyrd Skynyrd has a permanent spot nestled in my soul. After dropping Furthur and Widespread Panic from the bill, there was a bit of skepticism surrounding this year’s festival line up. I admit I was one, but watching Skynyrd encore with their anthemic “Freebird” was truly amazing.


8) Guests covered- Sit ins and Covers are, hands down, my favorite aspect of any festival. And with Wanee bringing in some big guns, there were bound to be amazing sit ins and cover moments. Sit in award goes to Warren Haynes, with a close second place tie between Eric Krasno and John Popper. All 3 of them were flip flopping stages multiple times a day. Warren takes the win playing sets with Soulive, ABB, Gov’t Mule, Umphrey’s McGee and Dumpstaphunk. The Allman Brothers Band brought out Trucks’ family member #3, Duane, to play “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and even Trey Anastasio came out to play a couple tunes with ABB on the first night. He and fellow band member, Jennifer Hartswick, joined the band for “Look Who’s Talking” and “Franklin’s Tower”. Hearing Trey with the ABB play a Grateful Dead tune is ineffable. Of course Krasno also sat in with the ABB, during “That’s what love will make you do” and John Popper during the encore for “One Way Out”. They also brought one of my favorite artists and a good friend, Roosevelt Collier, on stage with his slide guitar during “One Way Out”. It is hard to put into words how incredible that was and may be one of the most defining moments of the whole festival. It is moments like these that will make you appreciate Wanee.


7) Trey Anastasio Band– My wife is not the biggest Phish fan and it has always been tooth and nail to get her out to any “Trey” show. She was reluctant to go and see Trey’s band and at the end, was pleasantly surprised and impressed with his set. He played familiar tunes like “Alaska” and “Sand”, even did a few covers. I could do without the Gorillaz cover “Clint Eastwood”, but his soulful version of “O-o-h Child” may be my favorite song from the whole weekend.


6) Lazy Man- winner of OVERALL Wanee MVP goes to the dude in the mobile recliner. We had seen it parked at the amphitheater stage on Thursday and we were in awe, only to be stunned as he was driving it past us on Friday. So yes, he had a La-Z-Boy that was motorized and was getting from A to B on a level of comfort I could only imagine. Touche` and hats off to that gentleman! Golf cart deposit? pssshh!


5) Tortoise vs the Hare- We were walking past the Mushroom Stage when we approached a young man in overalls on what seemed to be a mo-ped. He was challenged by an older gentlemen, a Vietnam Veteran, riding his 3 wheel “Rascal” scooter. The entire surrounding area was at a dead stop and everyone had full attention on this race. You would have thought you were at the infield in Daytona. There were “fans” lined up, a countdown to the start and a photo finish. As with the fable, the hare started off with the lead but the ole veteran took him at the end. It was definitely one of those moments that if you were there, you will remember forever.


4) All Night Wrong- Umphrey’s McGee was slated twice on the bill and the second event was dubbed “All Night Wrong”. They are known for their pristine execution of cover songs and exemplary light shows. The first set was during the day and was mainly them playing originals with a few fun covers thrown in like the “Inspector Gadget” theme. It was the closing set or second show that really stood out. The whole set was an organized cover set with guest after guest after guest* (see setlist). It was absolutely incredible and a perfect way to end the festival.

*Set I: Life During Exodus, The Song Remains the Same, Rock the Casbah > Miss You*, Hey 19 > When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What’s Still Around**, Breathe (dub), A GoGo***, Immigrant Song^, Black Water^, Baba O’Riley, Power of Soul, Cheap Sunglasses Enc: Runnin’ With the Devil, I Want You (She’s So Heavy)^^Notes: *w/John Popper **w/Oteil Burbridge ***w/Adam Deitch and Eric Krasno ^w/Warren Haynes ^^w/Eric Krasno


3) Mushroom Stage- Any regular to SOSMP knows exactly what I am talking about. That amphitheater stage or “Mushroom Stage” is possibly the best venue in the U.S. An amphitheater with natural acoustics, resonating through trees filled with Christmas lights and patrons swinging blissfully in hammocks. The decorations and light show get better and better each time. Many SOSMP regulars and newcomers alike, spend all day at the venue, rarely returning to their campsite. It even seems as if the artists fight over getting to play that stage even though it isn’t considered the “Mainstage”.


2) Framily- It was incredible to watch my little brother soak everything in with such welcoming enthusiasm. We camped with old friends we had met at other SOSMP festivals and spent nights around the campfire reminiscing over that day’s adventures whilst listening to some live acoustic guitar. A dear friend and very talented artist, Albert Simpson, played tunes for us after the music ended on Saturday. He plays every morning at every festival there in the SOS Cafe. I don’t think there is any amount of money in the world I would take over being there at that moment and sharing it with my wife and my youngest brother for his first time.


1) Led-Phunk- It is hard not to give that last event the number one slot, or any of the aforementioned occurrences for that matter, but I must give credit where credit is due. Dumpstaphunk has opened the festival with full cover sets, tributing bands like The Meters and Parliament Funkadelic. This year, they tackled their toughest challenge yet, Led Zeppelin, and ABSOLUTELY crushed it** (set below). The bar was set high for the whole weekend, as you could see the influence they had on the other artists. Led Zeppelin became a recurring theme as most bands tried playing at least one song, as if they were not to be outdone by Dumpstaphunk. It reminded me of the year Levon Helm died and to pay homage, “The Band’ was covered almost every set. I am really excited to see what they pull out of the hat next year as they are becoming a household Wanee name almost as much as the ABB themselves. I think I would retire my Wanee shoes if I heard them do an all Sabbath set. ** Rock & Roll, Black Dog, Dancing Days, Custard Pie ^, Houses Of The Holy, Nobody’s Fault But Mine ^, Misty Mountain Hop, What Is & What Should Never Be, The Wanton Song, Good Times Bad Times, Trampled Underfoot, Out On The Tiles, D’yer Maker, The Ocean *, Fool In The Rain *, Ramble On * E: Whole Lotta Love * Immigrant Song * – ^ with John Popper – * with Warren Haynes


There were many other great acts like Blues Traveler, Bobby Lee Rodgers, Gov’t Mule and Shakedown Street shows with AppleButter Express. It was hard to catch every show and get it all in. Gregg Allman held an interview on Friday morning addressing the rumors of the band breaking up and said “They are not true”. I am not sure what the future holds for the ABB regarding their relationship with Wanee. I hope they remain the headliners and the festival doesn’t change. Regardless, I do not see Wanee stopping on account of them or slowing down anytime soon. I hope the ABB will forever be a part of Wanee, but if one day the time comes when they DO retire….I will be front row, in front of Ivan Neville awaiting that inevitable ABB inspired Dumpsta set.

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