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Wanee Music Festival ~ Live Oak, FL ~ 04/19-21/2012 

The Spirit of the Suwannee was alive and bright as 15,000 joyous folks came together for Wanee Festival 2012.  Even with a dreary weather forecast, a lively excitement permeated the music park, from the concert grounds to the scattered onsite campgrounds.  This year, with Furthur set to play full sets both Friday and Saturday, the atmosphere was reminiscent of the Grateful Dead era.  Tie-dyed tapestries with terrapins were draped between trees, and colorful Steal Your Face flags flew proud above the crowd.  Though Chinese astrologists will tell you 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, here in America it’s also the Year of the Peach, with The Allman Brothers Band celebrating their 40th anniversary.  The Wanee 2012 audience was poised with excitement for the double dose of ABB that would be doled out Friday and Saturday night on the fittingly named Peach Stage.

We arrived Thursday just in time to see Ray Manzarek and Roy Rogers.  If you grew up listening to and loving The Doors like I did, the chance to see Ray was a golden opportunity; his solo keyboard instrumental version of “Crystal Ship” was a dream manifest, and the closing “Riders on the Storm” got the whole band in on the legacy action.  Next on the wooded amphitheatre Mushroom Stage was Devon Allman’s Honey Tribe, a time to revel in rock with guitarist Devon and bassist George Potsos struttin’ and strumming around Gabriel Strange’s drumming.  The need to protect camera equipment drove us out with a heavy downpour of rain, but I heard Hot Tuna’s electric set was extra-hot.

 Friday brought sunshine to the debut of the Peach Stage, a massive stage overlooking a huge open field.  Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio literally Woke Up Wanee with an early feel-good vibe.  Bruce Hornsby

& The Noisemakers made a joyfully melodic noise, paying tribute to the recent passing of Levon Helm with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, and playing a fantastic set.  We moved on to the Mushroom Stage for our first taste of Matt Schofield, a British guitarist with a badass case of the blues, definitely worth a listen.  Back at the Peach, the legendary blues king Buddy Guy gave us both grace and grit, the power of his guitar penetrating

all present, captivating the crowd with his shining soul and dynamic performance.  The Mushroom housed an uplifting showcase of rhythm when the Mickey Hart Band came out to play, with Mickey’s masterful percussion driving the intensity and Dave Schools’ (Widespread Panic) bass solid and strong. 

As midday sun bathed the Peach Stage, Tedeschi Trucks Band brought soothing beauty; Susan and Derek have a lovely interaction with their guitars, and the band has a full rich soundscape.  The concert field was packed with happy hippies as Furthur took the stage; from the first notes of “Not Fade Away” to the last notes of “Touch of Grey”, the crowd was entranced.  Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk hit the Mushroom Stage, channeling George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, with a voyage

through their greatest hits.  When evening closed in with a blanket of stars The Allman Brothers Band brought their smooth Southern-drenched psychedelia and mesmerized us.  On the stage-size backdrop a colorful display of melting images provided a feast for the eyes, while the band played beloved classics to please the ears.  Complementing the mid-set moving tributes to Levon Helm

were guest appearances by Kofi Burbridge (TTB), Bob Weir, Susan Tedeschi, Danny Louis (Gov’t Mule), and others; hearing “It Makes No Difference” and “The Weight” brought the full impact of Levon’s loss to light, may he rest in peace.

 The Saturday skies were far less favorable than Friday; ponchos and umbrellas were out in full force, as a large thunderstorm system was scheduled to move in.  The rain stayed hidden while Trigger Hippy put on quite a show at the Peach, with Joan Osborne sounding soulful, flanked by a pair of great

guitars.  We caught some Leftover Salmon at the Mushroom, and all were hopeful that the high-octane bluegrass would make the stormclouds dance off into the distance.  Alas, it was not to be.  Back at the Peach, Gov’t Mule unleashed the beginnings of what was sure to be a smoldering set, but during “The Shape I’m In” the rain became so heavy that the band was forced to abandon the stage, and folks did what they could to find shelter from the storm, which lasted nearly three long hours. 

Suddenly, it was near time for Furthur’s second show, and mercifully the rain slowed to a drizzle, allowing Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and the band to bring us that wonderfully transportive music they play so well.  Both of their shows were grand, but the Saturday set really blew me away.  It may have been the grateful feelings that grew when every song seemed to cause the sky to clear a little more; it may have been the magic of songs that flowed continually into each other; perhaps it was the second-song “China Cat Sunflower” that didn’t complete its “I Know You Rider” until the last song of the set.  Whatever it was, it totally captivated me, and looking at the faces surrounding me, I was not the only one who felt it.

 Spirits were soaring as The Allman Brothers Band came out with the beautiful “Jessica” to start their second show.  Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes truly carry on the dueling guitar legacy of ABB, and Gregg Allman sounds fantastic as always.  Jaimoe and Butch Trucks continue to pound out the rhythms to great effect, Oteil Burbridge brings smooth funk on his bass, and Marc Quinones’ percussion adds another layer of depth.  A special treat came during the Dr. John cover “Walk On Guilded Splinters” when Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) joined Derek and Warren, and a triple slide-guitar show ensued to the delight of all.  Later on, Mobile, AL got quite a nod when Jimmy Hall (Wet Willie) brought his harmonica to the party for “She Caught the Katy”, “Statesboro Blues”, and “Smokestack Lightning”.  

After the phenomenal ABB set ended near the midnight hour, North Mississippi Allstars closed down Wanee 2012 at the Mushroom Stage.  Luther and Cody Dickinson rocked hard, with Pierre Wells filling in for Chris Chew on bass, and Roosevelt Collier (The Lee Boys) playing his lap steel on a support board that allowed him to stand and deliver.  Thus concluded our first adventure at Wanee Music Festival; and based on this 2012 experience, laden with delicious Southern delight, I would gladly return and ask for more.  We wish The Allman Brothers Band a happy 40th anniversary, and are so grateful they continue to grace us with their talents and music; and thanks to all the people, from the bands to the fans, who made Wanee 2012 such a pleasure.


Review by: Rosemary A.W. Roberts

Photos by: Clayton Roberts











































































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