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Friday Fun at the Wanee Festival

  04/17/11 19:00, by , Categories: Music News, Festivals and Events, BFMN Exclusive, Jim Messer, Bands, Review , Tags: allman brothers, bfmn exclusive, hot tuna, jim messer, robert plant, spirit of the suwannee, wanee festival

Review and Photos by Jim Messer

Last weekend the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & Campground held the jewel of their festival lineup, Wanee Festival. The campground boasts over 500 acres for top-of-the-line camping. They have primitive and electric/water sites, trails for hiking, numerous bat houses and of course, the beautiful Suwannee River. When it comes to a music festival, there is truly no finer place in Florida to have one.

Click through for more and CLICK HERE for photos!

The Wanee Festival has been held every April since 2005 and is the brainchild of the Allman Brothers.  In the past, the event was held over two days; this year the lineup was expanded and held over three.  In actually started with a Happy Hour on Tuesday, with local bands playing the “Engine Barn Stage” from 7pm till midnite, and launched into full gear with the kick-off party on Wednesday offering music on the more intimate Mushroom Stage from 2pm to 2 am.

The first full day of music, Thursday, April 14, was headlined by Widespread Panic on the Peach Stage, in the grand area of the park, while the second, Mushroom, stage featured the likes of Devon Allman’s Honeytribe and Hot Tuna Electric.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

I arrived on Friday, just in time to see Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings on the Peach Stage.  The Dap Kings brought their thunderous grooves right from the start.  The band cranked it up (and did their soundcheck) in the first song.  After smoothing over some highs and lows, out came Sharon Jones.  She absolutely brings her best to the stage and lingered on every note needed.  The Dap Kings’ mix of blues, soul and funk, without a doubt, brought a mellow calm over Wanee.

Kellar Williams

Off to the Mushroom Stage I went to hear Keller Williams. I’d seen him before, using looping and instrument playback to create a one-man-band sound. He had a full band with him for this event. It is a side project, Kdubalicious, and they play a mix of reggae, dub and funk. The vocals were more a version of scat, which added tremendously to the rhythm. Keller was able to blend three or four sounds that he was making into an incredibly catchy beat.

Ran back over to the Peach stage in time to catch the Warren Haynes Band. For the first few songs he borrowed the Dap King’s horns to add to the music. The high point, to me, was Haynes powering through Tear Me Down, Broken Promised Land and Fire in the Kitchen. He showcased his blues jams, fast fingers and ability to bend notes.

I went in search of sustenance. Wanee had this area well covered. There was a main food area between the two stages that served traditional festival food: pizza, gyros and fried foods joined veggie burritos, smoothies and a solar-powered coffee house to feed you right. Wanee Festival operates on a ticket purchasing system which works out nicely if you can plan ahead of time how much you’ll spend. They also provided a huge number of restrooms, which, surprisingly, were pretty clean. The staff and crew were extremely professional and worked hard to provide a safe, fun environment for everyone.

Robert Plant phot by Jim Messer

Robert Plant was up next on the Peach stage. There had been some talk of needing to sign a waiver, so we showed up a little earlier than normal. We were met by a gentleman who held a list of pre-approved shooters, developed through some weird strategy that no one understood – we had all applied and were approved for photo passes in the same way. This kink in the plan caused some extreme freak-outs among the photographers that weren’t approved to shoot. In fact, the dust-up was so big that Plant’s management decided to pull everyone from the pit. While shooting from the crowd is never perfect, it is what it is.  Plant stepped to the stage and belted out the start of Black Dog. The crowd went nuts. The Band of Joy turned it into a bit of a reggae slow jam, which was an odd choice – it certainly didn’t match well. Plant’s first few songs were off – he didn’t have the trademark growl that brought him fans for the last 40 years. However, that proved to be just a warm up. As he bounced around and involved the crowd, his voice gathered the steam he’s been known for.

Back to the Mushroom stage I went to catch Particle. This was a band that I had never seen, but had heard a lot of good things about. They hit that “magic hour” of light, starting just as dusk hit. The amphitheater was absolutely alive with glow sticks, neon, flashing lights and hula hoops. The best way to explain their music is a jam band turned up to 11.  They fused rock, funk, jazz and electronic into an incredibly woven blend of music that worked extremely well. It was one of the few times I just stepped back, closed my eyes and let the music take over. It’s cool to be a part of tribal fusion and to see everyone else on the same wavelength. It was very much a bonding experience.

Greg Allman photo by Jim Messer

The night closed for me with a walk over to the Peach stage to catch the headliners, The Allman Brothers Band. Some honesty here: even though I am from the Brothers’ backyard, I’d never seen them play, so I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought they’d be O.K., I mean, they’d have to be. They drew about 30,000 people to this festival! I was absolutely floored at how incredibly good they sounded live. To see Gregg Allman take complete control of the organ and electric piano is stunning. Warren Haynes played note for note with Derek Trucks on the guitar.  While I am not completely familiar with their music, I was able to pick out Midnight Rider and Whipping Post. The Allman Brothers set covered 40 years of incredible music and was the perfect ending for my first day’s coverage of the great festival they put on the map.


Don’t miss Jim’s PHOTOS from FRIDAY at the WANEE FESTIVAL
and Stay Tuned for coverage of Saturday’s entertainment!!


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