“Merry Wanne!!!” people called as the sun faded behind the tendrils of spanish moss that canopy the entirety of the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Timicua Indians honored these great trees as the doublet of the world tree, cosmic tree, or the tree of life. As a sacred tree, the live oak was thought to hold within it’s branches secrets of the universe and immortality. Trips to the adored Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park are often personal, transformational and uniquely diverse for each person.Headliners of this year’s Wanee included Widespread Panic, Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Gov’t Mule, Steel Pulse, Galactic and of course The Allman Brothers band. Although the temperature dropped pretty sharply and with it came rain, the weekend still managed to be fantastic with absolutely no disappointments. Here are some of the highlights from that weekend:
Royal Southern Brotherhood
Allman and Neville. Two names that ring synonmous with rock n’ roll in the southern United States. In this powerhouse of a southern blues jam band Devon Allman and Cyril Neville combine forces with Mike Zito, Charlie Wooten and Yonrico Scott to bring one hell of a show.
I gotta give a shout out to my buddy Bean Spence on this little gnome fellow. If you’ve been to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park before, I can gurantee you have seen some of his artwork adorning one of the stages or peering around trees. I highly recommend check his stuff out here:
No matter what band Warren Haynes is performing with, he’s always on top of his game. Haynes’ bluesy voice combined with the raw chords of his guitar will send a chill down your spine, making goosebumps erupt upon you. Gov’t Mule is always excellent. Last year Mule’s set got rained out. This year they picked up where they left off with a huge “Thorazine Shuffle” to start the set. During the drum solo, Matt Abts touted the rhythmic mantras of John Bonham. Eventually the set became “Gov’t Panic” or “Widespread Mule” as Jimmy Herring, John Bell, Jojo Hermann, and Dave Schools joined in for “Cortez the Killer”…and then it rained… A lot.
It did not stop raining for about 12 hours. This however did not deter the everlasting fire of Wanee goers. Widespread Panic was well suited to stoke the flames. Warren Haynes soared during a monstrous “Jesus Left Chicago”. Funkadelic’s, “Maggot brain”, allowed the dust to settle before a most appropriate set closer of “Chilly Water”.
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Michael Franti always makes me just want to bounce up and down while giving everyone around me high-fives. His positive reggae and world influenced music is perfect for all ages.
Franti always gets into the crowd making the show more of a personal and interactive experience. There was even a point where he went full-on into the crowd, where he performed an entire song surrounded by his fans.
Tedeschi Trucks Band
After winning a grammy for their album “Revelator”, it’s no surprise that Tedeschi Trucks Band keeps getting better with each year. Briliiantly performed to the tee, TTB are without a doubt on their way to another grammy and countless stages near you. During Kofi Burbridge’s organ/clavinet solo in “bound for glory”, Brother Oteil and Jimmy Herring could be seen side stage sitting on the ground, laughing, and pushing & shoving each other while cheering on Kofi’s ivory work. Saxophonist Kebbi Williams detonated the peach stage during “Learn How To Love You” with a solo that summoned the spirit of John Gilmore.
Widespread Panic Pt. 2
Though the temperature began to drop along with the sun, Widespread Panic was ready to provide heat for a 2nd night. A catchy “Climb to Safety” preceded a pounding “Stop Breaking Down”. The set grew in purpose and quality of playing as it went along, culminating when Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi crept on stage. Susan leant her perfect voice for Van Morrison’s, “I’ve Been Working”. Derek Trucks remained on stage for a menacing version of “Going Out West”.
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub squad performed just before The Allman Brothers Band on Saturday night. The song “Missing You More” has been stuck in my head since that night and probably will be for a good time to come.
The Allman Brothers Band
Gregg Allman looked and sounded healthier than he’s been for Wanee in years. A beautiful “Blue Sky”, a haunting rendition of Steve Winwood’s, “Can’t Find My Way Home”, featuring John Bell on vocals, and a celebratory “Love is Everywhere”, all enthralled the congregation.
Last year Greg Allman couldn’t be on stage for more than a few songs, so to see him so animated behind his Hammond b3 and front and center with his acoustic guitar for “Melissa” was a true pleasure. A stunning performance of “Long Black Veil” ended the pseudo acoustic portion of the set.
Last year’s Wanee went without “Whipping Post” so when Oteil’s bass line dropped; the crowd broke into mayhem. Old Men crossed their arms, women screamed, and maniacs jockeyed for space. When Derek Trucks is ON he is standing united with his guitar; transforming into the conduit for spirit. With a slide, the solo began to run away from him – when he decided enough was enough, he spiked the slide at a 45 degree angle into the concrete before tearing into his guitar like a bear claw. At the pause, Allman clears his throat, pulls down the microphone, and unleashes “…SOMETIMES I FEEL..!”….and the crowd went wild.
Words by Scott T. Horowitz and Phil Sunkel