Wanee Festival | 04.15-04.17 | Florida

Words by: Frank Etheridge | Images by: Ian Rawn

Wanee Festival :: 04.15.10-04.17.10 :: Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park :: Live Oak, FL

Herring & Bell - Widespread Panic at Wanee 2010
The instantaneous and non-sourced information available to us in our constantly chattering culture should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt.

Just one week ago, in the more hysterical corners of social-media networks, Wanee 2010 was deemed a disaster in the making. Anonymous histrionics and hypochondriacs matter-of-factly declared that the addition of Widespread Panic and the aggressive marketing of promoter Live Nation had bludgeoned this once sere scene into an oversold clusterfuck of brown-acid-at-Woodstock proportion.

In reality, Wanee 2010 was far removed from these dire predictions. Yes, this year was bigger, no doubt; younger and rowdier, too. Feeling the shoulder-to-shoulder squeeze at George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic Thursday night at the Mushroom Stage, or a simple glance at the sprawling crowd covering the entire Peach Stage field, was proof enough that the crowd was roughly double the size of last year.

Yet, blessed with beautiful spring weather, graced with an incredible lineup and handled with superb logistical skill that kept big-crowd headaches and hassles to a minimum, Wanee 2010 was a success on all fronts. Inseparable from the festival experience was a long weekend of camping in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and partying with the festival circuit's most eclectic mix of like-minds, a crazed commune that is equal parts biker rally and magic carpet ride, camo and tie-dye, Bud tall boy and heady green tea.

So, if you don't have fun at Wanee, you just ain't doing it right.

Wanee 2010
In light of all the superlatives that could apply, this year's festival will be summed up by a "Best of Wanee" approach, and we encourage you to post your own favorites!

Best Surprise Shredding: Godfather to the Southern jam scene, Col. Bruce Hampton fittingly held court Thursday afternoon on the Mushroom Stage as Wanee kicked into high gear. Yet, Quark Alliance guitarist Perry Osborn stole the show, ripping his way through the improvised madness typical of a Hampton show, shining especially brightly on "I'm So Glad."

Best Reason to Put a Moratorium on Grateful Dead Covers: Though this is clearly an Allman Brothers festival, the Grateful Dead's spirit and music permeated everything, and covers of the band were performed by seemingly every act. But, is this a good thing? Anyone that endured the cringe-inducing vocals of Papa Mali on "Wharf Rat" would argue it is not.

Best Way to Shake a Hangover: Jumping in the beautiful, brisk black water of the Suwanee River mid-morning will take one's headache – and breath! – away.

Best Song Sandwich: Gov't Mule's late night set closing sequence of "Mule" > "Whole Lotta Love" > "Mule" was a thrill, and Panic's flawless segues in "Chilly" > "Pleas" > "Chilly" were pure sickness, but when considering that the Allman Brothers opened their festival with "Mountain Jam" Friday AND finished the classic marathon instrumental on Saturday night, we have to give top honors to the Brothers.

Ivan Neville & JoJo Hermann at Wanee 2010
Best Black Crowe Sighting: Has Luther Dickinson morphed into Chris Robinson?

Best Tease: The aforementioned Mule medley also included a deft touch of "Loser," but this Wanee award goes to ABB/Rolling Stones/Sea Level alum Chuck Leavell, a Southern gentleman and leading conservationist to boot. In a rollicking set featuring Randall Bramblett on horns, Leavell moved his band through "Dead Flowers," "Rip This Joint" and "Here Comes the Sun" (dedicated to "Brother George") before sailing into "Southbound," where he worked the 88s for a few rolls of the Allmans' instrumental "Jessica."

Best Buckeye Shout-Out: Seemingly lost in a land of Gators, 'Noles and Bulldawgs, a pasty fellow in an Ohio State cap, fists raised, shouted, "Akron, Ohio, baby!" during The Black Keys' set. While the connotation (and location) of Akron was unclear to most in attendance, and despite the fact that the town's best-known musical act plays a hyper-modern blend of the blues that is a bit jolting contrasted to the Allmans' innate grace, these Wanee newcomers delivered a well-received set, closing with a blistering "Till I Get My Way."

Best Sit-In: Stiff competition in this category included WSP's JoJo Hermann (keys) and NMA's Cody Dickinson (washboard) joining The Funky Meters for Professor Longhair's "Red Beans" and Warren Haynes manhandling "North" during Panic's Saturday set closer. But, sentimentality and craftsmanship win out in a nod to blues legend and longtime Allmans runnin' partner Johnny Winter, who joined the ABB Saturday night for a haunting take on Elmore James' "The Sky Is Crying."

Gregg Allman - The Allman Brothers at Wanee 2010
Best Vocal Harmonies: Performing a set of hits by Sly and the Family Stone, one of their primary influences, Dumpstaphunk's Ivan Neville and Tony Hall became perfectly in sync as they nailed the vocal bass rhythm that is the defining groove on the classic Sly hit "Dance to the Music."

Best Jam: Coming out of "Black Hearted Woman" on Friday night, the Allmans wove in the Dead's "The Other One" jam. Building on the primal, driving rhythms of Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, the scream, wail and twirl of Haynes and Derek Trucks' guitars created an epic crescendo to close this set.

Best Moment: Trading verses with Haynes, WSP frontman John Bell sweetly sang of a scene sketched by one of his heroes, Van Morrison, during "And It Stoned Me" on Saturday night during ABB's set. With imagery evocative of rainstorms, pickup trucks and fishin' poles, the verse was perfectly set against Wanee's magical backdrop. Add in the lines, "There were bottles, too/ One for me and you/ And he said, 'Hey, there you are!'" and there's no denying the soul-stirring feeling of good friends sharing great times. And for fans of Panic and the Allmans, there's an element of unrestrained bliss that only music can create in knowing that the union between these two cherished bands is now sealed forever.

Best Performance: The Allman Brothers on Saturday night. The music was superb, from Gregg's powerful pipes on "Ain't My Cross To Bear" to the frenzied guitar jams of "Nobody Left To Run With Anymore" to the surreal spaces created in "Dreams." Yet, this set encapsulated so much more. Taking the stage twice after Widespread Panic, a headlining act that most bands would never follow, the Allmans firmly planted their flag in the quasi-terra firma of the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park, staking their claim to a growing festival they fathered, a scene they created and a legacy they have earned. Truly, the land and the kings are one.

JamBase | Sunshine State
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[Published on: 4/20/10]

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