Wannee Music Festival :: 04.15 & 04.16 :: Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park :: Live Oak, FL
Wanee Music Festival, the first of what will hopefully be an annual event, was held at the Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida on April 15th and 16th, 2005.
With nothing but blue skies overhead and smiles on faces, several hundred people gathered for the start of the two day and twelve band festival. Kicking off on Friday at 2:30 in the afternoon, Oteil & The Peacemakers, headed by the serious yet friendly Oteil Burbridge got the first of eighteen performances underway. When asked later about starting off the event, Burbridge humbly commented, "The Lord said, 'The meek shall lead the way.'" Burbridge thanked the audience for "showing the love" before bringing out the funk in a large and eclectic way, including guest Paul Henson on vocals for several songs.
Oteil Burbridge at Wanee
In the distance, Dark Star Orchestra could be heard warming up on the Mushroom stage (the amphitheater) while the seasoned musicians of Max Creek, who started their careers as a Dead cover band, were getting the gears greased as well. Dark Star Orchestra, the premier Grateful Dead re-creationists, played their first of two original sets of Grateful Dead tunes, welcoming the crowd to the side stage "where it's nice and shady, on one of the most beautiful days we could possibly get playing here." Starting with "Jack Straw" and "Good Times," their two hour set included Johnny Cash's "Big River," as well as Dead favorites "Box of Rain" and "Ramble On Rose." The set ended with a superb "China" > "Rider" as little hippies in dresses with embroidered bears and tiger-panted costumes (including fuzzy tails) played happily to the mellow vibe as Derek Trucks strolled nonchalantly through the audience.
On the Peach Stage in the field, Robert Randolph & the Family Band's sound was screaming as he laid down the sacred steel. Fans sang along to "Jesus is Just Alright" before the Derek Trucks Band opened their set on the Mushroom stage with Cofi Burbridge's flute expertise on the jazz-reggae "Rastaman Chant." The tiki torches framing the stage started glowing as the warm sunlight of the day faded, and the crowd became ecstatic when Robert Randolph joined in on "Joyful Noise" along with Trucks's wife Susan Tedeschi. Count M'butu sat in on percussion for the whole show, while Tedeschi later lent her vocals again for "Gonna Move" and her guitar on the encore, a Curtis Mayfield classic "Freddie's Dead."
Robert Randolph :: 04.15 :: Wanee Music Festival
As the light faded from the sky and the stage began flashing with its own glow, Gov't Mule started their performance with "Thorazine Shuffle" leading into "The Deep End" and the crowd favorite Marley tune "Lively Up Yourself." Generated fog shrouded the stage while hoodies and long-sleeves appeared with the cool air, and the music slowed with Warren crooning Steely Dan's "Dirty Work." The fans screamed "Warren, we love you" repeatedly as Ron Holloway added his jazzy sax to the mix on "Devil Likes It Slow" and the aforementioned "Dirty Work." After a little tease of "People Get Ready," the momentum was lost a bit as they played a few songs from the band's recent release; Deja Voodoo. Danny Louis's keyboards introduced the "Soulshine" finale as the words grew tall, reaching, stretching and growing towards the moonshine above.
Warren Haynes with Gov't Mule
04.15 :: Wanee
Almost an hour after their 9:30 p.m. slate, the Allman Brothers Band started with "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" while the rear-projection screen displayed the name of the band, full of psychedelic colors and a mushroom picture show. Next, they moved into "Trouble No More." The performers were superimposed on the backdrop and the crowd sang and danced along as Gregg Allman soulfully rendered "Midnight Rider." "Statesboro Blues" and later "Melissa" pleased the crowd of serious Allman fans. This over-the-top show ended after two hours with "One Way Out" and a spirited "Revival" encore.
The scheduled "Late Night Jam" on the Mushroom Stage never materialized – apparently none of the performers were coercible on that night. Lesser known bands performed in the campgrounds to the still awake festivarians, and impromptu fire dancing and drumming was seen and heard near the fountain in the lake, before everything suddenly quieted around 3 a.m.
Trevor Garrod of Tea Leaf Green :: 04.16 :: Wanee
Tea Leaf Green rocked in the still-blessed weather of early Saturday afternoon, singing from the Peach Stage "I like you here with me 'til the morning comes," while Yellowman, the Jamaican reggae rebel, performed at the amphitheater. Frequently yelling "Jah, Rastafari" to the dancing crowd, his "yella rap," raunchy dance moves, and endless energy were infectious. The most interactive of the performers, Yellowman jumped up and down and head-nodded repetitiously to fans with "People Get Ready," "Having a Party," "Sexy Yellowman," and Frankie Ford's pop hit "Sea Cruise."
Just as he had promised, Yellowman did not leave the stage until the crowd was satisfied, while across the way Cofi sat in with his brother Oteil and the rest of the Peacemakers for the entire set, including a very long version of "Manic Depression" and the Stevie Wonder cover "Jesus Children of America."
Cliff Starbuck of ekoostik hookah :: 04.16 :: Wanee
As the afternoon musically moved on, ekoostik hookah played to a large contingency of fans, including many fellow Ohioans, at the Mushroom Stage. After dealing with some last minute equipment problems, the band finally started their first ever Florida show which included "Hookaville," "Sun Goes Down," and several 'hooka-ed' versions of traditional songs, most notable was the band's take on "John Henry." The John Popper Project with DJ Logic performed a very electronica-styled show at the other stage after announcing, "It was great fun to hang out in the woods last night."
Meanwhile in front of a large crowd at the amphitheater, Dark Star Orchestra began another original set, which included "Help On The Way," "St. Stephen," and "Sugar Magnolia." About an hour later, in the bright warm sunshine, Galactic played to a fun mellow group in the field. Guests abounded, including DJ Logic, Ron Holloway, and John Popper before the Derek Trucks Band's second set of the weekend was launched with "Sahib Teri Bandi." Popper was ferried across the festival grounds by golf cart to join Trucks and Count M'butu on "To Know You Is To Love You" with his mouth harp before Ron Holloway added his saxophone to "This Sky, Kam-ma-lay." Tedeschi vocalized again for several songs including "I Wish I Knew," "Feel So Bad," and the happy ending "Joyful Noise."
Galactic :: 04.16 :: Wanee
Gov't Mule's Saturday set started heavy with "Slackjaw Jezabell" before the mysterious sound of "Mule" filled the cool night air. The lyrics "drowning in the moonlight" reflected the scene as the sun dropped below the horizon, and twilight covered the field. The largest crowd of the weekend continued to grow, while Mule took on the Beatles with hot versions of "She Said She Said" dropping into "Tomorrow Never Knows." The sound was excellent, even from a distance, and the multi-colored lights reflected once again in fog, connecting with the haze of the imminent night. Next, the weekend's omnipresent Popper appeared to play his harmonica to the sea of swaying fans for "32/20 Blues" while Holloway "saxed" the audience on "Sco Mule." Popper returned once again after the Bill Withers tune "Ain't No Sunshine" for the final tune "Blind Man In The Dark."
Matt Abts :: Gov't Mule :: 04.16 :: Wanee
About 10:00 p.m., the Allman Brothers Band began its final set with the slow, sweet sound of "Mountain Jam." Fans were singing full-force as "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" was pelted into the evening's coolness. Haynes sang "Good Morning Little School Girl" as the psychedelic moving backdrop flashed more colors and pictures. Popper popped up once again with his harmonica for "You Don't Love Me" before "Stormy Monday." The audience cheered for "Walk On Gilded Splinters" and the very long version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," complete with twenty minute drum solo. The crowd was brought to a frenzy once more as the show ended with a vicious "Whipping Post."
Gregg Allman :: 04.16 :: Wanee
The Late Night Jam on the Mushroom Stage started about one minute after the Allman Brothers Band ended at 12:45 a.m. John Popper (who else?) and DJ Logic, backed up with bass and drums, performed to the sizeable crowd as a set highlight "Low Rider" was belted through the harmonica. Trucks and other performers were seen peeking out from the sides of the stage, but never joined in. Shortly before 2:00 a.m., after throwing two of his harmonicas into the audience, Popper ended the final performance of his festival with a simple "good night."
Scott Larned :: 04.15 :: Wanee
In closing, as we struggle to find light when all is dark, we wish a gentle journey for Dark Star Orchestra's keyboardist and co-founder Scott Larned who passed away a week after this festival. In The Grateful Dead's own words "we bid you goodnight."
Words by: Randi Whitehead
Images by: George Weiss
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