Words by Randi Whitehead :: Images by George Weiss

Wanee Music Festival :: 04.15 & 04.16 :: Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park :: Live Oak, FL

New Monsoon :: Wanee 2006
The Wanee Music Festival - held Friday and Saturday, April 14th and 15th, 2006 at the Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park in Florida, blossomed in its second year. Approximately 5,000 fans attended the festival, which began earlier-than-scheduled on Friday. As we checked in at the entry point, music was wafting from the main stage (a.k.a. "the Peach Stage"), where New Monsoon played from 12:30 to 1:30. Even the festival website the day before listed the music starting at 3:00 p.m., and we were disappointed to be missing the eclectic musical diversity of the still-rising jamband stars.

As we rushed through "checkpoint Charlie" to catch the last half of their set in the afternoon sun, we emerged on several hundred happy fans dancing in the field to the unique Monsoon sound, a mixture of various ethnic rhythms with rocking percussive tones (including congas, tablas, and drum sets). We heard songs from last fall's release The Sound and an "Eminence Front" cover from The Who before The Dirty Dozen Brass Band played an hour of their well-known New Orleans jazz.

Oteil Burbridge :: Wanee 2006
Passing the amphitheater ("the Mushroom Stage") in our mad dash, we caught a few minutes of Bonobos Convergence, the "New Earth Funk Jam Trio," playing to a small crowd. Many campers at the festival were not in-the-know and were still hanging out in their weekend "homes" as schedules had not been printed and handed out at the gate.

The music continued as the Jack Pearson Band performed at the Mushroom Stage before Oteil and the Peacemakers rocked the crowd with soulful blues at the Peach Stage, including tunes from the new album, Believer. Burbridge, healing well after his recent accident, played from a sitting position but still exuded his friendly energy and extraordinary bass creativity. The crowds continued to grow at the two stages as the attendees were drawn to the musical sounds that could be heard from their campsites.

Meanwhile, Dumpstaphunk, Ivan Neville's extraordinary gumbo-style funk group, excited the fans in the shade of the Mushroom Stage, starting with the first note of "Woke Up This Morning" before the segue into "Dumpsta Groove." Covers included Meters originals, The Soprano's "Theme Song," and Credence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son."

Dumpstaphunk with Skerik :: Wanee 2006
On the Peach Stage, Medeski Martin & Wood kept their improvisational music earth-bound, leaving out spacey trips that have enveloped their more recent style. Starting with "Pappy Check," the seventy-five minute set included "Everyone Poops" and ended with "New New Orleans." Meanwhile, the North Mississippi Allstars kept the amphitheater grooving for over ninety minutes, starting with "Ship" and "Stompin' My Foot" and later "I Don't Live Today" > "Wild Thing" followed by "Psychedelic Sex Machine" before Jamie McLean and several members of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band joined the fray and packed the small stage for a psyched-up tribute to the nearby Suwannee, "Down By The Riverside."

As the sun began to set and the heat began to lift, evening fell with Gov't Mule's ninety-minute set at the Peach Stage, starting with "Blind Man In The Dark." This first show of Mule's "Still Raging" tour also included "She Said, She Said" > "TMK" before some members of the Dirty Dozen guested on "John the Revelator." As expected, the exceptional show finished with "Mule" dropping an interwoven "Who Do You Love?"

Allman Brothers Band :: Wanee 2006
As the crowd grew to thousands and the fans covered most of the darkened field, the Allman Brothers Band took the stage a bit after 9:00 p.m. After the "Don't Want You No More" > "It's Not My Cross To Bear" opener, guests abounded in the two-hour-plus set, including "Anyday" with Susan Tedeschi and Mike Mattison, "Under A Bad Sign" with Floyd Miles, Danny Louis and Luther Dickinson, "You Don't Love Me" with Dr. Roosevelt Collier (of The Lee Boys) pumping his pedal steel, and "The Same Thing" with Jack Pearson and Hal Thomas on saxophone. The stellar set ended with "Jessica," which elicited extra-loud screams from the crowd, and "No One To Run With."

The Derek Trucks Band :: Wanee 2006
Those left wanting more were not disappointed as the Special Midnight Jam with The Derek Trucks Band started about 12:30 a.m. at the Mushroom Stage with "Chevrolet," a tune from their recently-released album Songlines (after a two-year lag). After several more high-octane tunes, guest artists began appearing as Jack Pearson sat in on "Mahjoun" > "Greensleeves," Luther Dickinson on "Key To The Highway" and "Soul Stew" > "Everything Is Everything," and Susan Tedeschi sang on "The Weight" and "Spirit In the Dark," which also featured Collier's steel sound. The over-the-top show ended after 2:00 a.m. with Tedeschi and Floyd Miles' vocals on "Feel So Bad."

At 2:30 a.m., just when the musically addicted were seemingly left in withdrawal, the sounds of Florida-based Shak Nasti were heard by the lake in the campground, near the beautifully-lit swans. About a hundred people wandered up to listen to the groove- funk sound until almost 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, when the security pulled the plug.

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