Beloved music festival returns triumphantly.
-review of the 3-day festival (Live Oak).
Rumor was, this year’s Wanee festival was impacted by Atlanta’s first annual 420 festival, taking talent and fans alike away from the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park grounds. Despite the rumors, the grounds were well packed after the full day of music, committed to the memory of Butch Trucks. Arriving that Thursday evening, the Bobby Lee Trio brought zydeco-rockabilly to help Wanee fam to easy drinking and gentle dancing. Leftover Salmon’s cover set went well with the camp-side BBQ, and Blackberry Smoke’s cover of Zepplin’s Your Time is Gonna Come lit the hearts of all. Blackberry Smoke’s set continues to drive the soul, reverberate body hair (of which there is much, at Wanee) and sounds resounded writhing nostrils, reverberating skulls before launching back into zydeco refrains. Darkstar Orchestra took the Peach stage for a 4-hour set, the Grateful Dead show of 1977 at Cornell for those old enough to remember, knowing enough to have learned or fortunate to have discovered that raucous night. DJ Logic began with a medley before raging the beats into the late hours of night.
Marcus King began the day raucously on the Mushroom stage. Devin Allman followed with an audience accompanied rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry. However, bringing fire to the afternoon heat was Matisyahu on the Peach Stage with a sizable crowd dancing all across the green field. I watched blue sky and cottony clouds overhead from a clutch of shade high on the hill. Four of seven colors rotated around the merry go-round as scents and smokes suitable of the tempo set by Matisyahu floated by. Grateful for his first performance at Wanee, his beat-boxing began shortly before sound problems plagued his set. Recovering from intermittent sound challenges, he remained a standout performer of the day. Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band had a snazzier late lunch time set while JJ Grey & Mofro held it down as the heat had us flee back to cold beers and shade. As we left the Peach stage, JJ could be heard preaching to those congregating to share in the jubilous music his was part and soul of.
At sunset Bob Weir’s Campfire Band was simply beautiful, but solemn as we headed to engage in dinner. Entering the night, Papadasio delivered a very interesting set. Juxtaposing genres, splicing tempos, engaging the crowd to dance and challenging skeptics to reconsider, Papadasio’s crowd began to emit heart-shaped balloons. These balloons multiplied (asexually, I suppose) as the crowd kept them bouncing afloat. As the tempos rose and fell so did the pace of the balloons overhead, becoming crowded in the sky. As their set continued, the radius of balloons grew so wide, your narrator personally had to save several from falling to the ground. Next, Les Brers mind-rocking music was just too much as I retreated to rest my sleep deprived mind.
Yeti Trio’s set at Mushroom accompanied brunch and coffee well into Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio and Dr. John’s daytime sets on the Peach. However, it was Pink Talking Fish’s set that really grabbed me with their Pink Floyd Tribute, after a great set by Kung Fu on the Mushroom stage. The Keller Williams Grateful Grass bluegrass tribute to the grateful dead was marred by the obnoxious and slow passing of the Traveling Band Stage (a Suwannee cliché, which works better in more rambunctious, crowded festivals) really detracted from enjoying their set, encouraging a journey to the Trey Anastasio Band at the Peach. Two musical geniuses leading bands at Wanee’s two stages simultaneously was a good conflict to have. I left the bluegrass beauty to see how Trey slayed despite his raspy vocals. Cirrus clouds strewn overhead, shadows grew long as temperatures dropped. Field filled with the Add to dictionary on stage and our collective hearts aflutter on the eve of our last night at Wanee upon us, love for all on stage. A heart-wrenching close with Dazed and Confused soulfully sung tucked the day in as the night beckoned. Greyboy Allstars set was great to listen to from over the hill, as I caught a little nap at camp. Bob Weir’s Campfire band set was somber and heart-achingly tender. After their first act’s exceptionally long intermission, they did not reward us more than dinner encouraged us. Exhausted with, Pink Talking Fu’s tribute to Prince and David Bowie made me wish for stimulants the Just Say No generation advocated against: my bones ached, but body could not resist Let’s Dance montage with Doves Cry. Then, I trundled off to sleep after some time at the campfire.
Packing camp the next day, so much lovely music behind us, camp talked already of plans to return the next year for Wanee 2018.