Wanee Music Festival: Thursday April 15th, 2010
"It's indescribable to be in one of your favorite places on this planet. To take a breath in, close your eyes and just feel the magic and energy. Releasing your breath only to open your eyes and find that it's real. It's all really happening..."
I started my trip in Upstate New York on Wednesday morning. I was feeling under the weather and was not looking forward to the thirteen hundred mile, twenty three hour drive ahead of me. Around eleven am; I loaded the car, set the GPS for Norfolk, VA and began my trip. The drive down was uneventful, with scattered construction. I arrived in Virginia around nine pm, and picked up my buddy Ben. I set the GPS for Live Oak, FL and we were on our way. The second leg of the drive was uneventful as well. It became a little bit more of a challenge as we hit Georgia and I began utilizing different methods to assist me in staying awake and alert. We had heard rumors of police roadblocks with K-9s, which would have little to no effect on our travels. As we got into Live Oak, we realized that the police situation had once again been exaggerated.
We pulled into The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park around ten am, where there was a noticeable police presence yet, no issues what so ever. I parked and approached the VIP ticket counter to claim my credentials. I gave them my name and information, only to be told that the credentials had not yet been submitted, and to check back in a couple of hours... I asked "What if I had pulled in last night as I was supposed to?" I was told "We wouldn't have let you in." While holding back my irritation; I smiled and told the woman I would return.
I had driven over a thousand miles for almost a day straight and all I wanted to do was sleep. But, I picked out a spot to relax and observed the entrance process. I noticed that since entering the park; I felt one hundred percent. I watched the traffic pour in. The workers who were scanning the tickets and handing out bracelets were clueless. I'm not sure that I have ever seen a more incompetent group. One of the women was yelling at cars that she failed to direct as well as the other staff; several times calling over the police to help assist in this simple task. A task that appeared to be the most challenging undertaking this woman had ever encountered.
An hour passed and I returned to the ticket counter to be told that the credentials were still not available. This time I spoke with a gentleman who was sympathetic and more helpful than the previous person I had spoken to. Eventually, a half hour later I was waved over to the counter. The credentials were in! While getting my photo pass and bracelet my phone rang; it was Rex Thomson, the famous photographer. He informed me that he was on his way to the main entrance to greet me and take care of a ticket issue. Not ten minutes later, a golf cart driven by Bear Creek promoter Paul Levine approached the entrance with Rex in the passenger seat, with a big smile on his face. He introduced me to Paul and a short discussion about festival promotion ensued.
A short time later, under the direction of Rex, we were headed to our campsite for the weekend. We arrived, set up camp and began the party. By that time, I had gotten my second wind. It was around noon and I knew if I didn't sleep soon, there would be no sleep, for yet another day. As we walked around we ran into a couple of our friends; Danny and Natasha. While wandering I noticed that the park was as beautiful as ever. The sun shined down through the cypress trees, the Spanish moss swaying in the wind. The other thing I noticed right away was that the park was filling in... Quickly.
The weather was perfect, the park was clean, everyone had a smile on there face, and life was good. The birds were chirping and the dragonflies and butterflies flew in and out of the rays of sunshine. The park smelled of BBQ, campfires and herb (which was surprising given the rumored law enforcement situation at the park). People were hooping, dancing and tossing discs while greeting both new and familiar faces.
*Devon Allman's Honeytribe*
The first set of the weekend, that I caught was Greag Allman's Son's band; Devon Allman's Honeytribe. It was an hour long set on the Mushroom Stage and Devon brought it from the get go. His playing was very bluesy and his singing reminiscent of a young Gregg. I could tell that he had gotten his chops down since the last time I had seen him, which was a few years prior. This was by far the best Honeytribe set I have seen to date, and I really enjoyed it.
Download Devon Allman's Set Here.
The next set on the Mushroom Stage was Scrapomatic, which is Mike Mattison of the Derek Trucks Band's project. For some reason this band has never really appealed to me. It's a little too slow and this set followed suit. As I spaced out, I noticed the streamers above the amphitheatre dancing in the wind. My focus was pulled back down to earth when I picked up on the excessive crowd noise. It was as if everyone was having a conversation. I only caught a portion of the set as I lost focus and wandered off into the woods...
Download Scrapomatic's Set Here.
*Col. Bruce Hampton*
The lack of sleep was beginning to get to me, as the visual hallucinations took hold. This was my first opportunity to utilize the photo pit (the area in front of the stage for photographers and media). I was extremely excited and utilized my time as best I could, while still taking in all that was going on around me. Col. Bruce took the stage, his band dressed in suits. The music was funky and wailing! The crowd was getting down, with smiles around! The amphitheatre seating of the Mushroom Stage began to fill in; the first sign of crowd turn out to be. This set was an absolute throw down and one of the surprises of the weekend for me. The Col. is a beast among men. Towards the end of the set The Allman Brother's Drummer, Butch Trucks sat in. All in all I was extremely impressed.
Download Col. Bruce's Set Here.
After the Col. Bruce set, I went back to camp to retrieve some water and relax for a bit. I was so distracted by the beauty around me and the space in my face. I began staring off and hallucinating like crazy, I needed sleep badly, but it would not come tonight...
I received a text from Ben Combe (the guitarist for Particle). Particle was in the house! I knew after seeing them less than a week prior at Rock the Resort, that it was going to be a good set. I assumed my position along side Rex in the photo pit as Particle took the stage. The amphitheatre was packed and I could feel the energy clawing at my back as I faced the stage. Ben sent me another text telling me how excited he was for the show. You could tell that this was going to be big, there were no two ways about it. As Particle took the stage the crowd went absolutely crazy, startling me and leaving me with goosebumps.
Particle did not disappoint. Molitz was and absolute beast on the keys, providing space for every one's face. Steve is great to watch as he makes animated faces that fit the music he is playing. Eric was holding it down on bass, finding steady and fitting grooves to accompany the rage. Darren was, per usual; extremely consistent on the drums. I often wonder how it is many of these jamtronica drummers play so spot on. Lastly, Ben Combe tore it up on the guitar looking as if he was going to absolutely loose it. His facial expressions reflected one who was enjoying so much, playing for the receptive crowd. His playing, as was the case with the weekend prior was top notch.
After the first song, Ben yelled over to me smiling with excitement. I pointed, smiled back, and returned to shooting as my time in the pit was limited (You can only occupy the photo pit for the first three songs or fifteen minutes). In between the second and third song Ben's excitement was obvious as he posed for a few rock star shots for me. As I wandered through the crowd, I witnessed people freaking out with joy. Music is one of the few things in this world that causes people to loose control with excitement and it was happening with Particle as the root. At one point Particle peaked for several minutes dropping the usual Particle throw down, but I noticed it was a little slower than usual. I found that a few times throughout the set the beat was lacking. If the tempo was turned up just a little bit, Particle perfection would have been achieved.
Overall, I thought the set was solid! Beyond what I thought, I heard people throughout the weekend say; "Particle was the best set of Wanee.", "Particle tore it down", "Holy shit Particle killed me.", etc... People were excited, and for the rest of the weekend I would hear praise for Particle.
Download Particle's Set Here.
After the two hour set I met up with Combe and found myself backstage in the Particle trailer, with myself and the band. Drinking beers, joking on one and other and shooting the shit. At one point there was a planned prank on Molitz that I had to step in and stop before it got too crazy. The rest of the band headed back to the hotel but, it was Ben's first time at the park and he wanted to check it out; so, we left the backstage area and walked through the camps. We ended up at my camp, grabbed a few beers and met up with Ben, Rex, Natasha, and Danny for a little little partying. I checked the time and realized we had only minutes before George Clinton and The Parliment Funkadelic took the stage. With that, we headed over to check out the scene.
*George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic*
I parted ways with "Rock Star" (As I call him) for a short time and headed to the photo pit. As I glanced over my shoulder at the capacity crowd I once again got goosebumps. The energy was so high and the people so genuinely happy. As I waited for Parliament to take the stage, Rex and Natasha entered the pit. It was great to not only be in the pit, but to be surrounded by friends and kind people. This was what life was all about. The other Photographers were great as well; Ian, Brad, and the rest. I once again realized how truly lucky I was. As I waited for the set to begin I noticed the excessive amount of equipment on the stage. As well as the humming feedback of all the mics and amps. I could tell it was a mad scramble to get the levels right and balance the sound. Long after the scheduled set time, Parliament took the stage. This has become typical practice and I would assume is the reason for their closing slot, as to not interfere with scheduling of the other sets.
An hour after their scheduled time; Parliament took the stage. I couldn't focus over the sound of the crowd. I tried to compose myself and began shooting. It was insane how many people piled out onto the stage. It was a clusterfuck of jockying for position and trying to find a little space to be seen. It was clear the despiration of some of the members to get to the front of the stage and it was easy to pick up on the hostility of some members towards one and other. After a long period of Jamming, George Clinton took the stage, taking the crowd to another level.
George threw his hands up and leaned his head back. This man is a legend and everyone there new it, including him. He played well to the crowd and created a funky vibe unsurpassed by any other mortal man. After some sound tweaking and some band memeber adjustments, the music sounded relatively good.
A short time later they cleared the photo pit and I once again met up with Ben Combe. We headed backstage with my other buddy Ben, to refill on beer and chill for a little bit. For a short time I got lost in partying and having a good time and forgot that Parliment was on stage. Combe, turned to me and said with perfect timing "Let's go check out the scene outside." With that, we exited the trailor and headed to the side stage. We danced for a little bit and got down, but I wasn't satisfied with the view so we headed over to the stage door, went up the ramp and got on stage right behind Parliment in view of the crowd.
Now, I have been fortunate enough to experience a lot of cool things in my life, but being on stage with George Clinton and The Parliament Funkadelic ranks high on the list. As we danced, drank our beers and partied, George Clinton walked right by us exiting the stage. Minutes later walking right back by us to to give the crowd some more funk for their faces. At this point one of the dancers grabs Combe by the hand and takes him to the front of the stage to dance with George Clinton and Parliament. Eventually George walked oved to Combe grabing his shoulder for support while dancing. Combe was like a kid in a candy store.
As the set wound down I noticed Geoge Clinton walking right for me... He extended his hand and I reached out and grabbed it leaning in for what felt like minutes I said to him "Thank you, Godfather." To which he replied; "My man." My night was complete. I had been on stage with Parliament and met George Clinton...
Download George Clinton's Set Here.
As the set ended Combe came over to me with excitement "Did you see that???", "I did..." I responded. "And I got pictures." We headed back to the Particle Trailor for the last time to party and reflect on what we had just experienced. After a while, Combe contacted his driver, packed up his gear, said his goodbyes and headed off. I could tell that it pained him to leave the park, but with a show the following day at Muncie Spring Fest; he had no choice.
We headed back to camp to space out for a little bit. After a while, we heard drums and wandered through the woods to the established drum circle. Per usual, it was awful. Even the added trumpet couldn't save that trainwreck. So we headed back to camp for some much needed rest. I glanced a the time... It was five am. I hadn't slept in forty four hours. I climbed into the back of my Jeep, closed the door and began to fade; with a smile on my face...
"Today is one of those days I will talk about for the rest of my life..."