Wanee Music Festival April 12th-16th, 2011
Words & Photos By Ananda Atmore & Jenn Lutke
Nestled away along the red waters of the Suwanee River...among the mighty oaks and cypress swamps resides a place where the land and music meet. A place where melodies whisper among the trees, tribal rhythms feed the soul and songs fill the air that IS the spirit of Suwanee. Welcome to Wanee!
This year marked the 7th anniversary of Wanee Music Festival that once again proved itself as a festival of talented musicians willing to create and explore the musical realms and depths of their art. The line up of artists was vast and diverse as reflected in the generations of folks who travel near and far to come be a part of the magic. Four nights of camping lends itself to become a place of community, campfire jams, strangers helping strangers and friendships formed in the strangest of places. Children dance alongside parents, LED hoops spin and twirl to the music and people boogie and smile as they make their way to stages where the music comes alive.
The festival started with a campground pre-Wanee jam on Tuesday evening that featured three local Florida artists that had all of the early arrivals dancing and setting the tone for the entire weekend. Opening the pre-jam on the barn stage was The Standback Band followed by the funkadelic and danceable rhythms of the band Cope that featured an equally amazing light show. Closing down that first evening, the band Crazy Fingers awakened the improvisational music of the Grateful Dead playing crowd favorites like “Bertha” and “Let it Grow”. The music soon faded into the night...
Wednesday afternoon was the official kickoff party featuring both new and returning artists to the line up on the Mushroom Stage, a jewel of a natural amphitheater draped by a canopy of trees dotted with colorful hammocks, camp chairs and people dancing. Singer songwriter Griffin Anthony was a true delight as he shared his Jack Johnson-like style and upbeat songs with us all. Bobby Lee Rogers Trio then rocked the place alive with their soulful performance. Melvin Seals & JGB with Stu Allen and Jimmy Trebeau brought back the legacy of Jerry Garcia, playing a set featuring "That's What Love Will Make You Do" and "Sisters and Brothers" among other long- time favorites.
JGB was followed by the 33-year veterans from New Orleans, The Radiators, playing their 4,434th show featuring their unique and legendary sound. As if that isn't enough solid music for one night, Dumpstaphunk, also hailing from New Orleans, brought the funk from right out of the gate, playing “Deeper”, “Meanwhile”, and a few other funky tunes of their own. With a short pause, they switched gears and slipped into the highly anticipated tribute to James Brown! Ivan Neville and the boys surely brought on the funk, the dance party and closed the kickoff party with an amazing good time.
Thursday morning came...the sun peaked through the trees once again warmed the campground from the cool night. The smell of Bacon and coffee filled the air. Across the campground, Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio took their place on the Peach Stage for a grand Wanee wake up - rock n roll style! Highlights of Thursday included Devon Allman's Honeytribe who graced us with Devon's soulful guitar rifts and strong performance of songs from their recently released album, Space Age Blues. John Popper joined in the fun playing harmonica alongside Devon to close the set making for a great segue into his band, The Duskray Troubadours, a blend of his new project and songs from Blues Traveler. On the Peach Stage was Wanda Jackson who brought a blend of her rockabilly style and witty stories of her days of Elvis!
The Dickinson brothers from North Mississippi Allstars rocked their soulful blues tunes over the field of the Peach Stage while Big Gigantic on the Mushroom stage had full crowd enjoying their jazz-infused electronic music. Steve Marley and band performed some of their own tunes while mixing in some Bob Marley classics such as “Buffalo Soldier”, “Jammin”, “Could You Be Loved”, and “One Love”. The crowd was enthralled as it jumped, danced and felt the infectious smile that Stephen Marley radiated, reminiscent of his father.
The Thursday main act at the Peach Stage was the undeniably talented Widespread Panic who was greeted by their devoted following. A few song highlights included “Imitation Leather Shoes”, “Chilly Water”, “Stop Breakin' Down Blues” (w/ Luther Dickinson) and “Climb to Safety”. Next up...Lotus. Late night set! The light show, the fog machines and full-swing electronic dance party ensued closing the day of music.
Friday morning arrived starting with Honey Island Swamp Band, a hometown favorite of New Orleans that brought funky swamp rock with a full horn section. They had a short set that was followed by the Soul Rebels Brass Band, high energy music to start a very high energy day. Up next was Karl Denson's Tiny Universe. Brian Jordan's plane was late so filling-in until he arrived was Matt Grondin and Chris Mulé. The sun was bright, and the soulful sounds of saxophone and soft sounds of flute filled the air. Other daytime highlights included the funk gospel of Oteil Burbridge & the Lee Boys, a crowd favorite. Sharon Jones lit up the Peach Stage with her authentic soul music with a touch of Motown as she exuded her high energy. Her performance was absolutely fantastic!
Up next was the performance so many had been looking forward to the most...the NEW Warren Haynes Band! Warren took stage with a line up that included Ron Holloway, Alfreda Gerald, Terence Higgins, Ron Johnson and Nigel Hall. It was a definite detour from the hard rock-driven sounds of Gov't Mule. Warren seems to be an endless well of talent and inspiration, and his new band tapped into a more intimate, soulful side of himself.
Hitting the stage next was Robert Plant and Band of Joy, playing his own music as well as a different take on some Led Zeppelin tunes. Next it was on to the main course, the Allman Brothers Band. With so much music leading up to their set, the crowd was thick and their energy was high. Songs from their set include “Come and Go Blues”, “Preachin’ Blues”, “Melissa” and “One Way Out” featuring Kofi Burbridge, Ron Holloway, Roosevelt Collier, and Luther and Cody Dickinson. The band was having fun, smiling and happy to be back at Wanee! Another late night treat on the Mushroom stage was 7 Walkers. Bill Kreutzmann lead the helm on drums, proving once again his timeless talent alongside Papa Mali. Filling-in for George Porter Jr. on bass was Kirk Joseph on the tuba. A perfect mix of Grateful Dead songs and originals had the crowd dancing under the trees, smiling and getting down to another late night success!
Saturday...another morning waking up to the sounds of the Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio from the Peach Stage signaled that it was time to get moving once again for the last day of music. Guitar Shorty, Taj Mahal, and Jaimoe's Jasssz Band started the day off with just the right blend of blues, soul and jazz. Adding to the delicious blend of music, Ween rocked the Peach Stage with some witty music to the delight of fans. The highlight of Saturday was the talented all-star lineup of the Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks Band. Susan's strong and powerful vocals, Derek's smooth guitar expertise, Oteil holding down the bass, Kofi on keys and an entire horns section made for a soul-filling set that rocked Wanee Peach Stage.
Meanwhile on the Mushroom Stage, the talented Tea Leaf Green rocked the amphitheater followed by the funky bass action of Mike Gordon. Steve Miller performed later on the Peach Stage opening with crowd favorite "Jet Airliner". Allman Brothers were once again the main act on Saturday night, gracing the crowd with favorites such as “Rockin Horse”, “Statesboro Blues” with Taj Mahal, “Mountain Jam” with Scott Murawski and “Whipping Post”. Galactic’s late night performance closed out the festival with some in-your-face funk that featured Corey Glover on vocals. The whole place exploded into 2 hours of a massive funk party!
A new addition to Wanee this year was the Traveling Stage on which Bobby Lee Rogers Trio, Griffin Anthony and North Mississippi Allstars Duo played various sets. The stage moved around camp and along the cypress-lined campground lake for up-close and personal performances at a unique traveling setting! This year’s changes to the festival as well as the extended days for Wanee Music Festival were successful. The main acts throughout the week were solid, the late night sets were mind blowing and once again, the spirit of Suwanee filled the grounds making for an amazing 7th Wanee Festival. See you again in 2012!
Ananda and Jenn’s Photo Gallery