Date: Thursday – Saturday, April 16th – 18th, 2015
Line Up: Widespread Panic, Gregg Allman, Gov’t Mule, Earth Wind & Fire, Dumpstaphink and so many more.
Venue: Wanee Music Festival, Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. Live Oak, FL
For the past several years The Pier has been fortunate to be able to get out to the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park to start our music festival season at the Wanee Music Festival. This year is no different, as we spent a weekend down on the river with thousands of others and sets from Widespread Panic, Gregg Allman, Gov’t Mule, JJ Grey & Mofro, Galactic, Dumpstaphunk and many more of the most talented acts jamming today!
Starting in 2005, hosted with headlining sets from the legendary Allman Brothers Band, over the past decade, a multitude of live music fanatics have ventured to the beautiful park in mid-April to attend the Wanee Music Festival. Promising a vibrant mix of musical acts, The Pier is always excited to head down to the annual gathering. Now the 11th annual Wanee Music Festival, featuring 3 full days of live music, while the festival’s past headliner of 10 years did not be play the event, many other complimentary bands were back at it this year’s Wanee.
Widespread Panic was billed as the headlining band on both Friday and Saturday nights. Playing non-stop from 9:00pm-12:00am, these two sets were some of the most impressive we have seen in quite awhile. The music was perfectly-loud, well balanced and filled with long guitar solos and southern tainted jams that exemplify pure rock n’roll.
Now, while all the musicians on stage are truly talented, the lighting design of Paul Hoffman was just as impressive. No video screens, just the darkness, and a combination of tiered arches of lights across the top and several columns of lights as the backdrop. They really lit up the field right. While each light seemed to be able to take off in its own direction, the band members spotlit, were seen clear as day. Backed by a chemistry of thick solid color textures, and projections into the old oaks, the Wanee Peach Stage was quite a sight to see.
Aside from the big show on the main stage there were plenty of other attractions throughout the weekend.
Also on top of the bill, playing each night during the ‘prime-time’ slot on Friday and Saturday were Gov’t Mule and the festival’s star Gregg Allman , respectively. Each played a great rendition of “Soulshine,” but Gregg really hammered it out towards the end of his set. The inovator definitely delivered what everyone paid to see. After a solid ending that included him on guitar for “Melissa,” and “Midnight Rider” Gregg performed 30 minutes past his scheduled slot, with multiple encores.
While this year’s festival line-up unfortunately did not contain any of our favorite reggae acts, the weekend was filled with over 30 other greats jam-rock bands. At Wanee there are always several special sets an attendee must catch, for The Pier one act Friday Afternoon kicking off the Mushroom stage was on our ‘don’t miss list.’ A recent addition to the festival’s line-up, the rising talent known as Twiddle made many new fans this weekend. With a unique voice and the ability to jam out with the best of them, Twiddle fuses multiple influences to create the sound their bands puts out. At one point the group went into a modern version of “Pachelbel’s Canon”, before jamming out for a bit on a reggae grove that seamlessly transitioned to bossa nova and back.
Playing mid-afternoon over on the Peach Stage, The Word is an all-star group of musicians composed of Robert Randolphon pedal steel guitar, John Medeski on keyboards, and all three members of North Mississippi Allstars. A supergroup scheduled to be playing select festivals around the country this summer, this was one of the most highly anticipated acts of the weekend. However, it seems this was a real special set.
When the band came out on stage, every noticed TWO pedal steel players. Just out of surgery for a broken hand, Robert Randolph still showed up of the gig. Asking his friend and Florida’s veteran pedal steel player Roosevelt Collier to sit in next to him, the group jammed. Though Randolph occasionally had to take a peak at his hand, figuring out his mobility. To listen to this set click HERE! To listen to this set click HERE!
Also playing the Peach Stage on Friday was the one and only Earth, Wind, & Fire. A legendary band, with funkster bassist Verdine White bouncing all over the stage, these guys played all the hits. True performers, EWF put on a great show and were a highly talked about act throughout the weekend. It was a real treat to finally see these pioneers perform and funked-up the place. To listen to this set click HERE!
Closing out Friday, was Dumpstaphunk, one of the funkiest jam-rock groups around. Playing the Mushroom Stage till 2:00am, this year the band, along with a three piece horn section, played a set that included tunes from the 1970s. In years pass the band has done some sort of tribute-cover set, Parliament one year, Led Zeppelin, last year. This year they played a selection of the older stuff, but also mixed in tracks of their own. Opening with “Dr. Funkenstein” other highlights included a cover of “Funk 49″ and the set ender “Thank You”, a perfect pick for their Wanee fans. With lasers beaming through the trees, the Dumpstaphunk dance party is always our favorite part of this festival. To listen to this set click HERE!
Early Saturday afternoon the highly anticipated set listed as Butch Trucks & Very Special Friends packed the infamous amphitheater at 12:30pm. With this fans got their money worth as Allman Brothers Drummer Butch Trucks and Bassist Oteil Burbridge jammed out a few hits with several talented others.
After heading over to the Peach stage and catching a bit of The Revivalist, one of our favorite young bands out of New Orleans, we were sure not to miss the JJ Grey and Mofro. While it was a welcomed hometown gig for the band, JJ’s music is famous all over. Having only listened to JJ but never having seen him live, his soulful blues were the real deal. Authentic down to each lyric, the passion behind his stories-in-sound poured into the crowd of his loving fans. To listen to this set click HERE!
It seems to always rain a bit at Wanee. On Saturday as the rain began to trickle in, Cheap Trick plugged into their two-tone equipment. While the crowd, trying to stay dry, may have been a bit sparse the band still but on quite the show over on the Peach Stage. Decked out with several very special axes, Guitarist/Vocalist Rick Nielsen is the showman! Lining his mic stand with guitar picks he must have flung 50 to 100 picks into the ecstatic. To listen to this set click HERE!
Later that evening on the Mushroom Stage, the Nth Power performed one of the most vibrant set of the weekend. Playing a Steely Dan cover set the band brought in ther own touch of funk while staying true to the classics. Surrounded by horns and island-percussion, the infamous Nikki Glaspie provided the beat on drums, Nate Edgar (bassist of John Brown’s Body) kept the funk-filled backbone of the bass moving, while front man and guitarist Nick Cassarino looked to be having the time of his life. During the middle of the set, the rain appropriately kicked up just before the hit “Reelin’ In The Years,” inciting one big shower of a sign-a-long through the rest of the show. To listen to this set click HERE!
The 700 acres of The Spirit of Suwannee Music park is a unbelievable venue, always well worth the trip. Wanee always brings in a great mix of legends and popular rising-stars,always allowing us the opportunity to check a few live performances off our list. This year festival organizer, did not disappoint as they continued to improve various aspects of the event, truly proving they are ready to make the magic of this festival happen for at least another decade.
For more information about the Wanee Festival, to see the full list of artists performing or to read more about the bands playing this event, check out the details below.