Wanee Music and Arts Festival, Live Oak, FL – 4/13-16
Photos by Grace Beehler
It was a family affair this past weekend at Wanee Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida, which is to be expected with the Allman Brothers Band headlining the festival. Whether it was musicians walking around the festival grounds and checking out the music, performers teasing songs by fellow acts or audience members listening to music beneath the Spanish moss and the clear blue skies, everyone felt as if they were a part of the family.
We rolled into the Spirit of Suwanee Music Park after dark on Wednesday, I was immediately impressed. Hundreds of RVs and tents already filled the site, set up with tapestries and tiki torches. Come daylight, everything seemed to be perfectly planned: plenty of shade, lots of port-o-potties, running water – even a breakfast buffet! The park hosts many festivals each year, including Bear Creek and Blackwater, so they have definitely figured out how to run a festival well.
Music officially kicked off on Wednesday (with a pre-party on Tuesday) with a slew of musicians, including the Radiators and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk on the Mushroom Stage. We missed the Radiators and caught some of Dumpstaphunk, but after a long day of driving I had to call it a night.
On Thursday, more and more cars and RVs rolled into the music park. Another impressive aspect to Wanee: everyone seemed to know how to do a festival well. Maybe it was because Wanee attracts an older, experienced crowd, but everyone was prepared and had amazing set-ups. I have never seen so many RVs before at a festival. Husbands and wives brought their kids – from infants to teens – which was a surprisingly heartwarming sight. Unlike at other festivals when I see kids exposed to the negative side of the scene, at Wanee that was never a worry. My friends were even offered burritos (and they weren’t heady veggie burritos you’d buy on lot) by a mother who wanted to feed people one morning. That was the vibe of the weekend: everyone was treated like they were a part of the family.
Danger Muffin opened up the Mushroom Stage with its country-rock sound, reminiscent of Baltimore’s The Bridge. DJ Logic’s mix of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” got me bright eyed and bushy tailed before noon – a rare feat. Devon Allman’s Honeytribe covered Prince’s “Purple Rain” (anyone who covers Prince is golden in my book) and welcomed John Popper to the stage for “Could Get Dangerous.”
I moved on to the main stage to see the North Mississippi Allstars Duo (Luther and Cody Dickinson) giving out a good dose of Southern swampy rock, covering “Sittin’ on Top of the World.” When I realized I needed to get out of the sun, I moved back to the Mushroom Stage for some much needed shade and lounged in one of the many colorful hammocks strung between the trees and listened to an acoustic-sounding electric set by Hot Tuna. I don’t know much Hot Tuna material but when they teased “Jessica” I couldn’t get enough.
Widespread Panic headlined Thursday night and their set was full of energy. Jimmy Herring was on fire, dropping bombs as usual, especially when Luther Dickinson came out during “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues.” Bell’s voice was on point, and since it was his birthday that day, everyone was celebrating. The late night set featured Lotus on the Mushroom Stage, drawing a massive crowd for their always-stellar performances. They closed their set with a cover of Underworld’s “Born Slippy.”