Wanee Music and Arts Festival, Live Oak, FL – 4/13-16
I woke up Friday morning feeling giddy for all the incredible music I would be seeing, mainly the Allman Brothers Band that night. The Honey Island Swamp Band started the day off right, clearly believeing that it’s never too early for funk. The Soul Rebels joined in for the end of their set, adding lots of brass to the sound. Keller Williams’ set was unusual in that he was playing the bass the whole time. His quirky sound on acoustic guitar was missed but it was a definite highlight when Roosevelt Collier joined Keller and his band. Collier seemed to be everywhere this weekend, also joining Toubab Krewe a couple hours later.
Wanee marked the debut of the Warren Haynes Band, featuring the guitar virtuoso and a slew of New Orleans musicians, including Nigel Hall, Alfreda Gerald, Terence Higgins, Ron Johnson,
and Ron Holloway. WHB definitely has a different sound than Mule, leaning heavily toward soul and R&B with more focus on the lyrics, but it impressed the large crowd nonetheless.
Robert Plant and the Band of Joy drew a massive crowd of fans eager to see the former Led Zeppelin frontman. Simply put: it was stunning. Full of steely guitar and harmonica, Plant, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller shared vocals, giving new takes to Zeppelin classics, as well as to their incredible cover of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”
As the Allman Brothers Band took the stage Friday night to a field packed with festival-goers, I got the chills. Maybe it’s because of the band’s long and tragic history or the fact that Gregg has been recovering from a recent liver transplant. But the Allmans were the catalyst in my relationship with music. They were the first band that I loved wholeheartedly: I read and downloaded and researched everything I could get my hands on until I became the biggest Allman Brothers nerd. I know that the band isn’t the same now with Warren and Derek, but just as I haven’t seen the Dead with Jerry, I haven’t seen the Allmans with Duane or Dickey (I’m not going to apologize for being young). So to all you jaded veterans: you can grumble as much as you want, but these are the Brothers I know and love.
As family members watched from the side stage, the Brothers opened up with “Hot ‘Lanta,” and played many well-known hits, including “Midnight Rider” and “Come and Go Blues.” But listening to Derek and Warren trade off on soloing during a “Norwegian Wood” tease was phenomenal and unexpected. A blisteringly long “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” with Ron Holloway on sax closed the set, only to be extinguished by the slow and sweet “Melissa,” with Gregg on acoustic guitar. Kofi Burbridge, Luther and Cody Dickinson and Roosevelt Collier all made appearances during the set.
Saturday morning showers brought down the heat and settled the dust. And when the skies cleared, people were amped for the most stacked lineup all weekend. I started my day off with the Yeti Trio, an improvisational jazz-rock band reminiscent of early Zappa. While the band drew only a small crowd to the Mushroom stage, everyone in attendance cheered for an encore. Butch Trucks was watching his son, Vaylor Trucks, the guitarist of the Yeti Trio, from side stage with his young, blonde-haired granddaughter in his arms.
Ween was…Ween. It was my first Ween show, so I didn’t know what to expect. But they threw down with their catchy songs about drugs and dicks, sending my friends and me into fits of laughter, questioning if this was for real. As much as they joke around, lead guitarist Dean Ween’s guitar tone sounds much like Clapton’s and all of the musicianship impressed. Mike Gordon was ironically spotted walking through the crowd during the set closer, “Roses Are Free.”