It was about 1:30 p.m. when I finally woke up. It felt great sleeping in on a Mayan hammock in the middle of the woods, but it had its price. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe raged at the Peach stage at 1 p.m. and I wasn’t there. Oteil Burbrige and The Lee Boys funked up the Mushroom stage at the same time and I wasn’t there.
My buddy, Harrison, somehow managed to head out to the music at 11 a.m. When he got back as the rest of us were just getting up, he told us about this gritty, southern jam group called Honey Island Swamp Band and how folks were already out drinking and partying in the concert area.
He said the Soul Rebels Brass Band joined them before they left the stage to the Soul Rebels for their set. How disappointing I slept through all that! No time to be disappointed, though. There was still tons of music to catch and I wasn’t about to waste any more of the day.
After a quick breakfast of frosted mini-wheats right out of the box and a little fruit, we made the trek back to the concert area.
Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio was riding around the campground on the Travelling stage, a makeshift stage large enough for a small band hauled around by a truck. It was absolutely hilarious and totally awesome at the same time—one of those random little things that makes Wanee what it is.
Meanwhile, out by the Peach stage, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings were throwing down a hot set of classic soul and funk. It was great seeing Sharon Jones getting down with a crowd worthy of her talents. The show at the Fillmore some weeks before was a let down for her, with attendance somewhere in the ballpark of 300 or so. Here at Wanee she was right at home, electrifying an audience of perhaps a thousand or more. No doubt she could have pulled more had she played later in the day, but so it goes at Wanee. So much phenomenal music and so little time!
After about an hour, it was back across the great plains of the Peach stage to the green grove of the Mushroom stage for some Keller Williams.
For Wanee, Keller played in a trio setting as opposed to the one-man-band act that he’s so well known for. Accompanied by Jay Starling on keys and Mark D. on the drumkit, Keller sang and played bass for a number of original tunes as well as a host of reworked covers. The Dead tunes they played, “Feel Like a Stranger,” and “Golden Road,” were some of my favorites. Chilled, unhurried arrangements shined a new light on the good old tunes.
The Lee Boys’ Roosevelt Collier stepped onstage wearing a lap guitar around his neck for some slide action with Keller and the band. The slide was a nice touch to the trio. There was some great trading going on there, too. Keller would sing a line and Collier would play it right back. They tossed those lines around like kids playing catch in a park, with the greatest of ease and smiles on their faces.
Maybe an hour later, Collier hopped back onto the Mushroom stage to join Toubab Krewe for a spell. Toubab Krewe doesn’t disappoint, and Wanee was no exception. The slide guitar added a hue to the earthy, tribal sound of Toubab’s music that I’d never heard before. It was novel and unique, adding a freshness to tunes that I’ve become accustomed to after seeing Toubab Krewe so many times.
It was getting near lunchtime, but there was no time to head back to camp. The music never stops at Wanee. Robert Plant was about to start on the Peach stage, so it was back across the great plains for us.
On the way, we stopped to check in with Miami artist, Lebo, who had a canopy tent in the concert area where he sold t-shirts and prints of his inimitable artwork. He wore a bandana around his neck and a rice-paddy hat to keep the sun out of his eyes as he worked on a new canvas painting. Business seemed to be going well, as his tent was never short of gawkers and browsers as far as I’d seen.
As we shot the breeze for a while, Robert Plant’s Band of Joy could be heard getting started. We bade Lebo goodbye and found a cool, shaded spot on a hill by the Peach stage. It wasn’t so hot anymore. By then it was about 6:30 p.m. and the worst sun of the day had passed. Still, it was nice to enjoy some mellowed out Zeppelin blues sitting in some vacant camping chairs beneath some shady trees.
Robert Plant’s set was interesting. He played some classic Led Zeppelin tunes like “Black Dog,” but it felt different. It wasn’t the high-octane rock-n-roll Led Zeppelin is famous for. Plant’s new sound is more introspective—more percussive… rootsier… bluesier. It was the sound of an old man who had long since cleared the sill of the world and come back to tell us of what he saw in the great beyond.
After Robert Plant’s set, the energy shot through the roof. In the waning light of dusk, Particle was tearing it up at the Mushroom stage.
Particle’s explosive sound flooded the amphitheatre with sheets of live electronic jams. Among the highlights was a cover of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days.” Kids decked out in glow-sticks pumped their patchwork totems high in the air as they moved with the perpetual rhythms of sample-laced jams.
Once the energy level was up, it was time for the main event of the weekend—one of two sets by The Allman Brothers Band.
At 9:30 p.m., people flooded the acres of open field by the Peach stage.
Thousands upon thousands found a little spot to watch what was going to be one of the greatest shows of the weekend.
The Allman Brothers took no prisoners on their first night, torching the crowd with some of the nastiest blues and rock out there.
They opened with “Hot ‘Lanta,” and followed it up with the classic “Midnight Rider.” Between Warren Haynes low-down, dirty licks and Derek Trucks slide guitar sorcery, it was impossible to keep your head. Extended jams filled with lick trading, face-melting guitar solos and steady rhythmic pulse, The Allman Brothers brought the massive crush to a musical nirvana that few bands are capable of reaching.
A scorching “Statesboro Blues” was followed up with “Who’s Been Talking,” featuring Kofi Burbridge on the flute. The volatile set ended with Ron Holloway sitting in on “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” but not a soul budged until the band came back out for an encore.
The final song of the encore, “One Way Out,” was an epic number featuring Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars on guitar and drums, respectively, as well as Roosevelt Collier wailing away on the pedal steel.
After that final jam, the band took their bows and left the audience to the late night set.
The exodus from the Peach stage landed most folks back at the mushroom stage to get down with Bill Kreutzmann and 7 Walkers.
It’s damn near impossible to top Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and Gregg Allman. 7 Walkers provided a nice, easy come-down from the cloud The Allman Brothers dropped us on. Their set was chill by comparison, but that’s not to say they didn’t jam out. A touch of Dead rounded out their set with some “Mr. Charlie,” and “Bertha.”
Once 7 Walkers ended their set at around 2 a.m., the festie kids were once again left to fend for themselves in the deep, dark woods of the campground. The weekend was taking its toll on people. You could see it on their dimly lit, dazed and dirty faces. But it wasn’t over yet. There was one more day of musical mayhem to be had—and it included a double dose of Derek Trucks.
To be concluded…
All photos except “Trekking back to the concert area,” and “Lebo” by Kathleen Griffith. See more of her work at Corvus Eye.
Check back tomorrow for the final installment of the Wanee Music Festival review! The final day of Wanee was probably THE biggest day of the weekend, featuring music from Taj Mahal, Ween, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Tea Leaf Green, Steve Miller Band, Galactic, Phish’s Mike Gordon and, of course, The Allman Brothers Band!