On the third day of Wanee, we woke up relatively early thanks to a short rainstorm that seemed to materialize out of nowhere. The forecast for the weekend predicted some 30% chance of rain, so while we knew it was a possibility, none of us were really expecting it.
I flipped out of my hammock with my pillow and blanket and made for the bigger of the two tents. The crew followed me in and we waited out the rain for about twenty minutes or so. It didn’t last long, but it left the formerly dusty dirt a muddy mess. It was vaguely reminiscent of the Blackwater Music Festival a little less than a year prior that was haunted by showers and covered in mud.
When the rain let up, we headed out to the music. It was past 1 p.m. and blues legend Taj Mahal was playing at the Peach stage.
On our way to the music, we passed a campsite where folks were covered in paint. They were painting a giant paper-mache snail in honor of Wanee 2011. “I Wanee Stay,” read the base of the snail. The artists intended to pass the snail up to the stage during the final Allman Brothers set that night. Unfortunately, the security in front of the stage didn’t allow that to happen. What finally became of the Wanee snail after it sailed across the crowd that night is a mystery.
Passing the Mushroom stage, I was tempted to stay and jam with Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band. They were cooking up some serious grooves down in the amphitheatre, including a tight rendition of Jaco’s classic, “The Chicken.”
An earful was all we got as we continued down the vendor-lined road to the open field of the Peach stage.
We were fortunate enough to catch the tail end of Taj Mahal’s set— some serious roots music for serious roots people. We were also fortunate enough to see the sun come out from behind grey clouds. It didn’t rain again for the rest of the day.
Most of the serious action that day remained on the Peach stage. Ween came up after Taj Mahal with possibly the heaviest rock music of the weekend. We were treated to a surprise cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” before they wrapped up to make way for one of the most anticipated shows of the festival: The Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks is a musical couple forged in blues heaven. Between Tedeschi’s wonderfully expressive, soulful voice and Trucks’ emotionally charged, wailing slide guitar, the band captivated one of the largest daytime turnouts of the weekend with new classics from their old album as well as a handful of brand new tunes off their new album that had yet to drop. The set came to a close with a stirring rendition of “Space Captain.”
Some chilled-out jams from Tea Leaf Green smoothly brought us into the evening music starting with The Steve Miller Band at 6:30 p.m. on the Peach stage. Their set was a collection of greatest hits like “Jet Airliner,” that pleased the crowd gathered to watch.
A short while after Steve Miller started, a good chunk of folks moved to the Mushroom stage for another anticipated act. Mike Gordon’s band started at 7 p.m. It was a tad shaky at first, but they tightened up quick and delivered a phenomenal set that included a long string of tunes with Oteil Burbridge. Folks were getting down everywhere for Gordon’s set. Sorry, Steve Miller, but from what I heard and saw, Mike Gordon brought it harder.
Gordon’s set ended with a slick version of “Mound,” that threw everyone into a phishy fervor. The audience called for an encore when the band stepped off the stage, and the band delivered with “Sugar Shack,” a track off the new Phish album.
After Gordon’s set, the sun was gone and once again moonlight and glow toys illuminated the great plains by the Peach stage. A short while later, the Allman Brothers Band took the stage for another set of blues-rock madness.
Only it wasn’t complete madness the second night. While the Allman set the night before was all about the high-energy jams and ripping guitar work, the second night’s performance had a different feel. We saw another side of the Allman Brothers, a more introspective, more soulful side.
The second night was also filled with guest appearances like Bruce Katz and James van der Bogert. Taj Mahal also joined the Brothers onstage for “Leavin’ Trunk,” and another “Statesboro Blues.”
The Allman Brothers tied off their final Wanee set with a “Mountain Jam,” featuring Kebi Williams on sax and Scott Muranski on the guitar.
Of course they couldn’t leave us hanging without an encore. The Allman Brothers came back out and finished off strong with an absolutely epic “Whipping Post.” You could almost hear the audience singing louder than the PA system, as it was probably one of the highest points of the weekend.
The Allman Brothers said their final goodbyes to the Wanee folk and left us to a final late-night session with New Orleans funk machine, Galactic.
Always a wonderful way to end a festival, Galactic delivered a fresh set full of funky grooves to move your feet to.
Corey Glover of Living Color stepped onto the stage to join the band for a slew of tunes, delivering fantastic vocals with a theatrical approach, leaning over the audience and sitting nonchalantly on the PA speakers to the side of the stage.
The crowd loved it. Even after three or four days of non-stop raging, not a soul could sit still for Galactic’s late-night funk set. Glowsticks and light toys flailed left and right. Even a tiny remote controlled helicopter decked out in LED lights hovered above the crush in front of the Mushroom stage.
The Galactic set came to a close around 2 a.m. That marked the end of the music at Wanee Music Festival.
Well, sort of.
The music never really stops. Especially at a festival. In fact, 3 a.m. at Wanee is prime time for pick-up jams around the campfire. We took off from our site for some exploring, following the sounds of drums, at around 3:30 a.m.
In doing so, we joined a… unique… class of folks. The “Late-Night Walkers Community” is made up of some of the strangest, craziest folks you can find at a festie. Some were hyper, jumping around and yelling and laughing raucously. Others wandered the campground with thousand-mile stares, physically and mentally lost.
In our wandering we came across a jam session complete with amplifiers and electric instruments. There was even a full drum kit. It was nothing too crazy, though. Mostly mellow tunes fitting of Wanee at 5 a.m. Lazy blues crept out of the amps and into the ears of passer-bys, many of whom took a load off on a couch plopped right in front of the players.
One of those players, I think his name was Scott, had paper glasses that make lights explode into spectrums of color. He gave them to everyone there. It was hilariously ironic. We got the super-raging, trippy glasses to watch, by far, the chillest set (if you could even call it a set) of the weekend. It was fun, though. And what the hell else were we going to do? Sleep? Not likely. Not for us.
After our wandering, we returned once more to our campsite and drank whiskey and played music around the campfire until the first rays of dawn lightened up the dark blue of the sky.
And that brought us to the next day, when we exhaustedly drank the last of our booze and boiled hot dogs in a tiny, dirty pot filled with cheap beer. We watched the last of the tents being stowed away and the last of the trucks trundle down the road to the park exit. We were in no hurry. Why hurry to get back to everyday life? We would have rather stayed in the woods for more music. Eventually, we packed up to leave. It was a slow process that included many long breaks, and we finally hit the road at around 5 p.m.
As some of the last stragglers left in Spirit of Suwannee Music Park after the music ended, we can say this: We Wanee’d. And we Wanee’d well.
All photos by Kathleen Griffith. Find more of her work at Corvus Eye.