Wanee 2009

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This year’s Wanee Festival was not for the weak of heart or dry of foot.

The Allman Brothers’ annual festival, held at the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park in Live Oak, FL on June 5th and 6th, was soon to be the wettest and muddiest festival of the season.

Thursday

This year’s lineup consisted of, as always, all of The Allman Brothers family projects, including Gov’t Mule, The Derek Trucks Band, and the newest Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band. Rounding out the scheduled acts were such monsters as Buddy Guy, Little Feat, Umphrey’s McGee, The Doobie Brothers, Keller Williams, and The Wailers just to name a few to boot. With a stormy forecast on the horizon, this weekend was sure to separate the meek from the musically driven.

Early arrivers to the SOS were not only treated to the best camping spots, but a couple of rousing Thursday night pre-party shows from the Bobby Lee Rogers Trio and The Radiators, both performing at the legendary Suwanee Amphitheatre, dubbed the “Mushroom Stage” at the Wanee Festivals. This proved to be an excellent start to the festivities.

Friday

hcr1.jpgFriday brought muggy early morning sunshine and yet another set from The Radiators, which would soon give way to the shredding southern rock collaboration known as Hill Country Revue. The five piece pivots on drummer Cody Dickinson (on guitar and washboard) and bassist Chris Chew of the North Mississippi Allstars. Performing a solid overall set, Dickinson became a bit long-winded on some of his guitar solos that took away from an otherwise crisp show. An early departure was in order, for it was time to mosey on over to the “Peach Stage” to catch long-time southern rock greats Little Feat.

Little Feat has come a long ways since the days of the late Lowell George, yet still cease to amaze all with their incredibly energetic performances and stage presence. Cranking out crowd favorites “Fat Man” and “Dixie Chicken,” the sextet seems meant to play in the swampy Florida conditions. They even manage to mix up some amazing jams with outstanding bass solos from Kenny Gradney, not to mention a delightful “Scarlet Begonias” tease. Definitely a thumbs-up set from these old school rockers. Having just enough time to catch a breath, the weather took a turn for the worse as the masses prepared for the jam band powerhouse Umphrey’s McGee.

lf-1.jpgThose who frequent the SOS know that the best place to see a show there is at the amphitheatre stage. At Bear Creek Festival in 2007, both Little Feat and Umphrey’s McGee were on the bill, and both had nighttime sets at the amphitheatre stage. It makes a good show a great show. Not the case for Wanee ’09. Both played afternoon sets on the Peach Stage in the field. Not to take anything away from either band or respective performance, but there’s just something magical about that Suwanee Amphitheatre.

Umphrey’s McGee took the stage with thunderous force as the rain began to fall. Opening with instrumental juggernaut “Jazz Odyssey,” the Midwest-based jammers wasted no time showing off their incredibly precise arrangements. After sunshine, rain, then sunshine again, Umphrey’s (possibly) broke away from their setlist to interject a very fitting cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Fool In The Rain,” much to the crowd’s delight. An excellent cover, it was a definite highlight of this reporter’s festival experience. Throw in an “All In Time > The Bottom Half > All In Time” sandwich, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a blistering set.

crowd1.jpgWith just enough time to cool down with Col. Bruce Hampton at the Mushroom Stage, it was already time to head back to the Peach Stage for blues legend Buddy Guy. Yet another highlight of Wanee ‘09 was watching the still unbelievable 72 year old guitarist walk down off the stage and into the crowd, all the while ripping screaming notes and telling a soulful story in true blues fashion. Having witnessed this incredible act, it was time to head back to the Mushroom Stage to be amazed by guitar wizard Keller Williams.

Making his first return to Wanee since performing in 2007, the Florida crowd enthusiastically welcomed the one-man band back to the SOS. Opening with a delightful “Breathe” sandwich, Keller wasted no time dazzling with his lightning fast hands and on-stage antics. Amidst the jamming, he noted that “You know, that I know, that we all know that this is the best place to play music in the world……..seriously..…..look around.” The Mushroom Stage mass could only let out a huge roar of approval. After covering the Stone Temple Pilots tune “Plush,” he closed out his hour set with an exuberant “Celebrate Your Youth.”

dtb-1.jpgHeading to the Allman Brothers Friday night set, one couldn’t help but be peeved about the abundance of chairs covering the ground in front of the Peach Stage (not to mention the hour sets for every band except those in the Allman Brothers family). None the less, the enormous crowd in attendance was anxious for the start of their 40th anniversary celebration at Wanee.

Highlights from Friday’s set were “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” and “The Same Thing,” which featured an incredible three-way jam between Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks, and Ron Holloway on saxophone. Then it was time to beat the masses to grab a hammock for the ever intimate late night Derek Trucks Band performance at the Mushroom Stage.

A Wanee tradition, DTB annually performs one of the best late night shows at the amphitheatre that one’s ears could hear. Playing “Sweet Inspiration” off their latest album Already Free, and a “Get Out Of My Life Woman > Who Knows > Get Out Of My Life Woman” sandwich with Warren Haynes and Butch Trucks, Friday was brought to an end with enough soul to turn your legs into jelly.

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Saturday

Saturday’s tunes were kick started by the ever-growing ABB family, with sets from Devon Allman’s Honeytribe and Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, followed by Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann’s BK3 project. Slated to include Oteil Burbridge(although he did not perform), the trio-turned-quartet did a beautiful version of the Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower,” which put smiles on the faces of everyone in attendance. With not a second to waste, the “dance-driven” attendees made haste to the Mushroom Stage for the most booty-shaking set of the festival with Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk.

arcangels1.jpgBeing long time veterans of the SOS, Dumptaphunk had proven that they could throw it down with the best of ‘em. With only an hour and fifteen minute time slot to work with, the five piece funksters blazed through crowd favorites such as “Put It In The Dumpsta” and their newly perfected “Love Song.” A personal highlight would have to be their tune “Gas Man,” in which Ivan makes fart noises throughout the song.

With the conclusion of the Dumpstaphunk show, came the worst downpour of the weekend. The rains significantly dwindled the attendance at the sets for the Arc Angels, Jorma Kaukonen, Susan Tedeschi, and the Drive-By Truckers, yet let up just in time for the start of the soon-to-be-hoppin’ Doobie Brothers set.

abb-2.jpgOpening up with the feel good “Take Me In Your Arms,” the Doobie Brothers got right to what they do best……..rockin’. As to be expected, it was a greatest hits performance to say the least. Playing everything from “Listen To The Music,” to “Blackwater,” to a two song encore (one of the only encores of the whole weekend) consisting of “Long Train Runnin’” and “China Grove.” Certainly, a “two-thumbs-up” performance from these classic rockers.

Saturday’s Allman Brothers set lacked a certain “oomph” from what was anticipated of their 40th anniversary Wanee shows. Even after a painfully beautiful “In Loving Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” the Brothers somehow settled with “Dreams” for the second night in a row. This sent many people packing for the amphitheatre to prepare for the closing set by The Wailers.

With the late Bob Marley’s band The Wailers slated to perform the entire Exodus album in full, this reporter had never seen the Suwanee Amphitheatre more packed than on this night. A very fitting end to Wanee, The Wailers did the legendary album justice, and sent all in attendance home with an ear-to-ear grin on their faces.

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