Wanee 2010: Southern Rock Opera 

This year's Wanee Music Festival peaks strong

Wanee Festival 2010
Suwanee River, Florida
April 15-17

Dumpstaphunk's decision to cover Sly and the Family Stone for an entire set at last week's Wanee was apropos; the festival is indeed a family affair. Between the constant sit-ins and collaborations over the weekend's course, it's evident that the Southern scene first spread decades ago by the Allman Brothers is a healthy, thick jam in 2010.

Brothers Oteil and Kofi Burbridge win the weekend's MVP spots, between them making appearances with the Funky Meters, Gov't Mule, The Lee Boys, and of course, the Allman Brothers and Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Bands.

Parliament/Funkadelic, Particle, and a surprisingly energetic Col. Bruce Hampton kicked off the Thursday pre-party with style, but it was the early set by 7 Walkers on Friday (a combo of George Porter, Jr., Bill Kreutzmann, and Papa Mali) that set the all-star tone of the weekend. Stephen Stills held Friday afternoon's midway point, peaking with a giant "Southern Cross" sing-along. Bob Weir then led his stripped down trio, Scaring the Children, through a relaxing set of Dylan and Dead favorites, before Widespread Panic arrived to light a fire.

Panic's lead singer John Bell thanked Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, who performed later on, for letting them play "Bowlegged Woman," which they delivered in its most low-down dirty form. An exceptionally fun "Ribs and Whiskey" made way for bassist Dave School's jaw dropping solo on "Stop-Go." After a fantastically spacey moment during "You Should Be Glad," Panic rounded out the set with a nod to the late Athens songwriter Vic Chesnutt, ripping through one of the most inspired "Protein Drink/Sewing Machine" combos to date, full of knowing smirks and grins in the audience when the song referenced the nasty little mushroom taste in their mouths.

Overlapping the end of Panic's show, Hot Tuna kicked off on the smaller Mushroom Stage, proving that the classic trippy bluesmen haven't lost their touch. The Allmans didn't hold back either, kicking off with "Mountain Jam" and bringing Bell on stage for a spooky "I Walk on Guilded Splinters." Warren Haynes kept the ladies happy with "The Same Thing," singing about them big-legged women, before the set closing "Black Hearted Woman."

The day continued into Saturday's wee hours, with Haynes skipping across the field to lead Gov't Mule through a late-night set that kicked off with a back-to-back Pink Floyd sandwich of "One of These Days" and "Fearless." The set's high point came late, when Kofi Burbridge joined the band for an extended flute solo on "Sad and Deep As You," before a super crunchy "Broke Down On the Brazos" and "Mule/Whole Lotta Love/Mule" closer. With "Soulshine" echoing in our heads, we wandered off into the woods to collapse.

Saturday morning began with a swim in the Suwannee River, followed by Dr. John, highlighted by his closing "Big Chief." Perhaps the most anticipated combo of the weekend, The Word, held court mid-afternoon, roaring through a pedal steel-led gospel set that featured the North Mississippi All-Stars, Robert Randolph, and John Medeski. With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings stuck in Europe due to volcanic ash, the Funky Meters' set exploded into a super jam of over a dozen musicians, while the Black Keys made enough hard rock noise on the main stage to belie their two-man lineup. Panic came out strong again on Saturday, delivering an early "Fishwater" and a crowd-pleasing "Driving Song/Love Tractor/Driving Song" combination. With dusk settling, they dropped into a rolling take on War's "Slippin' Into Darkness," before bringing out Warren Haynes for the set-closing "North."

While Panic peaked on the first night, the Allmans saved their best for night two. Johnny Winter sat in (literally) for "The Sky is Crying," and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" featured Panic's JoJo Hermann on keys, before Schools joined in for "Dreams." After a big "Liz Reed" and "Whipping Post," the Allmans returned for a seemingly perpetual encore of "Midnight Rider" and "Mountain Jam," continuing the Haynes' inspired Zeppelin theme with "Dazed and Confused" to close it out.

Despite weary bones, the Mushroom Stage filled in tight for the festival-ending set by the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band. Fitting for a Sunday morning show, Tedeschi led her all-star band (including, of course, Kofi and Oteil) through an uplifting two hours of Southern gospel and soul, with favorite moments coming during "Corinna," "Nobody's Free," and a big "I've Got a Feeling."

The family vibe spread beyond the bands to the crowd as well — a Charlestonian couldn't turn around at Wanee without seeing a familiar face from back home. It's no wonder; many of the same artists frequent the Pour House. But getting all that Southern fried slide-funk together in one place? That's a special treat only Wanee can offer.


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