Wanee Festival 2014: Review & Photo Gallery

John Popper with Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk

John Popper with Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk

2014 was a special year for an already special festival; it marked the 10th anniversary of the Wanee Festval in Live Oak, Florida – a weekend of soul, funk, blue, rock & roll, and amazing memories hosted by the Allman Brothers. Not only was it a milestone year, it was the last Wanee that the Allman Brothers would be playing after announcing their 2014 retirement earlier this year. If you’ve been to Wanee before, you know what to expect. If you haven’t check out our look back on the past years that have made this one of the most beloved festivals in America.

Wednesday, April 9th

After settling into camp, we made the usual rounds to check out vendors, say hello to old faces, and swap schedule talk with some of the more seasoned Wanee veterans. The “unofficial” first day of Wanee is not advertised in the bulk of marketing since only one stage is open, however a great deal of previous festival goers choose to arrive Wednesday (or earlier) to avoid long lines and secure prime camping spots. Arriving early is encouraged, just keep in mind that you’ll be required to pay an early admission fee of $20.00 if you’re a general admission ticket holder.

The Wednesday lineup included a solid set of acts who frequent the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park; The Politix, Juke, Cope, The Heavy Pets, and Honey Island Swamp Band. We were delighted to speak with Jeff Lloyd of The Heavy Pets prior to the show – you can read the whole interview here.

Thursday, April 10th

Vehicles were pouring into the park by early morning, signaling the start of “day one” at Wanee. The fact that only one of the Festival’s two stages is open did little to deter crowds from making their way to the Festival grounds early in the morning to hang hammocks, shop at vendors, and dance through the day.

Highlights from Thursday included Berry Oakley’s Skylab, Blind Boys of Alabama, Royal Southern Brotherhood, and Soulive, who closed out the night.

By sundown, the park was brimming with eager audiences ready to share in the experience that is Wanee.

Friday, April 11th

We started the morning off splitting time between Ziggy Marley at The Peach Stage and Futurebirds at the Mushroom Stage, though a certain loyalty was felt for our Georgia brethren.

The isolation of only two stages is a definite plus for Wanee and given their proximity to each other, you don’t really need to expect to do a lot of walking unless you’re camped at an outlying site, but even then the walks are far shorten than some of the larger outdoor fest in the country.

The rest of the day was spent between Umphrey’s McGee, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, moe., T. A. B., and of course an amazing set from The Allman Brothers and the rotating cast of guests that they usually bring up (including Trey Anastasio on “Franklin’s Tower”). Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk closed out Friday night with a full set of Led Zepplin acts and a number of special guests!

Saturday, April 12th

The last day of Wanee was far from somber or sullen; one of my personal preferences being that when a fest ends on Saturday and not Sunday to leave a day for travel, recovery etc.. Rows of chairs were already being set by the time I made it into the grounds and everyone was rehashing the previous night’s events.

On Saturday, we were able to spend a bit more of our time around the food & craft vendors and came up with some great finds! Like any of the festival’s we’ve attended at Spirit of Suwannee, the coordinators did an excellent job of meshing local-based vendors alongside the large groups of traveling vendors that work the festival circuit.

The “10 Year Family Celebration” day was one for the books! We caught a few songs from Chris Robinson Brotherhood before making our way to the Mushroom Stage for Matt Schofield. Schofield is truly a virtuoso and went above and beyond to treat the crowd. From there, the day become a back-and-forth blur between the two stages to see Blues Traveler, Rusted Root, Tedeschi Trucks, Gov’t Mule, Break Science, and the second night of the Allman Brothers, before closing things out with Umphrey’s McGee’s “All Night Wrong” set.

The end of the story that is The Allman Brothers doesn’t mean the end of Wanee. We were honored to be a part of such a monumental year for not only this festival, but music history in general. Thanks for the people at Live Nation, the Spirit of Suwannee Park, Helen’s Hilton, and all the new friends we made. We’ll see you in 2015!

Contributing text from Everett Verner & Scott Corkery. Photos by Scott Corkery