Thursday was the easy day: one stage, no muss, no fuss. Now we were ready for two stages and overlapping sets (not as hectic as Bear Creek or AURA, but…).
I had an immediate dilemma at noon: Bobby Lee Rodgers on the Peach Stage and The Hip Abduction on the Mushroom. BLR had a short half-hour set, so I started there. Right choice again. New addition (lock in his contract, BLR!) Rodrigo Zambrano had another superb outing with Rodgers and drummer Tom Damon. We “early” risers were amply rewarded.
Then I scurried back to see The Hip Abduction. I had seen them for the first time opening for Toubab Krewe in November, and they played a very nice set, dovetailing well with Toubab’s sound with the additional feature of very good, effective vocals. That set was nice; the Wanee set was on an entirely new astral plane. They absolutely killed it! What a superb way to start the day! Their website says “Afropop reggae,” but that barely scratches the surface. Surf music, rock, ska, Afrobeat and more poured out of the stage to an appreciative dancing crowd.
Flame-throwers ready? Good. One of the most impressive aspects of these festivals is that performers start on time and end on time. Mostly. It seems to me a matter of respect for the fans and for fellow musicians. I don’t know why Ziggy Marley hit the stage 25 minutes late (an eternity in festival time), but they connected immediately with the crowd. Just not me. Ziggy was THE highlight for my dear friend Rev. Hugh. I listened for half an hour and went to check on Futurebirds, who were rocking the Mushroom stage, all the while anticipating the first of two Wanee sets from Umphrey’s McGee.
I was trying to make a list the other day of bands I would never miss. What a dumb thing to do (but I LOVE lists). Anyway, UM is high on that list. Their afternoon set was magnificent. In a weekend of many highlights, for me the two UM sets were the pinnacle, the acme. These boys don’t LOOK like rockers, but no matter. They are at the top of their game right now, and I can imagine them staying there as long as they want. They RAGED in the middle of the afternoon!
That gave short shrift to Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, unfortunately. Junior Mack and Jaimoe lead this powerful band, and I really enjoyed their full set at the Sunshine blues Fest in January. I got to hear the tail end of this set, and they were as strong as ever. My apologies, Jaimoe. My clone was out of order.
In the days and weeks before the festival, much was said about Lynyrd Skynyrd, their music, their fans, their legacy and practically everything else. I had never seen them before and did not have much interest. I gave it about 20 minutes, which for me was enough. Once again, I was in the decided minority, as most folks really enjoyed the LS set. I needed moe.
There is always something special about a moe. set at the park, whether it was their first time (Wanee 2008) or Bear Creek. Almost every band brings its A game to the park; moe. delivers its A+ game every time. They shoved it into high gear right after “Okayalright,” sliding into “Recreational Chemistry.” Their superb set concluded with a romping, galloping “Buster” and a crowd-delighting “Godzilla” encore.
It was Trey time. TAB has been impressing people all over, including non-Phishheads, and this was a great set in perfect sync with the setting sun. How about, “Magilla,” “Ooh Child,” and “Push on ‘Til the Day?” The “Black Dog” encore had people going wild, opening the Led Zep songbook wide.
Many chose to stay put, waiting for the Allman Brothers headlining set in an hour, while others (of COURSE I did), travelled back to the Mushroom to check out Thievery Corporation’s Rob Garza do his DJ set. WELL! All of us have heard DJs all over the spectrum from spectacular to revolting (well, I have). Garza’s set was as good as it gets. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.
The Brothers. I confess I was anticipating two incredible nights to celebrate the 10thWanee and the last year of ABB, at least with this line-up (who knows what will happen going forward?). Friday night was kind of flat. Listen, ABB is still better than almost any other band, but for THEM this was a very average performance. The only song that truly lifted me was Warren Haynes (of course) ripping into “Feel Like Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home.” Albert was the King, but Warren owns this song now. I enjoyed “You Don’t Love Me” and “Liz Reed,” but otherwise, just OK.
Whatever your mood, it was immediately kicked into the stratosphere by Dumpstazeppelin, I mean, Dumpstaphunk playing Led Zeppelin. This was an ambitious set. Ivan Neville’s crew has nailed cover sets in previous years by Sly Stone and P-Funk. How would Zep work out? It was awesome! If you go now to listen to the recording, it’s rough in places, and the vocals aren’t perfect, but I assure you that mattered not one bit during the set. The music was great. My favorites included “Custard Pie,” “Trampled Underfoot” and “The Wanton Song,” the latter a lesser-known gem. Can you tell I love the uber-funky “Physical Graffiti” LP? And Warren graced the stage for the last 40 minutes, ripping it up AGAIN, especially on “Ramble On.”
The night was NOT over, as the Zep leitmotif yielded to Pink Floyd. I was camping with the thespians led by Scrog, who had created Dorothy’s trip to Oz at Short-Cut Camp. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, Mr. Not-Nobody-Not-NoHow, the Man behind the curtain, witches, flying monkeys, and Toto made a magnificent appearance during the moe. set (the twister was conspicuously absent!). At 2:30 AM, thanks to Herculean efforts by my campmates, we had concert-quality sound and a superb picture as they matched up “Dark Side of the Moon” with “The Wizard of Oz.” I’ve read about it often, but I’d never seen it. The musical transitions that match the scene segues are electrifying.
All in all, a magnificent Wanee Friday. Two down, one to go. And so much promise awaiting the Saturday schedule!