Wanee 2015: Got the ABB Blues?

Hey, you going to Wanee this year?

“No. I loved the Allman Brothers, but I’m not much of a Widespread Panic fan.”

Let’s take a few moments to deconstruct this argument, using first the vegetarian on Thanksgiving analogy. “Gosh, you’re a vegetarian? What do you eat on Thanksgiving?” Really? I don’t know what your Thanksgiving dinners are like, but here is a fact to consider: if the turkey blew up, nobody would starve. At most events, everybody is overfull before they sit down to the regular meal.

Or this: real boxing fans look for interesting undercards. Sure, the main event is the big draw, but it might only go one round. It might be a turkey. There is always promising action on the undercard.

Don’t like Widespread Panic? It’s clear where I stand, given that all of my music handles include Tie Your Shoes. I could try to convince you, but let’s assume my efforts are in vain. Let’s examine the undercard, the appetizers, if you will.

So you say you like the Allman Brothers. Then how about Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks and Very Special Friends and Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band? That’s a pretty good start.

Add to that the hardest-working man in show business: Warren Haynes and his Gov’t Mule compatriots, Wanee stars all ten years. Not to mention that Warren was an ABB brother for 25 years!

Are you a Deadhead? Melvin Seals and JGB are coming from San Francisco to bring grateful music your way. So are South Florida’s contribution, Crazy Fingers. More San Francisco sounds: the Hot Tuna Electric band has been crushing it at Wanee the past few years.

Certainly I’ve whetted your appetite at this point, but wait! There’s more!

Zappa Plays Zappa comes to Wanee for the first time. The best compliment that can be paid to Dweezil Zappa’s outfit is that his dad would have loved playing with these superb musicians. And rumor has it they will play One Size Fits All, the 1975 masterpiece, in its entirety.

Much of the early buzz concerns the return of The Word, last at Wanee in 2010. Robert Randolph, John Medeski and the North Mississippi All-Stars bring you sacred steel/ gospel/ blues/ jam. Electrifying music.

At this point, you’ve probably already clicked the BUY button on the Wanee site, but just in case you haven’t done so yet…

Two interesting additions to this year’s line-up are Earth, Wind and Fire and Cheap Trick. It’s safe to say they do not fit in the jammy Southern rock tradition of much of Wanee’s history, but they offer great variety and are more than just dinosaur bands from the late Jurassic period. Earth, Wind and Fire have always been one of the premier soul and R’n’B bands since the early 70s. Bassist and founder Verdine White marks his 35th year with the band, and Philip Bailey, whose distinctive vocal style is one of the EWF hallmarks, joined the band a year after White. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Robin Zander and his Cheap Trick bandmates have not been idle since their glory days. They put together a massive tour with orchestra covering Sgt. Pepper’s in 2009, and the band has a new CD out. You’ll get tons of hits, to be sure, but Cheap Trick continues to deliver.

Maybe Nawlins music is your thing. Perhaps you like the Neville family. Ivan and Ian return with their Dumpstaphunk machine to bring you the 70s funk this time. Cyril comes with Royal Southern Brotherhood with one of the best rhythm sections ever: Charlie Wooton and Yonrico Scott. Or maybe you like the rhythm section of Robert Mercurio and the irrepressible Stanton Moore (both from Galactic), joining Ivan and guitarist Eric Lindell for an amazing new supergroup (and that is not an overstatement), Dragon Smoke.

There is a lot more Louisiana music as well. Did I mention Galactic? They have been tearing it up this winter, ready to take it to the Wanee stage. Eric Lindell has a solo slot in addition to his Dragon Smoke gig. The Revivalists return to reprise their 2013 magic, and then there is Raw Oyster Cult. The name alone should bring you running, just because. Put the Radiators, Papa Grows Funk and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes in a blender, and ROC is what comes out!

Wanee fans have been clamoring forever to see one of the great Southern soul belters, JJ Grey and MOFRO, at the park, and it finally happens this year. Make sure you check out Todd Smallie, one of the most underrated bassists on the scene. Add to that Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band, two of the best proponents of rock-oriented-bluegrass or, as LoS describes it, “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass.”

Do you even care IF there’s a headliner anymore?

I see. Another band creating tsunami-sized waves is the Nth Power, featuring Nigel Hall on keyboards and Nikki Glaspie on drums. Their soul and R’n’B touch you through to the core. Pink Talking Fish gained a boatload of new fans at last year’s festival with their intertwining of songs by Pink Floyd, the Talking Heads and Phish (and they are working on Dead material for Independence Day in Chicago, so you never know).

Bobby Lee Rodgers, another hugely underrated talent, will again grace the Wanee stage, probably again for opening sets all three days. This will be Rodgers’ seventh time at Wanee, and his following grows each year. And be forewarned: if he brings bassist Rodrigo Zambrano with him, it will be huge. That boy is a monster.

Another San Francisco product, Tea Leaf Green, also travels cross-country to rock you up and down. Reed Mathis alert! Natural Child brings their brand of rock and roll from Nashville, and Vermont’s Twiddle, who killed it a couple years back at Bear Creek, will demonstrate their “three-dimensional music.”

Florida has other representatives as well. The Jacob Jeffries Band, who had a great set last November at Bear Creek, return for their first Wanee since 2012. Bonnie Blue, a sextet from Jacksonville, was also at Wanee 2012.

Juke plays “post-blues” and impressed at the recent AURA festival; they make their first Wanee appearance this year. That is also true for the Parker Urban Band, an excellent soul band dripping with funk, built on a gospel base. Their two female vocalists will blow you away. Guaranteed.

CopE has created a funky rock juggernaut that has been exploring new ground and experimenting even more as they rock, play reggae, banjo it up (“Suwannee River Scrubdown” sound familiar?), and jam, jam, jam.

And frankly, if you think that the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is what heaven should look like, does it even matter if there’s music? OK, maybe a little bit.

Don’t want to Panic? Then don’t Panic! You’ll find plenty to see, hear, and do. Click BUY already!


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