The 12th Wanee Music Festival is just four weeks away (Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, April 13-16). Have you started packing yet? No? Bought your ticket yet? No? Well, while you’re contemplating all of that, let’s examine the lineup more carefully while we wait for the daily schedule to be revealed.
The Wanee Wednesday Happy Hour schedule was released recently, headlined by the amazing New Mastersounds, the brilliant funk and jazz quartet from, alternately, Leeds and New Orleans. Read all about the lineup on our MusicFestNews preview here.
On to the main event. Widespread Panic returns for the second year as festival headliners. This will be their fifth appearance at Wanee. They were a natural fit for the top slot after the Allman Brothers Band retired as a touring band. Panic has been on fire recently, and the official announcement that Duane Trucks would be the band’s drummer “going forward” has been well received (read more here).
So you say you miss the Allman Brothers? We all do, but just a cursory glance at the schedule tells you that very little has changed. Wanee 2016 features Gregg Allman, Les Brers (an expanded version of Butch Trucks’ Freight Train Band), and Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band. Three original Brothers, still representing!
Warren Haynes is a Wanee fixture. He had two long stints as a Brother in addition to myriad other projects as the “hardest-working man in show business.” Many recall Wanee 2008 when Gregg was ill, meaning no official Allman Brothers shows. Warren spearheaded the superb Wanee Family Jams that year.
Warren returns with Gov’t Mule, the only group to play every Wanee festival (except 2011, when The Warren Haynes Band played). Regular attendees recall the rain-shortened 2012 set, which ended with “The Shape I’m In,” and how Mule opened their 2013 set: “Now where were we?” First song? “Outta Shape.” Brilliant!
And that’s not all. Warren released the superb album Ashes & Dust in the fall and followed it with a stunning tour with Nashville trio Chessboxer and uberdrummer Jeff Sipe. It was so successful that the band has played more dates recently and will also appear at Wanee.
Oteil Burbridge will present Oteil and Friends, which should be excellent (will Nigel Hall be with him?). And Wanee is a family affair, with the Devon Allman Band and the Yeti Trio, featuring Vaylor Trucks, performing. Last year’s set by Butch Trucks was the first with Vaylor on guitar; let’s hope that gets reprised this year. And don’t forget that Duane Trucks is with Panic.
Deadheads (and everyone else) will certainly enjoy a set by Billy and the Kids, aptly named. Billy is Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, and he has collected three superb players to join him. Guitarist Tom Hamilton leads his band, American Babies, and works closely with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Hamilton’s American Babies had a great set at AURA, and then he joined The Disco Biscuits for a half-hour romp through “Scarlet Begonias > I Know You Rider.” Keyboard wizard Aron Magner (Disco Biscuits) will also be performing with Conspirator at Wanee, and Reid Mathis is on bass. Mathis and Tea Leaf Green threw down a great set at last year’s Wanee.
Melvin Seals and JGB also bring the Garcia/Dead magic with them, and this time they have really upped the ante, inviting Karl Denson (hardest-working man in show business #2) to join them. Denson can throw down the funk as hard as anybody; this promises to be very special.
And we’ve barely scratched the surface. A number of Wanee regulars are back, to everyone’s delight. That includes Umphrey’s McGee, Nigel Hall, and Soulive. Dumpstaphunk has Earth, War and Power in their trick bag this year. And brilliant guitarist Bobby Lee Rodgers has been a Wanee regular since 2009, channeling Wes Montgomery while shredding!
If you dig collaborations, then you’ll love a very special Hot Tuna Electric set with Steve Kimock! And N.M.O. performs. Who is N.M.O., you ask? That’s what you get when you add Anders Osborne to the North Mississippi All-Stars. And Bruce Hornsby returns for the second time with his band, the Noisemakers. The aforementioned jamtronic Conspirator also returns for a second helping with Magner and Marc Brownstein from the Disco Biscuits, Chris Michetti (RAQ), and a drummer to be named later.
Wanee first-timers are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Wood Brothers, Oliver and Chris with buddy Jano Rix, play Americana/folk rock; Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear (Ruth Ward) have played as an acoustic duo and also with a band. Kung Fu, about to release their third album, Joyride, is a “live electro-fusion throw down.” They have been park regulars at Bear Creek and AURA. North Carolina’s Big Something is a wonderful funky rockin’ sextet who deliver every time; their own festival, The Big WHAT?, is in July in Mebane NC. And there is one more…
Boy, is there ever one more name on the lineup! The Stanley Clarke Band is in the house, well, park, er, Wanee. Clarke is a genius on bass, one of the greatest ever. Those fortunate enough to catch Clarke with compatriot Chick Corea and Return to Forever in the ‘70s or at any of the more recent reunions will tell you: Stanley is THE MAN. Can you say “School Days?” He crushed sets at the 2015 Sunshine Music Festivals… and everywhere else. DO. NOT. MISS. HIM.
Get your tickets now! Then you’ll be ready with your highlighter when the schedule is published. And MusicFestNews will see you… at Wanee!