There are few better times to take a road trip than springtime in South Florida, and if you love both camping and great live music, the Wanee Music Festival should be tugging at your Easy Rider heart.
So what’s Wanee all about? It’s a three-day event at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fla., (directions at left) featuring rock-‘n’-roll icons on two stages (the Peach Stage and the Mushroom Stage – get it?) including the Allman Brothers, Robert Plant, Widespread Panic, 7 Walkers featuring Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead, Stephen Marley, The Steve Miller Band and many more. There’s even a traveling stage jamming its way around the park from Thursday-Saturday, featuring sets by Bobby Lee Rodgers, Griffin Anthony and The North Mississippi Allstars Duo.
Basically, it’s four days of musical and spiritual bliss, a welcome break from the real world.
“Bring some open ears and plan on listening to some great music,” says jam-band fave Widespread Panic percussionist Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz. “I was just looking at the lineup, and it’s killer – if you catch only one festival this year, this is the one.”
Other great acts on the bill include the Warren Haynes Band, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Ween, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Hot Tuna Electric, Keller Williams, Taj Mahal, Galactic, John Popper (of Blues Traveler fame) & The Duskray Troubadors, Lotus, Rusted Root, The Radiators – well, the list just goes on and on.
“I remember doing Wanee many, many years ago, before it was called Wanee, back in the late ’80s,” says Ortiz. “And now, look what it’s turned out to be – a monster, monster lineup. And I think it’s kind of cool that Wanee starts off the season early, and doesn’t get into the rat race of all the other festivals going on in the summer, which are all good festivals, too. It’s hard to pick where you want to go and where you wanna be.”
Widespread Panic will perform only one night – catch them at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14 – but it promises to be a memorable show.
“We’ll probably do one huge set – I know we’re slated for at least two-and-a-half or three hours,” says Ortiz. “We’ll probably do a lot of songs from our new album, “Dirty Side Down.” And then give ’em a little bit of drums, pretty much make the evening as excitable for our fans as it is to us.”
The band is famous for never repeating sets, so it’s impossible to predict what you might hear – especially considering Panic’s crazy-long repertoire. Even Ortiz has only a faint idea of the set list.
“Dude, right now we got in our stable probably at least 350 songs including covers,” he says. “Usually we hit ’em real hard with a majority of original songs and throw in a few cover songs. But it’s really hard to say what we’re gonna come up with until like 20 minutes before showtime.”
For newbies to the festival, Ortiz has some advice: “I would say bring a sleeping bag, bring food, sunscreen, bug repellant, a couple bathing suits – hell, maybe even a snake-bite kit. You don’t need to bring any underwear. And I’m pretty sure it’s not close to any swampland, so you don’t have to worry about any alligators or crocs.”