By Michael Yanko
Rock Legends Photographers
One thing I have to say about Live Nation, they sure know how to put on one heck of a festival.
The atmosphere at the Suwanee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida reminded us in some ways of Woodstock but with a lot more organization. There were two great stages with excellent sound systems, and all of the staff was friendly, yet efficient at the same time. Although we did have a bit of rain, the crowd didn’t budge and the bands kept playing.
We didn’t get to see all the bands because we were focused mainly on the headliners, but we heard that the bands we missed were excellent.
There were four of us covering this event, Rina Marie, Greg (Stretch), Gail Gerdes, and myself, so we were able to capture some stunning images and video.
We arrived on Wednesday for the “happy hour” shows and were able to see some great bands we had never heard of headlined by Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk.
The lineup included:
- Beebs and Her Moneymakers
- Kettle of Fish
- Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk
We only got to see the last 3 bands but they were all great!
On Thursday we missed the first two bands (Oli Brown, Monophonics) but we arrived in time to see:
- Bobby Lee Rodgers
- Voice of the Wetlands Allstars
- Royal Southern Brotherhood
We then called it quits for the day in order to save our energy for the next two days, which meant that we ended up missing both Hot Electric Tuna and Greyboy Allstars.
We have become huge fans and friends of The Royal Southern Brotherhood (Devon Allman, Mike Zito, Charlie Wooton, Cyril Neville, and Yonrico Scott) and our new friend Tab Benoit, so seeing RSB again along with superstar group Voice of the Wetlands Allstars was the main reason we decided to attend this festival.
We became instant fans of Devon Allman when we saw him with his band Honeytribe on the first Rock Legends Cruise in 2011. On Rock Legends Cruise 2 we saw him again with his solo band and also with the Royal Southern Brotherhood. Seeing RSB was our first exposure to Mike, Cyril, and Charlie, and our second to Yonrico since he also played drums with Devon’s band. These guys are not only amazing musicians, they are also amazing down-to-earth people that are a pleasure to be around.
We had just seen the Royal Southern Brotherhood and Tab Benoit’s blues band the weekend before at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, so we actually saw both of them twice in five days. Woohoo! (see our article on the TBBF)
The Royal Southern Brotherhood wowed the crowd throughout their entire performance and then took it beyond wow when they brought out special guests “Jumpin” Johnny Sanzone, our friend Artimus Pyle (Lynyrd Skynyrd), and Devon’s pops, Gregg Allman to join in with them. Seeing Gregg and Devon standing together and jamming made the whole festival for me. Knowing a bit of their history and seeing them enjoying playing together was a superb moment in my musical history!
Special thanks to Devon and RSB/VOW management for making it possible for us to shoot their entire show and the Voice of the Wetlands Allstars!
The Voice of the Wetlands is a must see if you get the opportunity! The talent that has been assembled in this group is nothing short of phenomenal! Rather than list all the members go here but I will add in the very special guests: Mickey Thomas (Elvin Bishop, Jefferson Starship), Artimus Pyle (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Damon Fowler, Mike Zito, Devon Allman.
All three bands were excellent, so do yourself a favor and Google them, listen to some of their music, and buy some CDs or downloads. Be sure to support their solo efforts as well!
On Friday we arrived in time to see part of Bobby Lee Rodgers second set – this band really rocks, be sure to check them out.
Next up was Blackberry Smoke! It was great to see the guys again after not seeing them since the 2011 Simpleman Cruise. They put on their usual outstanding performance and I was lucky to be able to spend a bit of time with Paul Jackson and watched a bit of Government Mule with him. I also shared an umbrella with Richard Turner and watched a bit of Widespread Panic together.
After BBS came Robert Randolph who also put on an outstanding performance. It rained while they played but they kept going, and much like Woodstock, the crowd did not budge. Everybody just kept rocking!
Next up was Government Mule. Warren Haynes and company put on their usual jam band extravaganza and were joined on stage by Artimus Pyle (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and some of the members of Widespread Panic.
After Government Mule Widespread Panic took the stage and wowed the crowd with their unique brand of “jam band” music. They were joined by Warren Haynes and joked about how they should rebill the bands as Government Panic or Widespread Mule.
To finish off the night, the headliner of the festival, the Allman Brothers Band took the stage. They played all the crowd favorites and had a slide show running in the background with lots of vintage photos and graphics that really enhanced the crowd attention. There were photos of Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix, and many more great photos and graphics from the 70’s.
On Saturday we arrived just in time for Michael Franti and Spearhead. I have to say this band was the surprise of the festival! Although their music is great, their live performance puts it all in a new light! Michael owned the crowd from the first song and surprised everybody by going way out into the crowd several times for some singing and dancing. Michael walked along the top of a wood fence separating the photo area from the main crowd, probably 30 yards long at the least. He brought people from the crowd on stage with him, brought all the young children up to do “I Love You” with him, and even stood on his head with one of the guests and sang the last half of a song upside down.
After Spearhead we were treated to an outstanding set by the blues award winning Tedeschi-Trucks Band. They were followed by a second performance from Widespread Panic and the evening was capped off by a fabulous grand finale from the Allman Brothers Band and special guests!
To sum it all up, the Wanee Festival is a must-not-miss event that we hope to attend every year. If you’ve never been, put it on your bucket list! Once you go, you’ll be joining the thousands that attend this great festival every year!