The 2014 Wanee Festival
Spirt of Suwanee State Park, Live Oak, Florida
The Wanee Music Festival is now in its tenth year and shows no signs of slowing down. Held in bucolic Live Oak, Florida, this year there’sthree days of exceptional live music on tap. And should you purchase a ticket to the show at the reasonable price of $205 (plus service fees) it includes admission to all three days of music, and three nights of primitive camping there in the park. Camping upgrades are available through The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park offices, for those who wish to bring their RV or rent a cabin. You may wish to consider this option. Let’s face it, when we were 20, we could sleep literally anywhere and it was no big deal. Anyone arriving on Sunday through Wednesday prior to the event must pay a per person charge. There are many hotels located nearby in town, an easy 10 minute drive from the park. It’s smart to call ahead to reserve a room as they fill up quickly.
For those disinclined to drive after enjoying the festivities of the day, shuttle busses do run regularly. This is a fairly friendly crowd. You can ask for most anything, food or a ride, and someone will usually help out. Apply some common sense here. In the town of Live Oak is a Wal Mart, Publix and other stores ready for the onslaught of visitors, who arrived ill prepared or forgot to pack a toothbrush. There are plenty of restaurants as well. Located in the camp is a General Store with reasonable prices. I was expecting the same kind of convenience sticker shock that comes with proximity, but no, everything was fair. They sold beer, wine, ice and fishing lures for those so inclined.
There is WI-FI for those who can’t bear to be offline for more than thirty seconds. What you need to bring with you if you are going to be taking advantage of the primitive camping is bug repellent, sunscreen, and everything else you would need for a few days off the grid. Ear plugs are a plus as the party keeps going long after the show has ended. Somebody was thinking when they organized this show, scheduling it in the spring, when the weather is pleasant. There’s potable water, shower facilities and plenty of restrooms and port-o-lets. Campground security is low-key and ever present. Again, apply common sense, lock your valuables in your trunk.
With your ticket you may come and go from the venue as you please. But security will look into bags and outside food and drinks are
frowned upon. You can go back to your tent for lunch or purchase deep fried Oreos to satisfy your hunger. Which brings me to the subject of vending. There are plenty of unique, one of a kind, jam band styled, 420 friendly merchandise available for sale in the vending area. My advice, don’t by the first latch hook tapestry shaped like Jerry Garcia’s head you see. There may be other items of equal quality or interest around the corner. You have three days to think about it.
But this show is about the music and there’s a metric ton of amazing artist on hand. Keeping up with the bands on Thursday is easy as the bands are all concentrated at the smaller, more intimate Mushroom Stage. On Friday and Saturday performances will be at the larger Peach Stage as well, with artists starting time staggered. These aren’t scheduled in a way that anyone would be able to see each and every performance in its entirety, but a concert program is issued with the ticket, so you can plan who you want to see accordingly.
The Allman Brothers Band headline Friday and Saturday nights and they do not repeat their set lists. There are always great walk-on guest appearances by other performers. Derek Trucks set with Widespread Panic last year was positively incendiary.
Some people may feel as if they’ve been dropped into a time machine, as there are plenty of hippies of every stripe, both original and nuveau, well-scrubbed or bona-fide brown foot tribe die hards in attendance. Some look as though they’d been living on the road for years. There are also plenty of ardent music fans who didn’t feel compelled to dedicate their entire way of life just to enjoy some live music. Entire families, spanning three generations came and the overall ambiance was decidedly relaxed.
While the following words cannot and should not be taken as legal advice, it was my observation that the police were fairly tolerant of those in the audience who chose indulge in activities not yet sanctioned by the State of Florida. It is a very mellow scene and discretion should always be exercised.
This years scheduled performers include The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Futurebirds, Bobby LeeRodgers Trio, Hot Tuna Electric, Blues Traveller, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and so many more. Some of the absolute must see bands are Yeti Trio and their way out Zappa-esque jazz; The Blind Boys of Alabama bringing blessed Gospel to true believers and gentiles alike and Royal Southern Brotherhood with the next generation of Southern rock for the 21st Century.
And finally, there are signs posted everywhere throughout the park stating there would be no dogs allowed on the property during this party. There was a dog under my feet every time I turned around. I’ve never wanted to sneak a dog into a show, and I’m unclear as to why someone would go through the trouble. Really, leave your dog at home. It’s why I’m nice to my neighbors. So they’ll feed them while I’m gone.