Mars Needs Women! Wanee Does, Too!!

Recently, Shannon Allman, Gregg’s widow, published a missive straight from the heart about Gregg and his vision for women at Wanee. We would like to second that emotion. First, take a moment to read her powerful words:

Dear Wanee FestivalLive Nation Concerts, and Live Nation Florida,

One of the songs that has gotten me through the loss of my husband, Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band, is his self-penned “Dreams.”

(Of “Dreams,” Gregory said, “I showed them ‘Dreams,’ and let me tell ya, they joined right in. We learned that song the way you hear it today, and I was in, brother.”)

Witnessing the stunning version performed by family at the The Peach Music Festival tribute to Gregory and Butch Trucks brought me to my knees in tears of grief and gratitude. Lord knows, I’ve been “hung up on dreams I’ll never see” now that he’s gone.

One of them, which we discussed often, was working together to increase female representation on festival lineups and as his opening acts.

Despite assumptions about his bad boy reputation and image, Gregory was a feminist at heart, raised by an independent, widowed mother; a man who believed that equality for women was simply common sense, not something to debate or fight to take rights away from.

I recall vividly one night, in a hotel room on the road, playing him about six or seven female artists, each one of which he sort of shrugged at and asked me to skip to the next, not feeling that their vibe aligned with his “blues flavored rock n roll.”

After about 12 seconds of listening to Kaleigh Baker, he excitedly pointed at the screen and exclaimed, “YES!” We watched several more of her music videos.

Many have described Kaleigh as a “bluesy Adele,” and while I can’t quite ignore the obvious similarities of their soulfulness, powerhouse vocals, and Kaleigh’s bone deep blues, I hesitate to compare women – or anyone. They are each their own extraordinary artistic selves.


I immediately emailed Live Nation and multiple managers but the season was booked and, as happens, life and medical issues shifted our focus in other directions.

Bringing Kaleigh on to open for Gregory is a dream we had to let go of.

Kaleigh Baker & Her Enablers

When I saw the lineup announcement for Wanee 2018, which will be my ninth, I couldn’t help but immediately notice the nearly nonexistent presence of women.

(Lisa Mackey in Darkstar OrchestraElliott Peck in Midnight North, and…?)

Recent news of Nikon hiring 32 men and 0 women to promote their camera came to mind, not to mention the recent eruption of an endless news cycle surrounding the systemic oppression and unlevel playing field our system has provided for women.

I think of Wanee as the Brothers’ baby which has matured into the most beautiful old soul.

It’s where I discovered myself, found family and friends, where I learned that there are others in the world who appreciate and experience music and life the way I do. This was a revelation for a small town Southern girl.

Wanee is my all-time favorite festival, of the countless I’ve been to around the world, the memories of which have positively changed me forever.

Occasionally, I thought Gregory might be tired of hearing me gush about my love for Wanee year after year, as he didn’t have the same fan-side experience, but, ultimately, i know how proud he was to have helped create something that he, I, and countless others look forward to all year.

I loved to tell and he loved to hear stories of the silly antics, crowd energy, friendships and connections made, engagements, marriages, and even children conceived at the festival he and his lifelong brothers made possible along Florida’s Suwannee River.

I know it’s impossible to please everybody. There will always be artists that some want to see that aren’t available or included and acts booked that others will complain about. Time slots will clash and people will gripe about the best possible problem — having two bands you want to see play at once.

Thank you for all of the hard work, effort, and energy that goes into planning and executing this magical event year after year.

I, for one, love most of the 2018 Wanee acts announced and am excited to discover the few I’m not yet familiar with.

However, I think that the exclusion of women completely is an entirely different matter. Not only do I and many others want our souls stirred by the magical mysticsm of female vocals and instrumentation, there is no shortage of badass female talent on the market or in Wanee-esque genres to not give these countless artists an opportunity.

Not because they’re women.

Because they rock.

Admittedly, I wonder sometimes how this type of (common) situation passes so many eyes without anybody acknowledging or recognizing this issue before presenting it publicly.

There’s been back and forth discourse about whether this was an initial phase lineup or the final announcement. I’m holding my breath with many friends, anxiously hoping and waiting to see some of our talented sisters whose music we adore, crave, and are healed by added to our beloved festival. Our home.

Wanee, you have my heart.

Please continue to provide and make my sisters and me feel that we also have a safe, represented space like the other half of our music loving family.

I’ll see you in April.

Your friend and fan,
Shannon Allman

We could not agree more. Shannon mentioned one by name and also listed the two women on the current lineup (Lisa Mackey and Elliott Peck). We would like to include two more obvious choices and add another Sweet Sixteen into the discussion, and there are many, many more to consider.

Melody Trucks

She spoke about blues belter Kaleigh Baker from Orlando, a well-deserved shout-out. And we all remember the magic at the Mushroom Stage at last year’s Wanee Wednesday, when the Freight Train Band, Butch’s musical vehicle before he checked out in January, blew out a magnificent set featured Melody Trucks, daughter of Butch, and guitar phenom Heather Gillis. Both Trucks and Gillis have top-notch bands of their own. We optimistically anticipate their inclusion on 2018’s Wanee Wednesday, although both deserve slots during the festival proper.

Heather Gillis

Our sweet sixteen list is in no order whatsoever. Enjoy! Discuss!

From the Americana/roots menu, fiddler Allie Kral has recharged Yonder Mountain String Band, and she sings as well. Elephant Revival boasts two great ladies. Bonnie Paine is a whirlwind on vocals, washboard, stomp box, djembe, and musical saw! Bridget Law plays fiddle and octave fiddle and sings.

Allie Kral of Yonder Mountain String Band
Bonnie Paine and Bridget Law of Elephant Revival

The pool of blues guitar slingers is deep indeed, some very familiar, others who ought to be. Donna Hopkins, Ana Popovic, Samantha Fish, Deborah Coleman, and Kelly Richey can all hang with anybody. All of them rock, too, of course. And this is as good a place as any to mention Orianthi, shredder extraordinaire.

The Donna Hopkins Band
Ana Popovic

Deborah Coleman
Kelly Richey

There is always need for some jamtronica at Wanee (that’s my story…), and bass player Alana Rocklin of STS9 would fit that bill perfectly. In the indescribable category, Rubblebucket is a blast, and front woman Kalmia Traver sings and plays baritone saxophone. Yes! And keyboard phenom Holly Bowling has played Wanee before (2015).

Alana Rocklin of STS9
Kalmia Traver
Holly Bowling

Two Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park favorites are Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman and are always welcome. Both are fine singers; Hartswick plays badass trumpet, while Cressman plays equally badass trombone.

Jennifer Hartswick. Photo by kind permission of Suzette Sears Baird
Natalie Cressman. Photo by Rob Schmidt

And there are two more names who should be considered. One is Grace Potter, singer, keyboard player, guitar shredder. The other is Bonnie Raitt. Before you snort, ask people who’ve actually heard her what they think. I still remember watching her kick Paul Barrere and Cornell Dupree off the stage. Both of these ladies are incredible performers.

Grace Potter
Bonnie Raitt

Feel free to mention others you feel ought to be considered for Wanee 2018, 2019, 2020, …

It’s not like they’re not out there.


Rounding the list up to 20 with four musicians local to the Tampa Bay area.

Ashley and Taylor Galbraith of The Galbraith Group. Ashley on bass and Taylor on drums make up one dynamite rhythm section.

The Galbraith Group

Shannon Biss of The Applebutter Express: wonderful vocalist in this twisted Americana quartet

Shannon Biss of The Applebutter Express

Dani Jaye: amazing triple threat for Come Back Alice on fiddle, guitar and vocals

SEE? You can’t just pick one. Or twenty!

Este Loves: leader of the Este Loves Band (vocals and guitar) which regularly turns in world-class performances

Este Loves

Annnnnnnd… the floodgates are open! We’ll take a look at vocalists in another post.

Lyndsay Pruett: fiddler extraordinaire for the Jon Stickley Trio — late sets at the last two Hulaweens

Lyndsay Pruett. Photo by Brian Hensley

Tara Nevins: another triple threat — from Donna the Buffalo, mainstays of Suwannee Roots Revival and Suwannee Spring Reunion

Kyle Spark & Tara Nevins of Donna the Buffalo. Photo courtesy of Brian Hensley

Well, it started at 16. There are so many deserving of recognition.

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