The Wanee Music Festival has joined the club of fests announcing their initial lineups early. Fans used to wait seemingly forever to get a glimpse at Wanee headliners and the undercard, but more recently they have announced for the April fest at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in the middle of January. Last year’s lineup dropped December 5th.
So Wanee fans got the news yesterday, Tuesday, November 12th, about the first 25 names who will appear at the three-day fest (another announcement will reveal the lineup for the always-amazing Wanee Wednesday eventually). Most fans would agree that this is one of the most powerful lineups in some time.
The two names at the top of the card are Widespread Panic and Phil Lesh & the Terrapin Family Band. Widespread Panic has played Wanee seven years and ten shows, beginning in 2010. After The Allman Brothers Band, founders of Wanee, officially retired, it looked like Panic were the logic successors with headlining Friday and Saturday sets in both 2015 and 2016. Last year, however, they playing just one night, splitting their weekend with Atlanta’s 420 Festival.
And there is apparently no middle ground, no gray area with WSMFP, the six-header monster. Most have embraced their return, but there are those who plan to stay away despite 24 other outstanding acts that will also perform.
Phil Lesh has only played Wanee one year, in 2012, when Furthur headlined along with ABB. His return brings jubilation to the Wanee family for certain. (And it looks the exact same dates, April 20th and 21st, as in 2012.)
The Allman Brothers Band legacy is well represented this year, as always, with five acts directly related and several others as logical extensions of the family. Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band provides continuity from the very first Wanee to this, the 14th edition of the venerable musical gathering. Jaimoe’s band also boasts the inimitable Junior Mack as frontman on guitar and vocals and Bruce Katz, keyboard wizard with Les Brers, Les Bros, and the late Gregg Allman.
Berry Oakley’s Indigenous Suspects is led by Berry Duane Oakley, son of the original ABB bassist. The Yeti Trio is a stunning fusion band led by Vaylor Trucks, son of the late Butch Trucks. And Les Bros is the current edition of Butch’s former group Les Brers, featuring Katz, percussionist Marc Quiñones, guitarist Jack Pearson, and vocalist Lamar Williams, Jr.
Also planning to celebrate the ABB legacy are Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Pink Talking Fish. KDTU will play “Eat a Bunch of Peaches,” inviting George Porter, Jr., and Quiñones to the party. And PFT, who have thrilled Wanee and other audiences covering many bands (including Prince and Bowie last year) call their set “Tied to the Whipping Post.”
The Dead vibe will also resound with another two-set show from Dark Star Orchestra on the Peach Stage on Thursday (until last year, music Wednesday and Thursday was confined to the Mushroom Stage). And Crazy Fingers, the fine South Florida band, will again play Wanee.
Numerous kindred spirits also dot the lineup, including North Mississippi Allstars, Chris Robinson Brotherhood and the heir apparent to part of the Southern legacy, Marcus King. Last year was his first Wanee appearance, and the safe money says you’ll be seeing him there for years to come.
New Orleans will import the Crescent City vibe in the form of George Porter, Jr., and the Runnin’ Pardners, New Orleans Suspects, outstanding brass band The Soul Rebels, and smokin’ blues player Sonny Landreth (from southwest LA). Blues slinger Walter Trout is also on the bill for the first time.
The youth movement also includes Baltimore’s ridiculous funksters Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Big Something, the brilliant North Carolina sextet that just lit up Hulaween. St. Paul & the Broken Bones bring their soul and R&B juggernaut from Alabama. Rising soul stars The Main Squeeze will be there, too. And Midnight North travel from California to offer their Americana roots.
That leaves three names, one always welcomed, one missing, and one a real surprise. The name we love to see every year is The Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio. Bobby Lee is one of the best guitarists you may never have listened to — at least closely. Delighted to see him back again.
The name missing? Gov’t Mule. And, by extension, Warren Haynes. After Wanee and Tedeschi Trucks Band parted ways, it was reassuring to know that Haynes was still part of the family. Let’s hope that he and they are “late” additions.
And the mystery name, listed third on the lineup after Panic and Lesh? As the Crow Flies. Nobody knows. Well, at least nobody’s saying. A super jam? An A-lister to be named later? OK, we got the other 24 names. We can wait to find out about that one!
[Ed. note: lots of speculation about a Black Crowes reunion and/or a Chris Robinson/ABB supergroup]