From what spiraled and shifting nebulae are world-class music festivals born? What school of elvin magic endeavors to embrace the seedling of an idea and nurse it into the bursting blossom of its enduring culture? When people come together in a shared space, what motivates them to adopt and embrace common practices? It begins with a small group of motivated music lovers whose goal is to build the a better party. Hopefully, the spirit gets involved and the festival becomes blanketed in an mystic umbrella of protection. A safe refuge, free of fear and judgement and all that’s needed for an otherwise lucid and controlled individual to break their rusted cage…and run. To cast off the cloak of conformity and hoist that freak flag to the heights of somewhat silly possibilities. Just like church and college football, group hypnosis kicks in, becomes accepted and the herd begins to make more sense and have more fun than was possible as individuals. It sounds like the lost forest of the merry fairy hippies, but it’s really just Saturday night and you’ve been completely flanked by a an endless sea of campers, music, and unteathered frivolity. It time to get out of that lawn chair. Gov’t Mule comes on the hammock stage in ten minutes. Share in the culture of Wanee Festival. It is it.
2017 has been a difficult year for the Allman Brothers family with the death of Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman and one of the fathers of Southern jam, Col. Bruce Hampton. While the Tedeschi Trucks Band, perennial Saturday night favorites at Wanee, was sadly absent from this year’s line-up, in an interview with The Marquee, Derek Trucks had this to say in regards to facing loss. “It’s been a nasty year so far.” “We learned a lot from them. We think about them alot, but we gotta keep charging down the road.” “In some ways it’s a little bit on us to keep that spirit rolling and we don’t take that lightly.”
Inevitably, the road comes through the Brothers’ back yard in North Florida and the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in sweet Live Oak, Florida. This area lays claim to the birth of Southern rock and the influence of many say, the greatest American rock-n-roll bands ever. In celebrating their legacy, the barefoot mob gathered together April 20 – 22, 2017 and soaked up a fine helpin of Widespread Panic (WSMFP), Bob Weir and the Campfire Band, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Dark Star Orchestra, Dr. John & The Nite Trippers, JJ Grey & Mofro, Les Brers, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, Leftover Salmon Performing The Music Of Neil Young, The Greyboy Allstars, Blackberry Smoke, Matisyahu, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Papadosio, Turkuaz, Pink Talking Fish– Music Of David Bowie & Prince, DJ Logic, Kung Fu, The Mimosa Sisters, Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio, Devon Allman Band, The Marcus King Band, The Yeti Trio, Brothers & Sisters Band and others. After nearly two decades, this festival continues to remain true to its original form as new performers and festivarians arrive to explore the grinding funk of the Southern rock and enjoy the culture of leisure and enjoyment for which the south is well known.
Not all events are born of the same set of shimmering standards. Some attract different kinds of people and bring them together, which is a great thing. But then you get people like Thunder Bird. A classless degenerate with no sense of shared responsibility. .It’s just this kind of shadier breed of degenerate, that’s going to leave a broken tent strewn across the site. Some of us are still learning the unwritten rules of the road. For those who consider themselves among the initiated, do not cast the first stone from your glass houses. No one is in a position to judge. Remember, you’re the kettle and you are black. Anyway, it’s fantastic when people leave things behind that others can use. One doesn’t have to be rushed or wasted to leave valuables laying around, but it helps. Scattered litter and acres of abandoned piles of trashed gear and supplies can often result in a rich bevy of unexpected ground scores. And those are always fun.
The Wanee Family Recipe:
- People: “Merry Wanee” is the banshee call heard through the forests and campsites as bikers join with rednecks and hippies in celebrating their shared brilliance at being clever enough to find their way to the show. Kids peddle their bikes back and forth from playgrounds and brightly decorated golf carts hum by with hitchhikers enjoying a friendly lift to the river. New friends are made as campfires and campsites come together and consolidated into larger parties and old friends are reunited with gifts of mimosas, homemade soap, and canned goods. That is a hint.
- Culture of Freshness: After the festival’s departure, campsites in every section of the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park were left barren of all manner of refuse. Ground scores were scant, at best and the prize treasure of they hunt was the “canon ball”, a brass tiki lamp which continues to threaten to explode nightly. The days of wine and roses, when discarded gear and alcohol were common scores for every hunter, were over. While it was a disappointing surprise to return from the pillage empty handed, another emotion peeked out from the dark recesses of my brain swamp. Pride yo.
- Kitchen Museum: For many moons, the time it takes the beaver herd to return from their mating grounds in the flooded fields of Georgia, the Dead Cat Society kitchen ardently maintained a spotless food preparation area. Communal meals were prepared in the Dutch oven and dishes were cleaned respectively. Except by Thatcher, since he had new teeth and wasn’t yet eating anything other than vodka and crushed horse tranquilizers. Once the Camp Happiness refugees arrived, they built a “new”, “brighter” kitchen and ours devolved into something out of an Edgar Alan Poe novella. It had become a dim, bleak place with forgotten corners piled with rank orange juice and sad secrets. Secrets of des vermis aurantiaco. Thankfully, it was finally purchased by the National Parks Service and converted into a interactive children’s science museum for the public.
- Neighborly Freshness: A throng of good friends and some of the most savage revelers south of the Michigan peninsula set up their foxholes adjacent to the Camp Happiness. Once again, their most sincere efforts directed toward impassioned frivolity and brutal longevity were wildly successful. They left a trail of butts, cans and broken rigs everywhere they migrated and confidence was high that ground scores would be ample. To the contrary, after their departure, there was neer a speck of trash left on their campsite. Everything from a diddle-i-do to a damned if I know was bagged, dragged and tagged. Rock and roll ready for the garbage truck. These kinds of folks are the breed with which you want to commit yourself. It’s not easy keeping up with that kind of class. You don’t usually see that kind of thing from Michiganders.
Maybe it’s a herd mentality? We all have moments of blinding brilliance when we shine and then other times when we follow a like-minded thug right down the rabbit hole into the abyss. There may be inconsistent groups who, at times, choose to be stewards and, at others, poop the bed. How many responsible campers does it take to ignite the pilot light and push start the Volkswagen, building inertia that convinces others to give a hoot.
Of course we understand how the occasional festevarian can leave gear at the site. Maybe it’s passed its prime or they no longer have any use for it. Perhaps they came on a plane and can’t take it home, or someone left a bag in it filled with something mysterious and foul? Many people embrace the culture of disposable goods. It could rightly be argued that the money spent on tickets includes the efforts of volunteers as well as paid employees who eventually come by and clean your site for you. They will and you are correct. But there is a better way. Other people can use your leftover resources. Either by packing up viable equipment and leaving it stacked neatly or better yet, start asking around. You won’t have to go far before you find some hippy that can really use a cheap new tent or a half bottle of terrible scotch.
Members of both the Dead Cat Society and Camp Happiness typically make a concerted effort to be responsible campers. As a Certified Green business, we try to provide a positive environmental model for others. We also like to bury all our refuse in a shallow pig hole. It’s true that if you get your campfire hot enough, all of your garbage can be easily transformed into a single block of dense polystyrene or dissolved altogether. Join us for our late Saturday night tradition as the annual couch burning will be in full force.
If you want to see serious environmentally conscious camping in action, visit the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It’s impossible for Floridians to keep up with those people. What the hell is a bear canister anyway? Apparently, it and other dishes are not even supposed to be washed in the river. I really thought that’s what the river was for. The extra effort put forth in the simple act of burying poop in a shallow grave is impressive. That’s also what I thought the river was for. We tried that in Utah but daily sandstorms unearthed everything. It’s impossible to tell they’re camping in Washington. Their motto is “take only memories, don’t even leave footprints. If you have to leave footprints, stay home”. There’s no bicycles bounding down the trails like Telluride and no inflatable kayaks colorfully navigating the river like Salida. Most importantly, there is nothing to be found on the ground anywhere. How can this be adopted by other festivals?
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a national organization that protects the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. The Center accomplishes this mission by delivering cutting-edge education and research to millions of people across the country every year. At Telluride, Northwest String Summit, and RockyGrass festivals they host a Leave No Trace contest in an effort to extend the spirit of sustainable Festivation into the campgrounds. Coordinated by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, this contest encourages others to raise the bar for sustainable and creative camping. These kinds of initiatives provide a framework for festival sustainability.
All entrants are eligible for random daily prizes, while campsites that excel in achieving the highest levels of the Leave No Trace philosophy could win camping and 3-day passes for the 2017 Festival. Enjoy your world. Leave No Trace.
HeadCount: As a result of their efforts, countless individuals have been afforded the opportunity to attend concerts, festivals and events that may not have been possible otherwise. HeadCount also organizes “Participation Row” social-action villages and charity auctions at major live music events, with help from sponsors Qello and Clean Energy Advisors. The results are tens of thousands of actions taken, and nearly $1 million raised for 35 non-profit organizations. At the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary concerts in 2015, a signed guitar fetched over $500,000, making national news.
#SoundOff is HeadCount’s new online platform that makes it easy to tweet directly to Congress. It gives individuals and advocacy organizations an easy way to use social media to create a public dialogue with lawmakers — driving legislators to respond less to special interests and more to the people who elected them. Visit www.soundoffatcongress.org and #SoundOff today.
post script: nailtravels has been visiting the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, in Live
Oak, FL since 2002. For many of us, the Amphitheater or Mushroom Stage is one of the premier places to enjoy music anywhere. As we now travel around the country, covering shows and visiting famous destinations, such as Shoreline, Horning’s Hideout and Telluride Bluegrass Festival, these and others are definitely spectacular and quite special, but this fact remains; The Amphitheater Stage of Live Oak, with it’s terraced bowl of lawn chairs and hammocks completely shadowed by North Florida turkey oaks represents. Whether it’s Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, or Jim Lauderdale, the sound and feel is so right if you haven’t been to SOSMP in North Florida, it holds it’s own with the best of them.