Suwannee Hulaween may be Spirit of Suwannee Music Park’s largest event by size, but Wanee has the most heart. Smaller than Hulaween by about half (10,000 attendees), Wanee distinguishes itself among festivals in the southeast by having one of the most seasoned fanbases: a mixture of Deadheads, Phish Phans, Allman Brothers devotees, just to name a few, that are lifelong festival goers, as well as being a bit older and wiser than many other festival populations. With the biggest lineup Wanee has had in possibly it’s entire history (Bob Weir, Trey Anastasio, and Widespread Panic all making appearances), the original spirit of kindness and generosity that sets this festival apart from any other has no departed, as shots of “Merry Wanee!” can be heard across the park.
For the First Timers – Wanee is a festival that really feels more like a camping vacation than a festival. The pace is much slower than most festivals, and that suits attendees just fine. Don’t expect to be jumping to four or five different stages either; Wanee has but two stages: The Peach stage (it’s main stage), and the legendary Mushroom stage. Veterans of other festivals at Suwannee might be tempted to call the latter the Amp Stage, but this is not the same stage, though it occupies the same space in the park. The Mushroom Stage is special due to the abundance of lasers, projection mapping technology, and last but certainly not least because of Mike “Big Mike” McCullough, the MC of all the sets at the Mushroom Stage. Unlike any other event at the park, Big Mike brings a sense of family and community between the audience and whomever is about to play next, simply through his charisma, booming yet kind voice, and his trademark greeting of “Waaaaaah-nneeeee”.
- Pink Talking Fu – Pink Talking Fish and Kung Fu teaming up for a set is reason enough to be euphoric, but that they did a tribute set to the late and great David Bowie and Prince, makes this event something that may never happen again. Pink Talking Fu even brought out two of the singers from fellow jam funk group Turkuaz.
- Widespread Panic – The southern jam posse known as Widespread Panic is a legend in Athens, GA, yet in the South as a whole, its an institution. You can’t help but feel swept up in the excitement of those around, as Spreadheads seeing their boys onstage are some of the happiest people you will ever meet. While at the side of the stage enjoying the last part of their set, a 45 year old man rushed by me, and like a kid about to catch his favorite TV program, just kept incessantly shouting “End of the Show! We got End of the Show! (One of the songs fans have been chasing for years).
- Bob Weir – Though Wanee began as an Allman Brothers headed festival, having one of the founding members of the Grateful Dead performing not one, but TWO sets, was absolutely historic in every sense of the word. Weir brought out Phish frontman Trey Anastasio for a few select Dead tracks like “Friend of the Devil”, and even delved into a slower, a tempo version of “Shakedown Street”, ending his second night with a beautiful rendition of “Ripple”, that left no dry eyes in the audience.
- Sleep in and relax at camp: the music isn’t going anywhere.
- Attend a Wanee Wedding
- Visit Bean Spence’s Art Stand (the artist who paints all the stages and statuary for Wanee)
- Kick back and enjoy the set from your chair