So here we go again.
My band, Juke, was asked to play the Wanee Festival for the third year in a row. We made the seven-hour trek to the 580-acre Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, and I was stoked.
This year was to be the Allman Brothers last show. Also on the bill: Chris Robinson, Ziggy Marley, Derek Trucks, tons of music royalty ... And 25,000 people in the middle of nowhere can't be wrong, can they?
My band never really fit in Miami. I know that.
I still wasn't quite sure if we fit at Wanee either. We were in strong company. But I was damn sure to give it another nice run in the land that time forgot.
First stop, however, was tradition. Waffle House.
This breakfast cheap-whore of the South might have skipped mention if it wasn't for our waitress Taelor, who gave us her life story before my hash browns had a chance to make it off the grill.
Taelor told us that her father was a Puerto Rican who abandoned her mother when she was born. She went on to explain that the spelling of "Tae" in her name was because "tae" means "love" in Spanish. (Ummm... what?)
Her stepfather is a 23-year, true-blue, Army man who just got back from Afghanistan where his job was to guard the life of the "Big Pancho over there."
People, these things are not made up.
See also: Miami's Ten Best Live Music Venues
Back at the fest ... There was a strong musical presence from Miami.
Other than Juke, the Politix were on the bill.
Local musician, Rodrigo Zambrano (AKA "The Spy") had also been recruited to play bass with guitar superpower Bobby Lee Rodgers.
Roosevelt Collier, the sacred steel phenom who's best known outside his hometown of Miami, played the Allman Brothers' set, which also featured the addition of John Popper, Warren Haynes, and a laundry list of heavies that barely anyone south of Fort Lauderdale has even heard of.
As for me and Juke, I've got to give it to Live Nation.
They gave us individual trailers with our names on them and we're nobody. The crew was the same as every year and they greeted us with open arms.
All we had to do now was play.
In Miami, you need a carrot in your ass with the ruffage hanging out and two flare guns to get a crowd's attention.
So I felt myself trying and then realized that I didn't have to. The songs were solid, honest, and my musicians are badass ... That's all that mattered.
Everyone ate up our set on the opening night.
We made our way to the impromptu late-night jams in the beautiful, hippie Road Warrior vibe campgrounds.
I wanna say it was great, but it was a smiley-blur and we had several days to go on our little tour.
The next day playing the Traveling Stage again was a real treat.
They basically roll you around on a flatbed trailer at 5 mph through the campgrounds for two hours with a sound system and your entire band jamming.
It is definitely a parade for the weird.
People handed us moonshine, weed, even a cold bottle of champagne while waving at us like we just came home from winning the big one.
In the days ahead, we had shows scheduled around Florida that definitely brought us back to reality. But we had tons of wild, strange, and fun times at the 10th annual Wanee Festival.
There are no people going on the "Coachella Diet" there. They come for the old bands and new bands, and they actually know who the fuck they all are.
It's worth the damn drive, Miami.
And now for some final post-Wanee tips:
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1. Soulive crushes it. Check them out if they come down.
2. If somebody hands you moonshine, don't ask what flavor it is. Just drink it, goddammit.
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