For years, everyone has told me, "You guys gotta play it, man! Juke would be perfect."
We're talking about the annual Wanee Festival, a three-day, 30,000-strong, hippie jam extravaganza in Live Oak, Florida.
It mostly specializes in "bluesy" acts like The Allman Brothers.
And this year, my band finally went to Wanee.
But getting on the 32-act lineup isn't as easy as it sounds when it comes from the 100th drunk who's screamed encouragement into your ear during a Poor House show in Fort Lauderdale. So when Juke and I were invited to come play Wednesday night's "VIP Pre-party," we were flattered, though a little unsure of what we were in for.
After a seven-hour drive, we arrived at The Spirit of Swannee Music Park. Limited cellphone signal and lots of rolling farmland let us know how far we were from the city.
And then after receiving our official Wanee credentials, we noticed the whole place had a kind of "Mad Max on Marlboros and weed" feel, as makeshift tents and booths were being constructed by muddy, shoeless white people on scooters and golfcarts.
Everything was confusing at first and there wasn't much help for us. My drummer, Brian Lange, wasn't feeling the vibe. Already being a bit of a dandy, he says, "I liked Ultra better. These people hate me because I look fantastic."
I wasn't sure about all that. But it was clear that we were a long way from home.
The band before us -- Beebs and her Moneymakers -- started playing for a crowd of about 35. Just as I was thinking, This thing might have been a waste of time, the hippie surge happened.
By the middle of the first song, mobs of longhairs clamored toward the stage from all directions. Like peaceful zombies clad in tie-dye, they were drawn to the music.
By the time we were about to start, there were over 2000 heads ready to hear anything we had. I jokingly asked my guitarist, Evan Lamb, if we should huddle up and pray like we'd seen Cody Chesnutt's band do just before performing. He just laughed at me before turning to towards the stage with his guitar, "Who would we pray to?"
Once our set got going, the prophecy of the Poor House drunks came true. The audience ate it up. After playing to tons of unaffected Miami crowds, these people were Silly Putty.
Hanging around Wanee for the next few days taught me several things:
1. Yelling "Wanee!!!" at any time, especially when you are on stage, makes festival-goers stop what they are doing and scream at the sky.
2. A Waffle House in the middle of nowhere can rival any five-star restaurant in the Design District. Here's a hot tip: When the waitress asks you how you want your hash browns, tell her, "Smothered, covered 'n' capped." I promise you won't regret it.
3. There is something to "The Collective Experience". There is a reason so many people converge in a remote location to participate as a witness...but I still don't know what it is.
4. All Access passes rule. It's the only way to go. My next goal is to get an All Access pass to life. It would be fantastic to just walk away at any point in time when things get too crazy and chill with some free food, beer and fooseball.
See y'all at Wanee 2013.
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