There are many roads you travel down to see music, the road leading to Wakarusa Music Festival was one of the most splendid treats about partaking in this years fest. Winding up and down the hills of Arkansas, through the lush Ozark Forest there lay the top of Mulberry Mountain. There was a lot of hype about the location moving to Arkansas last year, I know personally the negative attributes connected with the festival being held in Lawrence, Kansas. There were many harsh moments which involved the law enforcement in previous years which prevented this gathering to reach its full potential. This year traveling to the mountain top there were normal sightings of law enforcement compared to harassment at check- points and uncalled for hassling that came in years past being held at Clinton State Park. The state troopers on the high way in line even thanked us for coming to the beauty of this land. With a calm and community feel for the second year at Mulberry, it made the music that much more enjoyable. With the attractive line up it certainly brought on a populated festival grounds, around 20,000 estimated, possibly even more. Captivating landscapes of the Boston Mountains in Ozark National Forest intrigued nature lovers along with the thrill of the music. An entrance to the Ozark Highlands Trail on the Northeastern part of the grounds was a way to fit in many recreational activities besides just dancing. On top of hiking there was a disc golf course to throw a round, yoga sessions to stretch out after dancing to the wee hours of the morning. Hooping workshops, fishing, kayaking, canoing, carnival rides and even a costume contest just to mention a few other attractions besides the tunes. Overall the outstanding musical presence, organized volunteers and the gathering of carefree partakers created a genuine feel to this years Wakarusa Music Festival.
Thursday, June 3rd
Arriving at the gates there was a line like any festival with such a heavy populous. Fortunately the workers were organized and kept a flow going to get people in and away to the stages.The music started early in the day, once arrived and unpacking you could catch Mountain Sprout, Mother Hips and Split Lip Rayfield. Band of Heathens played in the late afternoon in the Revival Tent. A fabulous start to weekend musically as this Austin, Texas based band who brought out a bit of folk to distract from the heat. Combining many genres such as rock, folk a touch of the blues and a lot of soul. The music had a very diverse audience, from the middle aged woman raving about this group to the small child dancing in the back of the tent. Adding entertaining instruments to visually impress like the lap guitar in addition to mesmerizing your ear drums with exciting conclusions with drum solo's. This band jammed, rocked and smoothly moved those making this set. There was a twang to the music which made you tap along and even bust out all together. Comical songs with lyrics mentioning cornbread and the simple life being brought out into the air with the acoustics. An assortment of guitars harmonizing with bass and drums created simple vibes to get you moving. Leaving real life behind was a simple task when all you could hear in front of you was the sweet chords created by this tranquil quintet. This band had a way to attract you to their chords as the next band attracted you with their raw funk.
Next to take part in moving the smiling faces populating the main stage was Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. No matter how many times you may witness this band it is always a thriving performance visually and musically. The populous of this band bangs out on the stage with intensely moving music straight from the jazz capital of New Orleans. A perfect dash of bass backed up by smooth keys and beating percussions made these fellas worthy of fighting sunburn to see their set. Always bringing energy and good hearted music to the over lookers made their appearance a necessity for the festival experience.
Another act which drew an awaiting crowd was the performance by 7 Walkers. Several familiar members of this band made them a band that could not be missed. Members including, Bill Kreutzmann, acclaimed drummer of the Grateful Dead and Papa Mali. Others to join the stage with there talents were multi- instrumentalist Matt Hubbard and Reed Mathus of Tea Leaf Green on bass. The songs included some old favorites along with new songs and lyrics by Robert Hunter, who is known for work with names such as Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. Dancing to tunes such as, “I Know you Rider,” and “Bertha,” the festival vibes had spread over the mountain. Adding some known favorites was very exciting, seeing the songs covered by fresh talent made them new in the spirit of the jams. Other songs which made the set flawless included a moving version of “Wharf Rat,” a rocking and uplifting cover of “Deal.” Near the end of the set Kreutzmann rapidly beat out the percussions in, “Without a Warning.” Shocking with energy and uplifting with spirit in the GD covers this band hyped up the early evening. As the sun went down and the heat demised the party to kick off the weekend had begun.
Bringing the antsy fans some funk at the Main stage was Robert Randolph and the Family Band. This act genuinely are masters of funk. Energy erupting on stage. Empowering with insanely dramatic lyrics backed by impressive instrumentals. These guys knew how to rage the crowd. It was a beautiful sight to see such fun in the spread of their music. Robert Randolph is such an impressive musician, on such a unique instrument as the steel guitar. Watching it backwards and forwards brought a visually stunning display, the outcome was far superior to hear though. A few others on stage with him included Marcus Randolph, on drums and the savvy bassist Danyel Morgan. Jumping and hopping through their set performing jazzy originals and even upbeat covers like,”Don't Talk Back.” This band on stage was a gift to the evening, a dance party which broke out in the crowd as well as on stage. There was something very close- knit and open about this bands performance which made it that much more enjoyable. The diversity in the crowd ranged from young to old just as the next band, the music was an appeal to many individuals just trying to hang loose.
Moving on to another band that always seems to create a sway in the crowd, Railroad Earth took the stage for a spectacular late night performance. This New Jersey based band never ever seems to let you down, brightening up the crowds with an airy and carefree melody constantly flowing outward. Thursday night that was apparent as the instrumental impromptu jam sessions continued into the night. The jams where livening. The set began with the song, “Old Dangerfield.” This song thrived with other favorites, “Cold Water” and “Been on Down This Road.” Performing two sets at this festival, the demise of their first appearance left you thirsty for more. Concluding with the a jammy “Warhead Boogie” into a joyous new song, this group of talented individuals knew how to bring this crowd together.
The altered genres to the late night sets were spectacular, you could eat up your bluegrass and then have infused dance melodies for a treat. The band the Disco Biscuits made an appearance on stage and blew away new comers and awaiting Bisco heads all the same. Programming the crowd to dance was a success as the members of the band bellowed out the beats. A vibration of sound and an uplifting sequence of songs all came in with this performance. These guys have a unique way of conti