9:00 a.m. and the sun has already brought tent temperatures well into the 90s. The festival is up and ready to get going hours before the music is set to begin, and herds of people swarm down to the river to cool off. I got the pleasure of kicking my day off with Dynohunter, another Boulder local act that I am always excited to have the opportunity to groove to, and it was quite apparent that the people of Waka agreed.
We quickly moved over to the Main Stage for another set of Balkan Beat Box. The energy of this show seemed a little bit less exciting than the previous one, and at 2 pm it seemed like the crowd couldn’t wait to get a little nap in under colored parasols and large brimmed hats to supply a bit of shade. Of course, this came to an abrupt end when G. Love and Special Sauce took the stage and offered up that incredibly funky hip-hop, bluegrass, soulful whatever-you-call-it that G. Love does so well. All of the tired looks and relaxed positions bounced right back up for one of the more energetic performances I saw all weekend.
Now was where the decision became tough. All at the same time we have Fitz and the Tantrums laying down the Motown vibe, Gary Clark Jr. with some of the bluesiest guitar I have ever witnessed, and The Lumineers, a Denver-based folk band that gets the crowd going. I had to try my best to jump from stage to stage, but each time would find myself getting completely trapped by the act in front of me.
One of those groups was the surprisingly funky Kansas-based Mouth over on the Satellite Stage. These guys had the party going, with the bassist utilizing the coolest little ring that allowed him to make his bass wobble using the position of his hand like a theremin. This was absolutely incredible. I am so glad to have happened upon this band that I would have never known existed otherwise.
And then came the show that I have to place as the best show I saw all weekend. Gramatik did the Pretty Lights label proud when he brought the funk to a completely packed Satellite Stage. I am absolutely amazed that Gramatik wasn’t given the Main Stage, but in the end I’m glad we were given a more intimate environment with him. During this set, the awkward wood chip dance floor was packed full all the way to the stage entrance with every single person lost in dance. I am still absolutely amazed at the energy Gramatik brings to his performance, and I can say for me and every person that I talked to at the festival, there is no way I’m missing a show that he plays in my area.
Stopping by Umphrey’s second set to see them throw down even harder than the previous night, I was in a rush to get over to see the incredible funky Orgone. You absolutely can not stand still at an Orgone show. Period. I saw them for the first time opening for Galactic and had the absolute funkiest night of my entire life. With the sweet soul of Niki J Crawford’s voice and the energy that each member brings with their stage presence, it was impossible to not have a little funk in your step as you walked on with your night.
And then came the single weirdest experience of my entire life. I went to see Primus knowing only that I had no idea what I was about to witness. Les Claypool walked out on stage and melted the face of every single person within earshot. This is a man who is so absolutely talented on his instrument that traditional songwriting means nothing to him. It seems that his goal is to make people feel so incredibly uncomfortable that the only thing left to do is dance. And dance is just what we did.
As I looked around the crowd, everybody was dancing their absolute weirdest with limbs flailing about and bodies bouncing to and fro. After an hour and fifteen minutes of the most monkey-masked, bass-incredible, groovefest I’ve ever been a part of, the crowd practically didn’t know what to do. It was like our minds had been blown so much that we were just in a daze. You could hear “Primus Sucks” being shouted from about the crowd and the confused faces of those apparently not in the know that this is the band’s rallying cry. Everyone slowly moved out from the Main Stage, packed together like livestock, in search of more music.
Next we got the pleasure of seeing Boulder’s own Big Gigantic tearing up the Main Stage. They had a light set up that could rival that of any other artist at the festival and had the Main Stage absolutely packed full of people grooving to the sweet melodies of Dom’s sax. Unfortunately as Big G’s set neared an end and Beats Antique, Opiou, and Paper Diamond, were just getting started, everything came to a screeching halt. Apparently some epic storm was 10 minutes away and all of the stages were shut down for the night. I heard talk of tornadoes here and hail there, but never actually figured out what was supposed to happen. We worked our way back to the tent and got ready to brave the weather for what turned out to be a 15 minute storm. So here we are, 2:00 in the morning with no music. People didn’t know what to do. Groups would walk aimlessly around, hoping to find something entertaining going on.
Luckily for me, my group happened to start hanging out with a couple of fire dancers from Quixotic. After spending some time in the tent talking to them about how much they enjoy the community of artists that makes up Quixotic and how appreciative they are to be performing at Wakarusa, the rain came to a stop and it was time to get down to business. Our new friend Ken had a bag of tricks and a nifty staff with him, so with his badassery and the help of my hand drums, we started up a nice private fire show for the neighbors to gather around for. I can only hope everybody else found something equally awesome to occupy their time without music.
Sunday came about and everybody was in a bit of a daze. Starting the morning with a very well organized drum circle, today was destined to be a day of relaxation. The lineup was offering plenty of reggae and bluegrass for people to lay out on a blanket and enjoy. People weren’t completely giving up on dancing, though. At Toubab Krewe I saw groups of people lying on the ground until the music forced them up for a few minutes of dancing before retreating back to the ground once again.
The day continues on with what seems to be fantastic weather until it happens again. I don’t know how, but the Arkansas skies bring in storms in seconds flat. Once again the stages were shut down for what looked like a pretty significant storm. So everybody packs back into their cars and tents to wait out the storm. After what was probably about 30-40 minutes of rather intense hail and rain, we came out of the tent to see a very different place than when we went in. Tents were flipped over, little creeks and ponds had formed in ditches, and everything was soaked. Unfortunately for my group, one of our tents had been completely ruined. Eventually they got the music started back up again, but for me and my car, Arkansas had gotten the best of us and it was time to head out. I’m rather disappointed to have had to miss Slightly Stoopid, Matisyahu, EOTO, and The Floozies closing out the festival, but I know they’ll all be around and I know I’ll be there dancing my face off.
The weather was a bit whacky, but so where the people that took over Ozark, Arkansas for four days. Mulberry Mountain has an energy unlike any other place I’ve ever been to, and I absolutely cannot wait to make it back next summer to see if they can somehow manage to top the four days that I had the pleasure of spending at Wakarusa Music Festival.