If you were an attendee of this years Wakarusa and stuck it out through the entirety of the weekend let me first give you kudos! Now every summer when Wakarusa rolls around I find it hard to not let the excitement get pent up inside me as the weekend makes its way in from off the horizon. This year was especially hard due to the fact I had to watch a good lot of my friends go off the Summer Camp just the weekend before while I hung around tending to things here in CO! While a few of us patiently waited for the next week to tick on by we gathered our supplies and double checked all of our gear to make sure we would be ready for whatever Wakarusa had up its sleeves for us this year.
After a final nights rest and one final overview of our packing job we decided it was about that time so we piled in, hit the gas station for a quick filler upper, and started making our way east. We were finally Mulberry Mountain bound for the 10th annual Wakarusa Music Festival! The excitement of being on the road didn’t seem to last long though unfortunately; after breaching the border into Kansas we were hit with our first taste of inclement weather. Blue skies had been absorbed by grey and black menacing clouds that billowed on the horizon that we were headed straight for. As we approached the head of the storm the sky erupted as sheets of rain, bolts of lightning, and chunks of hail began to shower the corn-scoured fields of Kansas. After a brief pitstop to wait out the dime sized hail we were back on the road and back in the storm! With all hopes going towards the probability that this wouldn’t follow us all the way to Waka we trudged on for hours through seemingly endless buckets of rain.
Finally breaching the border of Arkansas our hopes began to build again as we wound our way through the hills getting ever closer to our destination. We were welcomed to a field of cars all patiently waiting to be searched and admitted to the festival but to our dismay it was at a complete standstill. As more cars piled in behind us and the hours ticked by we saw no signs of movement on any front; it wasn’t long before that we caught word they wouldn’t be checking any more cars in until 8am. Luckily a good lot of our camp had gotten in before this halt in motion so we had little to worry about seen as they had most of our camping supplies from Summer Camp the weekend before. After another brief storm blew through the parking lot the weather seemed to hold up until we finally got into the festival and settled down in our campsite. Unlike Summer Camp you have the convenience of being camped right next to your car instead of lugging your mountain of gear into separate campgrounds.
:: Day One ::
After getting settled in and being bombarded with stories of the weather that fell over Summer Camp the weekend before from friends we were finally ready to take Waka by storm and see some music! Once again this excitement was put on the back burner as inclement weather once again caused the Main Stage area to be closed for most of the day and many other sets to be postponed or all together canceled. This made it increasingly hard to see an actual set as no one knew how long each stage was behind or what sets they had nixed all together. As the day progressed the weather seemed to stay on our side as the music picked back up and all the stages came back to life. After moseying our way down Midway and over to Main Stage for a little Galactic we headed into the woods to see what the Satellite Stage had to offer that afternoon.
Winding our way through the puddle strewn pathways and into the back woods I was happy to see that they had made some improvements to the Satellite stage area from previous years. The staff expanded the area to make it a little easier to navigate once the sun sets and it is literally just about pitch black back there. Turning back to the music now it was pretty apparent that the artists that were able to play out their sets were here to make sure everyone in the crowd was having a good time. Sets from RL Grime and HeRobust were amongst some highlights from the first day over at the Satellite stage. Making our way back out into the real thick of things in the Main Venue that had already become Mud City, AR we found ourselves checking out some sets at both the Revival and Outpost Tent before we made our way over to the Main Stage for our first headlining act of the weekend. After catching the tail end of The Black Crowes one of our favorite bands, STS9, took the stage for what was gearing up to be a stellar set. Starting off their set with a horn laden Shock Doctrine the guys seemed to be gearing up to take us on a magical ride as they worked their way into the set, but guess what! Storms were seen coming into the area and officials once again called everything due to weather as we mopped back to our campsites to await more rain.
As I kept my fingers crossed that the weather would be in our favor for once this weekend we hunkered down at the campsite. Indulging in snacks and beer a plenty as we awaited an update it really wasn’t long until we caught wind of music ebbing forth from the Main Stage. Half of us were unsure as to what we were hearing; either someone was truly bumping hard from their campsite or the music was back underway. We figured we weren’t going to find out what was really going on unless we made our way back down into the mud pits so that’s exactly what we did. A few people from our group were seemingly fed up with the weather and had decided to call it a night all together so with the few troopers we still had left we hit the Main Stage to see if we were still in for one of the few Tipper performances of the summer. To our delight the stage was alive with the hustle and bustle of stage crew running about setting up the wild backdrop for Mr. Dave Tipper’s set that would be closing out the evening. Now this set was one of only 3 that Tipper didn’t cancel this summer due to an approaching open heart surgery he would be undergoing soon after the appearances. As Tipper brought the weirdo’s out for one last set on the Main Stage for the first night we were also graced with blissful sets from Emancipator, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur, and the likes of Andreilien (Heyoka) to bring the evening to a close.
:: Day Two ::
The sun rose and the mud began to dry up as the weather was on our side for the beginning of the day Friday. After struggling to catch some shut eye before the heat consumed our tent we were finally up and ready to see what this next day had in store for us. Wandering down into Main Venue camping to find some friends we didn’t have much planned for the first half of the day as we explored the festival grounds. One of the greatest things about Wakarusa every year is that it’s one of the few opportunities I have to see some friends from all around the country! When we finally began to bump around to some music we caught a little bit of Of Monsters and Men before we headed back to the campsite to rest our legs on up for the first Umphrey’s McGee set since Summer Camp the weeekend before. As the guys took the stage it appeared this would be one of the first sets we would be catching on the Main Stage that wouldn’t be affected by the weather! Umphrey’s seems to have a certain knack for slaying Wakarusa every year and this first set this year was no different.
With a jaw dropping weather free performance to bring us into the evening we made our way back to the Satellite stage to catch one of the few hip hop acts of the weekend, Zion I, for a little bit before their set had ended. After that we weaseled around the festival grounds as we killed some time for STS9 to take the stage once again, this time it was scheduled to be in the Revival Tent so we were pretty sure their wouldn’t be any hiccups from the weather this time. To our dismay we were wrong about the weather not having an affect on the set because once again a storm was reported to be coming into the area, this time we were told it would be a bigger storm and that everyone should take shelter in their campsites. As we climbed the hill back up to our nest in Media camping the air was full of chatter about the oncoming storm. Luckily enough people were all over their weather forecasts and we weren’t left in the dark awaiting this big bad storm to hit like everyone down in Main Venue. With the storm approaching quickly we battened down the hatches at our campsites, dropped down the shade tents and made sure everything was staked down securely. The storm picked up and we got another warning to get in our cars for cover; after doing so the weather really got nasty and left us fearing the worst as the weather beat down for the next few hours. The aftermath of the storm is what truly surprised us; as we got out of the cars to inspect the damage done to our campsite we found out that our entire campsite was not where we had left it! It became apparent that a small microburst of wind had swept down and uprooted everything at our campsites, and yes we mean everything! Our ten person tent and two shade tents had both been blown over and carried a good 30 yards to where they were now plastered on a neighbors pick up. This damper led to us taking it easy for the remainder of the evening and hoping for the best once the sun was to come up in the AM.
:: Day Three ::
As light fell upon the campgrounds for what was now the second night of heavy rain it truly became apparent the damage that had swept across each area. Crumbled shade structures lay strewn about the mud as many patrons picked up what was left of their downtrodden campsites. The trash piles began to mount as people dragged over what was left of their tents and camping gear to be scrapped. This last storm had caused more damage than we had first thought when the weather ceased early in the AM hours but people were still out there making the most of what was left of the weekend. While waves of people called it quits and packed up their mud soaked camp gear for the long haul to wherever they came from there was still a good amount of people just showing up to have some fun! It really amazed me how throughout the entire weekend patrons kept showing up even though there was no doubt they had heard accounts of the weather at hand.
After a clean sweep of our campsite that was now nothing more than a single tent we hit the road to find some much needed Bloody Maries to truly get the day underway. Once the Main Venue was open it was clear that the mud was truly taking over! The depth of the mud had almost gotten out of hand at certain points where the puddles were nearly knee deep but this didn’t seem to dampen many spirits as some festival goers were seemingly unfazed by the fact they were swimming about in puddles of mud. This once again caused many sets to be postponed or canceled which was a bit of a let down because we just couldn’t seem to catch a break yet this weekend. Finally starting our day with a little Samples at the Satellite stage and Gogol Bordello over on the Main Stage it appeared that everyone was making the most of the muddy mayhem that surrounded them. These gypsy rockers always know how to put on a good lively show and that’s just what they did as spirits began to rise during day three. After an insane set from Gogol we raced over the the Outpost tent to catch a little bit of Del the Funky Homosapien where a large crowd had already amassed in the mud puddle strewn Outpost tent. Del absolutely slayed the crowd he had at hand as we observed from our partially dry outpost. With everyone going nuts when he went into his famous track with the Gorillaz “Clint Eastwood”, this was easily one of our favorite sets from the weekend. Being that we were pretty drained from the weekends festivities already we headed on over to the Main Stage for a little Widespread Panic where we took it easy in the back and lounged on some picnic tables that couldn’t have seemed more comfortable.
Leaving Widespread a little early to make our way over to the Revival Tent for the next set from Umphrey’s McGee for the weekend it was pretty clear the toll that the weather was having on everyone by this point in the weekend. Left and right people were slipping and losing their footing in the increasingly deeper mud pits along with leaving the grounds earlier to call it a night at their camps. That being said all the troopers made it out to this last Umphrey’s set at the Revival tent that was almost 100% mud with very little solid ground to be found. After a good lot of slopping around in the mud we found a nice dry patch in the front left to make home as Umphrey’s McGee and Papadosio did their best to make everyone forget about the weather that had been circulating around us all weekend. Per usual Umphrey’s put on another face melting set that left all of their fans clamoring for more. Papadosio took the stage after a seemingly long set-break but made up for it with an amazing set that brought a little sunshine into the already dark evening. Easily this was one of my favorite sets of the weekend as they graced us with “Method of Control”, “We Are Water”, a brand new track, and a nice little “Unparalyzer” to wrap everything up for the evening. Our legs were thoroughly spent after Papadosio left the stage so it wasn’t hard to make the decision to head on back to camp and get catch some z’s for the final day in the morning.
:: Day Four ::
Usually by this last day of the festival many patrons find themselves packing up early to make the treck back to their everyday lives they left behind when they hit the road the week before. But this year in particular it seemed like a lot more people were going to be sticking around to get the most out of their weekend at Wakarusa; the fact that there were two big headliners for the day, Snoop Lion and Amon Tobin, could have also been a reason people stuck around. Though Sunday is usually a little more laid back the weather had finally broke and gave us the sunny temperate day we had been hoping for so everyone was in the highest of spirits. We made the most of our Sunday by wandering about to catch some music that was entirely new to us but wound up seeing a handful of familiar acts as well. After taking in some tunes out at the Backwoods stage for one of the first time of the weekend we made our way over to the Satellite stage for a little GRiZ before we made our way into the main venue for the evening.
Sets from The Polish Ambassador, Gramatik, and David Starfire filled the revival tent all night long as we bounced between there and the Main Stage. Snoop Lion was the first big act of the night and drew a crowd larger than almost any other artist on that stage throughout the weekend. Donned in his full reggae getup we were graced with all sorts of tracks from Snoop’s bag as we pulled out everything from new material to the classic “Gin and Juice”. After Snoop did his thing the stage was cleared for Amon Tobin to step up and do his thing! If you have yet to have heard of his latest “ISAM” project then I hope many of you were floored by his performance. Taking an approach to electronic music that not many other producers have before him Amon Tobin comes at us with a completely unique sound like might make you think you’re lost in some future industrial plant or just straight up cruising through space at warp speed. After Tobin’s set we were entirely cashed from the weekends events and had to call our night there. This was definitely the toughest Wakarusa to endure in my past three years of attending. With the weather beating us down and all of the delays being an added inconvenience there was still room to have a good time. We would also like to go out and thank all of the staff at this years Wakarusa for doing the most they could to assure we all still had a great time down there! If it wasn’t for the hard work they were doing it would have been a much tougher weekend on all of us attending and the artists attempting to perform.
That being said; we look forward to seeing you next year down at Wakarusa!!