This week marks the 9th installment of the Wakarusa Music Festival in Ozark, Arkansas…. well, the 4th installment in Arkansas, but the 9th Wakarusa overall. This will also mark my fifth straight visit to Waka, and along the way I have learned many valuable things. One of the most important things I have realized is that your schedule very well may not be followed as you planned, and you will certainly find yourself at stages for bands you didn’t plan to catch. This is why I find it necessary to make a list of 10 bands that I will see, no matter what. This time around, I had a problem eliminating one more artist, so we are going to stick with the Top 11.
Here are my 11 Must See Artists at the 2012 Wakarusa Festival… make sure to check back in a few weeks for our full recap!
11. ALO / Thurs 4:30pm – 6:00pm
Animal Liberation Orchestra makes their triumphant return to Mulberry Mountain, where they last visited for Wakarusa 2010. I was able to catch a few minutes of that set, and it was quite enjoyable. I ended up purchasing the DVD of that show and I think its been watched approximately 100 times since then. Their style of mellow California jam music will be a perfect way to kick off the first ‘official’ night on the Mountain! Too bad I will have to miss The Floozies first set of the weekend…. but wait!
10. The Floozies / Sun 12:30am – 2:00am
Lawrence, KS two-piece consisting of brothers Matt Hill, guitar/producer, and drummer Mark Hill. The Floozies do the funky electronic party rock, and they do it quite well. They are on their way up the ladder and their set to finish out the entire festival on Sunday night (technically Monday morning) is going to be a great way to catapult them in that direction. If you can’t make it to the late night show, they also play Thursday afternoon at 4:30pm
9. Umphrey’s McGee / Fri 12:15am – 2:00am
Umphrey’s McGee is one of those bands that no matter how often you’ve seen them, you still can’t afford to miss a show because who knows what they will be breaking out on that particular evening. I made the mistake of missing their legendary Wakarusa 2010 late night that featured their mash-up Nine Inch Nails and The Beatles titled “Come Closer” and I won’t take that chance again. I will, however, be missing part of their Main Stage set on Saturday due to our 8th must-see act….
8. The Del McCoury Band / Sat 8:00pm – 9:30pm
You know what is awesome? By the end of the year I will have seen the legendary Del McCoury three times! You know what’s even better? The fact that this set not only falls during the bluegrass extravaganza on Saturday in the Outpost Tent, but it also immediately follows the Travelin’ McCourys, who just so happen to be Del’s sons and Del’s backing band. I expect things to get really wacky during the 12 hour bluegrass block on Saturday, and the legendary Del McCoury will certainly have a thing or two to say about it.
7. Perpetual Groove / Thurs 10:30pm – 12:00am
I knew nothing about Perpetual Groove going into the 2009 Wakarusa, and they are now one of those bands that I will never forget. I stumbled into their late night set that year in the Revival Tent with a friend and the two of us stood there for the next hour without moving or acknowledging anything around us, sucked in by the sweet, sweet sounds coming from this Georgia four piece. Oh yeah, last year some jerk off dove head first through the drum kit and messed up the end of their late night set, so there is always a chance of that happening again. Check out the album ‘Sweet Oblivious Antidote’ if you aren’t familiar with P-Groove
6. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit / Sat 2:40pm – 3:50pm
Former Drive-By Trucker guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Jason Isbell hits Wakarusa with his band for an afternoon set on Saturday at the Backwoods Stage. Isbell has released three solo albums since his departure from the Truckers. He is a very gifted songwriter and surrounds himself with a group of talented musicians featuring including former Son Volt keyboardist Derry deBorja. I had a chance to catch a few songs in January when he toured the country with Ryan Adams and have been looking forward to my next visit with Jason Isbell ever since.
WAKA MAIN STAGE
5. Blitzen Trapper / Fri 8:00pm – 9:30pm
Critically acclaimed experimental alt-country act out of the Pac Northwest, Blitzen Trapper has been around for more than ten years, and their last three albums have all been highly praised. I never gave them a chance until recently, when I was instantly hooked in by 2008’s Furr. We have a few Concert Confessions Minions that are big, big fans of Blitzen Trapper, like our founding father Rev, and hopefully following their Friday night performance at Waka I will be as well. I will have to miss Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, but this is a risk I am willing to take for my first experience with the Portland quintet.
4. The Travelin’ McCourys feat. Keller Williams / Sat 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Not a lot that needs to be said about this one. The legendary Keller Williams teams up with Ronnie and Robbie McCoury, who just so happened to be sons of the legendary Del McCoury, for 90 minutes of pure pleasure. The Travelin McCourys are actually the backing band for father Del, which you already know if you read our #8 Must-See Waka act, and this set leads in to Del McCoury… so there could be some treats in store for sure. Keller and the McCourys are releasing their debut collaborative effort next month called Pick, so expect tunes from that album as well who knows what else. I am keeping my fingers crossed for their rendition of Jessie J’s “Price Tag.” Keep an eye on fiddle player Jason Carter, that dude can wail. (Click Here For Bonus Video)
3. The Avett Brothers / Fri 10:15pm – 12:15am
Is it punkgrass or folk rock or indie bluegrass?? Classify them how you wish, but Seth and Scott Avett will have 2 full hours to get the crowd into a frenzy on Friday night. The sounds that these two brothers produce along with Bob Crawford on the bass and Joe Kwon on the cello are just what the doctor ordered for the pre late night warm up for a Friday night. Whether its machine gun fast songs featuring banjo and electric bass with a kick drum and accordion, or down tempo heart-felt tunes with just guitar and cello, the Avett Brothers know how to do it. These guys will have their own festival one day.
2. Weir, Robinson, & Greene Acoustic Trio / Thurs 8:30pm – 10:00pm
Holy guitarist overload Batman! Bob Weir, who you may have heard of from his prior stints with Furthur, RatDog and the relatively unknown The Grateful Dead, teams up with Chris Robinson from The Black Crowes and Jackie Greene who is doing his best to seal his legacy among the top jam guitarists in the game for 90 minutes of balls to the walls acoustic guitar. This set promises to be a great time as Thursdays Main Stage headliner. Can’t think of a more appropriate way to kick off Wakarusa than a guitar trio followed by P-Groove and the option of a Dirtfoot or Split Lip Rayfield late night.
1. Gary Clark Jr. / Sat 4:45pm – 6:00pm
Twenty-Eight year old Gary Clark Jr. has been called by some the savior of the blues. That seems like an awfully big statement and weight to place on one mans shoulders, but Clark does his best to carry the load. Straight out of Austin, Texas, he shreds the guitar with blues rock, but there is definitely some soul and R&B influence. He started out on the stage that launched Stevie Ray Vaughn, he has shared the stage with the likes of Eric Clapton and Sheryl Crowe at the 2010 Crossroads Festival, not to mention playing at the White House with B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, and Buddy Guy at Red, White and Blues. This dude can play a guitar, that is no lie… and I will be spending an hour and 15 minutes with him this Saturday night!