For the fourth consecutive year I made the trek to the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival to enjoy four days of music and camping in a setting that they call “Where Music Meets Mother Nature.” With acts ranging from My Morning Jacket and Ben Harper to the Budos Band and Dark Star Orchestra to STS9 and Bassnectar, a total of over 100 bands spread out across six stages, with on-site camping, showers, and even a grocery store to pick up last minute forgotten items.
Taking place the first weekend in June, and located just outside of Ozark, Arkansas, Wakarusa is in their third year at Mulberry Mountain. The festival, started in 2004, was previously held in Lawrence, Kansas at Clinton State Park through 2008 but has now moved to a much more fitting location in the beautiful rolling hills of the Ozark National Forest. Showcasing bands from a wide array of genres and now featuring the Interstellar Meltdown, a late night festival inside the festival including electronic acts and DJ sets, Wakarusa is one of the premiere festivals in the country drawing upwards of 20,000 people.
Thursday – Dirtfoot – Main Stage
Wakarusas favorite Gypsy Punk Country Grumble Boogie band kicked things off Thursday on the main stage with a bean can shaking good time. This was the second of Dirtfoot’s FIVE sets over the weekend, including the previous night on the Backwoods Stage for the early arrival crowd, along with Mountain Sprout and Dumptruck Butterlips.
Wakarusa Press Conference – Thursday
Members of Dirtfoot, Cornmeal, Lotus, as well as Grace Potter and Simon Posford sat down with part of the Wakarusa braintrust for a press conference featuring free Boulevard beer and an air conditioned building. It was difficult to hear, but questions were asked to Grace Potter about how her band has grown quite a lot since starting the festival circuit in 2004, and Dirtfoot talked about their affiliation with the Chompdown, a FREE communal breakfast put on by a group of volunteers in the campground featuring a live set by Dirtfoot started by a man named Rabbit five years ago in Lawrence, Kansas.
Thursday – Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – Main Stage
The beautiful Grace Potter took the stage on Thursday afternoon after participating in the first ever Wakarusa Press Conference. With her band The Nocturnals burning it up in the hot Arkansas sun, GP&N played an hour and a half set that was one of the highlights of my weekend. The set included Grace doing an amazing vocal solo of “Nothing But The Water Pt 1” and a rocking version of “Stop the Bus.”
Thursday – Umphreys McGee – Mainstage
Umphreys McGee played from 10:15pm-12:15am on Thursday night and though only having one set after getting a late night and mainstage set the prior two years, Umphreys made up for the lack of sets with a cover of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as well as The Who’s “Baba O’ Riley.” (Video courtesy of RebelINSoo)
Friday Morning – Chompdown – RV Reserved Campground
The Chompdown takes place on either Friday or Saturday morning at each Wakarusa or Harvest Festival. It was started five years ago in Lawrence by John “Rabbit” Cabarara and is a completely FREE communal breakfast put on by about 30 volunteers and donations from anyone and everyone. Dirtfoot has been fortunate enough to be asked to play the prestigious slot at 9 am for the last 5 years and if you ask any of the 6 members they will tell you it is the highlight of the weekend for them.
Friday – My Morning Jacket – Main Stage
Friday was a day of recovery, and a day that I didnt get the camera out as it charged most of the day after taking a few hundred pictures of Grace Potter. My Morning Jacket headlined the Main Stage, and were followed by 3 and a half hours of Dark Star Orchestra. Other acts on Friday were bluegrass mainstays Split Lip Rayfield, who also played Thursday night late night, and Cornmeal as well as Ryan Bingham and soul sister Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. (Video credit to Colbruce)
Saturday – Dirtfoot Campground Set
Dirtfoot had announced about a month before the festival that they would be playing a special surprise set at the campsite that created the best Dirtfoot flag for their campsite. There were actually two winners, and each site received a visit from Dirtfoot on Saturday afternoon. Our site was fortunate enough to have one of the creators of the Dirtfoot pirate flag camping with us, so we were treated to a special three song set including “Little Bit of Rum.”
Saturday – Mumford and Sons – Main Stage
England’s newest craze Mumford and Sons took the main stage on Saturday afternoon for their first ever appearance in Arkansas. Vocalist Marcus Mumford made it completely clear how hot it was, and seemed fascinated by the waterfall just a short hike off the Wakarusa property. They played most of their debut album Sign No More as well as three new tunes. Noticably missing was the upbeat dance worthy “Dust Bowl Dance.” Great to see them, though I was slighty disappointed. They were followed by Ben Harper & Relentless 7 show played a great cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and prevailed through some sound problems that were persistant with the main stage all weekend.
Saturday – Budos Band – Revival Tent
Budos Band threw down some serious funk in the Revival Tent on Saturday night. As a matter of fact, all day Saturday the Revival Tent featured funk acts including March Fourth Marching Band, Papa Grows Funk, and Budos. Other acts on Saturday included Galactic, Thievery Corporation, Wookiefoot and Arkansas’ very own “hillbilly bluegrass machine” Mountain Sprout.
Sunday – Dirtfoot Late Night Sexy Panty Party – Backwoods Stage
Sunday night to close out Wakarusa, the grumble boogie boys took the stage for their fifth and final set of the weekend, a set dubbed the Dirtfoot Late Night Sexy Panty Party by Scott Girardy, the sax player for Dirtfoot. Other bands playing on the toned down Sunday lineup included Ozomatli, Beats Antique, EOTO and Toots and the Maytals.