Yonder Mountain String Band Set To Hit Road for Spring Trek / Announce Festival Plans.
As the calendar turned to 2014 and the members of the Yonder Mountain String Band set out for their Winter tour… they forgot to pick up one quarter of the band on their way to the first stop. Actually Jeff Austin decided to sit this one out and instead spend a few months of quality time with his wife and recently born baby girl. The other three members of the jam-grass powerhouse, Dave Johnston (banjo), Adam Aijala (guitar), and Ben Kaufman (bass) hit the road with a little help from their friends in the Travelin’ McCoury’s, especially Ronnie McCoury on the mandolin, to conquer 17 cities. That trek made way for some memorable Yonder shows, but as the weather begins to slowly heat and the snow finally begins to melt, the mandolin man has returned and will head back out with the boys for their Spring tour. Check out the full list of dates below as well as what they have lined up for the festival season.
Fresh off of their mostly sold out tour supporting The Devil Makes Three… San Francisco’s The Brothers Comatose are set to support Yonder for a majority of the tour. Check them out here, I am really excited to see them, they seem to fit in really well with the Yonder fan base and are known for their on stage antics. Listen to their song “Church Street Blues” here
Wakarusa was back in full force for the 9th straight year bringing music and nature together in Northwest Arkansas. This was their 4th straight year at Mulberry Mountain and for the 4th straight year the crowd seemed to get even bigger… the camping has been expanded to include three different offsite auxiliary campgrounds due to demand. I made the trek down to the Wakarusa Festival for the 5th straight year and made it my mission to see some new music, even if it meant missing some of my favorites such as Split Lip Rayfield, Mountain Sprout (mostly), Railroad Earth and the March Fourth Marching Band (I did manage to sneak in all 3 Dirtfoot shows though) The weather was absolutely amazing for the most part, but we experienced a few small storms late Saturday and early Sunday causing some problems with the schedule (and causing me to miss the Infamous Stringdusters!) and stages being shut down for a short time. I took lots of pictures and quite a bit of video to bring back to the real world, and it has taken me over a month to sort through all of it and recollect some parts of the weekend, but here you have it… my 2012 Wakarusa Recap!
Start making your plans now for the 10th installment of Waka next June…. there has to be some big things in store for Waka10
New Monsoon –Revival Tent
This was not a set we intended on watching but decided to check out early Thursday afternoon. Due to a family emergency, the regular guitarist of veteran jam rock group New Monsoon, Jeff Miller, was unable to make the show but in the spirit of music festivals, Dan Lebowitz from ALO stepped in to fill the void. No time was wasted getting to our first Grateful Dead cover of the weekend in “Eyes of the World”, definitely a highlight. We also had the first of many Doc Watson tributes of the weekend, in honor of the recently decreased bluegrass legend, in the form of the traditional “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor.” Their set also featured covers of Tom Waits and Neil Young songs. I was a big fan of New Monsoon and look forward to more opportunities to see them in the future.
Bungalouski – Kum & Go Outpost Stage
Another pleasant surprise, we stopped by the Outpost to kill a few minutes while waiting for The Big Wu to begin. We were quite happy with this decision, as Norman, Oklahoma prog-rock youngsters Bungalouski rocked the smaller of the tent covered stages. Bungalouski got real funky during their rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Very Superstitious.”
The Big Wu – Main Stage
Minnesota jam band The Big Wu played a short but sweet set on the Main Stage. The iconic band, founded in 1992, has only played a handful of shows since 2006, but are now touring with the original lineup. This was my first Wu experience, and I was instantly a fan. They, like many other acts throughout the weekend, played a song in honor of the recently deceased bluegrass legend Doc Watson, who had passed away days prior to Wakarusa. Want to watch it?
ALO – Main Stage
The first of my Must See acts of the weekend, and one of the highlights of the 2010 Wakarusa, Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) had their first Waka Main Stage show and it was much deserved. The California funk rockers were a great way to get your feet going in the late afternoon with favorites such as “Girl I Wanna Lay You Down.” They even featured a cameo by Jackie Greene on the harmonica during “Lady Loop.”
Bob Weir – Chris Robinson – Jackie Greene Acoustic Trio – Main Stage
Thursday nights headliner featured the fantastic guitar trio of Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes and singer/songwriter Jackie Greene. Together the three played a 90 minute set featuring songs from all over the place, including Dead tunes “Uncle Johns Band”, “Loser” (below) and “New Speedway Boogie”. A highlight of the set was their rendition of “Dear Prudence” led by Weir.
Perpetual Groove – Revival Tent
Perpetual Groove late night shows are always a thing of beauty, and they certainly didn’t disappoint the packed Revival Tent crowd at yet another Wakarusa. This as the first of two sets for P-Groove and even though we were in route to a Dirtfoot show we found our way by the Revival Tent for a few songs including a favorite of mine “Three Weeks.” Their second set conflicted with The Avett Brothers, so I was sadly unable to attend. See you soon P Groove!
Dirtfoot – Kum & Go Outpost Stage
The only gypsy, punk, country, grumble boogie band in the land, took the stage just after midnight for their first of three shows throughout the weekend. As Waka regulars, Dirtfoot always brings a crowd and throws a party… this set was no exception. The Dirtfoot boys had 90 minutes to either keep your night going into the Sunrise sets or send your ass back to your camp to call it a night as they wrapped up just after 2AM. Dirtfoot also featured the hoop skills of a young fan named Mya throughout the weekend, and she quickly became a crowd favorite displaying her craft like a veteran hooper.
Mountain Sprout – Revival Tent Arkansas’ natives Mountain Sprout kicked off my Friday with their brand of hillbilly bluegrass. The boys of Mountain Sprout have quite a following around these parts and it’s quite obvious why with their witty lyrics and rockabilly bluegrass. We only stopped by for a few songs but were able to catch “Turkey Buzzard” and “Dry County.”
Monophonics – Outpost Stage
As we left Mountain Sprout we were on our way to see Snarky Puppy play in the Outpost Tent. Our first schedule change of the weekend led us to the San Francisco based soul funksters, the Monophonics. The six piece consisting of guitar, bass, drum, horns and keyboards channel the best of the 60’s and 70’s era pioneers such as George Clinton, Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis. This set was certainly in my top 5 for the weekend. I expect big things from the Monophonics, who just released their newest album “In Your Brain.”
Royal Family Ball feat Soulive & Lettuce – Main Stage
The Royal Family Ball is composed of two different bands that each had an hour set and are both on Royal Family Records. First up was NY based jazz/funk trio Soulive (pictured). Two members of Soulive just so happen to be in Lettuce, the 2nd half of the Royal Family Ball, who have been funking up the circuit since the early 90s. This was a great set, and another unexpected surprise. I will definitely be seeing another Royal Family Ball if given the chance.
The Devil Makes Three – Revival Tent
I ducked away from the Royal Family Ball for a few moments to check out The Devil Makes Three, a band suggested to me by quite a few folks prior to the festival. I ended up staying for the last half of their set, and missing most of Lettuce. The three piece have elements of rockabilly, ragtime and Americana folk with a punk and blues background. I wasn’t familiar with any of their songs, but really enjoyed their set. Lots of songs about booze will get you far with a Friday afternoon music festival crowd.
Blitzen Trapper – Revival Tent
Blitzen Trapper has recently become one of my favorite new bands. This was my first opportunity to see them, and it certainly helped solidify their spot on that list. The alt-country rockers had an afternoon 90 minute set that gave way to nearly 20 songs. Highlights included “Black Snake River” and a cover of Jimi Hendrix “Hey Joe.” This is another of the Top 5 shows of the weekend and I have to give props to our founding father Reverend Justito for persistantly reminding me that I was missing something good with this band… it finally stuck.
The Avett Brothers – Main Stage
Another Top 5 set of the weekend, The Avett Brothers, featuring Scott and Seth Avett as well as Joe Kwon and Bob Crawford headlined the Main Stage on Friday night. Their set clocked in at just over 2 hours and featured “I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home”, a tribute to Doc Watson as well as many of the Avett’s fan favorites including “Colorshow”, “Shame”, “January Wedding”, “Kick Drum Heart” and “I Killed Sally’s Lover.”
Umphrey’s McGee – Revival Tent
We had no hope of getting anywhere near the front for the late night Revival Tent dance party featuring Chicago prog-rockers Umphrey’s McGee. We have expressed our love for Umphrey’s on Concert Confessions on multiple occasions. The Revival Tent was packed to the brim and then some while Umphrey’s rocked through their set that clocked in just under two hours. Highlights included a funkified “In The Kitchen”, and a cover of McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” into “Miss Tinkles Overture” to end the set around 2AM. For some it was off to Girl Talk, while others waited around for Ghostland Observatory.
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Backwoods Stage
Former Drive By Trucker guitarist and songwriter Jason Isbell teamed up with his backing band the 400 Unit for what may have been the hottest show of the weekend. It was mid afternoon Saturday and the Backwoods Stage doesn’t offer much in the way of shade that time of day so a medium sized crowd filed in as strong odor of sunscreen filled the air. I had the chance to briefly see Isbell open for Ryan Adams this past January, but this was my first time seeing him with his band. Their set lasted just over and hour and featured songs from Isbell’s solo albums as well as a ridiculously good cover of “Never Gonna Change”, a song Isbell wrote and performed with the Drive By Truckers that appeared on The Dirty South. He brought out the Secret Sisters for the last few songs including “Codeine” and “Alabama Pines.” This one didn’t sneak in the Top 5, but its certainly in the Top 10.
Gary Clark Jr – Revival Tent
This was my #1 show that I had to see going into the weekend, and it certainly lived up to the hype. Gary Clark Jr. is an absolutely amazing blues and rock guitarist and the dude is on his way to some major success. You need to see this guy while you have a chance to see him playing smaller clubs, because it won’t last. Clark ripped his way through a 90 minute set under the Revival Tent to a large crowd and this set hit on the blues rock you expected, and some soulful r&b grooves laid out by Gary Clark Jr. “Bright Lights” was definitely a highlight, as most would expect it clocked in around 10 minutes.
Travelin’ McCourys feat. Keller Williams – Outpost Stage
This was another set that I was not going to miss, and another set that certainly delivered as expected. Saturday brought the all day bluegrass schedule on the Outpost Stage, and with that came the Travelin’ McCourys featuring Keller Williams. Together they just released Pick, a bluegrass album featuring original tunes and cover songs by both the McCoury’s and Keller, and they had 90 minutes to showcase that album and other surprises. Covers included “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summers, “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers, “Tennessee Stud”, dedicated to Doc Watson, and even Jessie J’s “Price Tag” a song that surprisingly sounds like it was written to be performed by a hippie like Keller. After about an hour Keller said it was time to get this thing going and invited out Drew Emmitt and Billy Nershi for a mini bluegrass ball. We even had a brief cameo by the final bluegrass pioneer to grace the world in Del McCoury during “Bumper Sticker.” This was probably my favorite set of the weekend, and you should probably pick up their new album.
There was music on Sunday, as well as a few shows that I wasn’t able to cover for various reasons (camera battery, scheduling conflicts, lack of energy, fear of taking the camera out to late nights, too fucking hot, etc.) These included Umphrey’s McGee and Primus back to back on the Main Stage Saturday night, followed by your choice of late night SOJA, Big Gigantic or SOJA. Other late nights included Papadosio, MiMOSA, Girl Talk, Quixotic, and The Floozies. There was an entire day of reggae on Sunday at the Revival Tent featuring Iration, Slightly Stoopid and Matisyahu and others. Sunday also led to some power issues on the Backwoods Stage which gave way to intimate unplugged sets in front of the stage by Dumptruck Butterlips and Emmitt-Nershi Band.
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!