Wakarusa’s 20,000+ attendees are a tough bunch, camping in 100* temperatures and staying up as late at 7:30 am to see their favorite artists, but you wouldn’t know it from all of the smiling faces at last weekend’s festival. With over 150 bands on 6 stages, awesome sound, and a beautiful setting in the Ozark mountains, there was plenty to smile about.
The party kicked off full speed ahead on Thursday with an overwhelming line-up of awesome acts. The first evening also featured Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Cornmeal, Umphrey’s McGee, Beats Antique, Lotus, Paper Diamond, Ott, and Simon Posford’s Shpongletron. WOAH.
Friday’s schedule had to be fire to follow up Thursday but they pulled it off with stars from Trombone Shorty on. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings showed they can get down with the festival crowd and brought the weekend’s best funk (and dance moves). STS9’s much anticipated set featured a recently-recovered Murph sounding great as ever. Headliners My Morning Jacket played for three hours Friday night, drawing one of the largest crowds of the weekend and rocking hard right into the late night acts Bassnectar and Ghostland Observatory.
Saturday’s line-up reflected the feeling of the fans by day #3 of the sun-soaked festival; moving a little slower but still ready to get down. A huge crowd gathered at the mainstage for Mumford and Sons followed by headliners Ben Harper and the Relentless 7. They were followed by an amazing performance by Thievery Corporation (live band) featuring Hash playing in his underwear and ending with an onstage dance party.
The performances on the final day of the festival weren’t quite enough to keep this author so far from home for another day in the hot sun, but closed the weekend out with Toots and the Maytals, EOTO, and Beats Antique. Other notable acts on the side stages over the weekend included Langhorne Slim, The Werks, Rebelution, The Budos Band, Papadosio, and Zoogma. This Waka-goer’s favorite “bottom-half” performance was energentic Mississippi electronic rockers Zoogma, who had the crowd going wild with their mix of hard rock and electronica.
Looking back on the weekend it was an all out party with little sleep, plenty of sun and more music than is even possible to take in. With all of the overlap in the schedule, it would be in the fans best interest to have less bands on fewer stages so that things could be spaced out a bit more. On the other hand, the tightly packed schedule made it possible to feature lots of hometown favorites and up-and-comers, which is great for less well-known bands (some of whom blew the headliners out of the water). For those who ventured away from the stages to check out the festival grounds, the ferris wheel and Visionary Tent were exciting and inspiring additions to the music. Just a short, but trecherous, hike away from the grounds was a waterfall where hundreds of people gathered to swim, relax, and make a 25 ft jump into the crisp cool water. If you’re planning on going to Wakarusa 2012 be sure to check out the waterfall and other natural features of their beautiful site. Be ready to miss a few of the bands you wanted to see, but look forward to seeing the hottest new acts from across the country. And most of all, don’t forget your SPF 50!
By Meghan Bender
Photos courtesy of Abby Miller