Report From Wakarusa



Buckethead plays Wakarusa


The Set List

By Brian Washburn

Hippies, young adults, jam bands, precise musicianship, no showers, self-indulgent vices flowing and more than 12,000 people parked into specific areas. This could have been a semi-description for the most epic festival of all time (Woodstock ‘69), but it’s not. No, it’s not even near a big city nor featuring some of the epic bands that performed at the original Woodstock. But Wakarusa invading Mulberry Mountain in Arkansas is the closest to home epic concert (yes, epic) this generation will ever see, as many witnessed June 4-7. 

I don’t know how Wakarusa was organized in Lawrence, Kan., the past few years. I do know that at Mulberry Mountain, it opened the eyes of those who doubted the festival and those who had never experienced such an event, like myself. 

The campgrounds were split up into the VIPS (mostly RVs and other fancy vehicles for those who didn’t want the full camping experience — they were probably the smartest in the long run) and the primitive camping (those who set up camp right next to their car). Getting into the campgrounds did not take long Thursday morning, although the word through the grapevine is it took a bit longer if you arrived Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. Vendor tents sold everything from novelty items to delicious food. The hot days were followed by cool nights. The campers came from as far away as New Hampshire, Illinois and Oregon, but Wakarusa was not about the camping. No, it was all about the party and the music. 

Most artists are well-known in Northwest Arkansas, mainly because they have played at George’s Majestic Lounge. The first day there was bluegrass, virtuoso, electro-jam, techno-hip hop and country rock. Electro-jam band Perpetual Groove, a favorite of most in NWA, took the stage around 5 p.m. Thursday. The band jammed to the crowd on the main stage with their unique (in the mainstream sense) blend of jamming funk guitars and bass with electro beats. About 30 minutes of this instrumental jamfest was enough, then ADD set in and another event called. The first night of music featured two of the best sets of the entire event: Buckhead (clad in his eerily creepy attire of a blank white mask, a dark blue jumpsuit and, yes, a bucket on his head) wowed the crowd with his phenomenal guitar expertise. The guitarist, who once played with Axl Rose in one of the reincarnations of Guns N’ Roses, showcased his experimental guitar work and left jaws dropped. The other highlight was hip-hop technicians Pretty Lights who played on the smallest stage and packed in the crowd to the max. It was well worth the lack of arm and leg room. Pretty Lights offers about the same versatility of Perpetual Groove, the beats and dancing endured by those in attendance definitely kept the attention of all involved for at least an hour, which is pretty good considering the usual attention span of the Wakarusa attendees. 

There was very little sleep. Those who attempted to get more than five hours were usually interrupted as raves usually lasted until about 7 in the morning. But the festival only lasted four days, so who really needs sleep?

The second day showcased a few more national acts. Jewish reggae rapper Matisyahu impressed the crowd with his unusual blend of vocals with what can only be described as Hebrew hip-hop. 

Matisyahu was entertaining for about an hour before every song started sounding about the same, which is not to say bad, just the same. One of the festival’s most loved acts, Soundtribe Sector 9, entranced theWakarusa crowd. Many danced, hula hooped through the entire STS9 set. The music blurred together in the first half of the set before gaining momentum and getting better in the second half. 

see Setlist page 12


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The final full day of music featured some of the most well-known artists at Wakarusa, including The Black Crowes. Before The Black Crowes, G. Love and Special Sauce, which have many NWA fans, got the crowd bumping with their blend of rock, blues and funk. 

But G. Love’s versatility didn’t get the crowd bumping as much as The Black Crowes. Chris Robinson and company grooved their way through a two-hour set filled with jam tracks, southern rock songs and a few of the hits that made the band popular in the ‘90s. By far, The Black Crowes offered one of the best sets at Wakarusa. 

Other notables: Gov’t Mule who entertained what seemed to be about half the festival Thursday night and Yonder Mountain String Band whose early Friday morning encore could only be described as the ho-down from hell. 

The festival featured some great music, but the sets could have been shorter and more artists added to the lineup. However, this event deserves to be at Mulberry Mountain and is a festival not to be missed. It can only be appreciated by those who take the time, money and live-free attitude to be there.

Categories: LIVE! In NWA