By: Evan Townsend
Deep in the heart of the Ozark Mountains lies a place that, by the looks of it, hears nothing but banjos, washboards, and blown moonshine jugs 361 days of the year. But for the other four days, the crest of Mulberry Mountain becomes a mecca of music for thousands of fans from across the United States. Wakarusa Music Festival has taken place annually since 2004, but it’s only the festival’s third year in the lush hills of Arkansas. In its usual style, the festival featured an eclectic group of over 100 artists, from England’s folk-rock darlings Mumford and Sons to funk revivalists Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.
Though the festivities officially started Thursday afternoon, cars were lined down the winding two-lane road that led to the grounds by early Wednesday evening. It was one of the smallest crowds the festival would see all week, but already the fans were pumping themselves up, a few even leaning out the passenger side window to lead rallying cries that swept the 650-acre campground. The influx of cars didn’t slow until late the next morning.
On Thursday, festival-goers who had arrived early enough to set up their tent and get a few hours of sleep before sunrise were awoken by the blistering heat of the sun radiating through their tents, a trend that continued throughout the relentlessly warm Wakarusa. It wasn’t until the sun went down that the crowd themselves started to heat up.
took to the Grassroots California
Satellite stage as the sun was going down. The outpost, tucked in a small clearing on the corner of the campground, was set under twisted webbings of canvas that played off the lights and projections, giving Lipp a suitable atmosphere for his high-energy set. Joining him for his “Live” set was Two Fresh drummer Colby Buckler, who would play later in the weekend. The two seemed to play effortlessly together and the crowd responded with unabated enthusiasm to the funky electro grooves.
Across the grounds, Beats Antique were heating up the spacious Revival Tent for their first of two shows at Waka. Zoe Jakes’s sultry dancing accompanied the enchanting bohemian style of the trio, but she was by no means the only one moving her body. As bizarre and innovative as the music became, the crowd refused to be estranged, dancing to prerecorded beats, viola, and even what sounded like an electric banjo.
Sphongle (Simon Posford) hit the main stage at 1:00 am with a towering apparatus, projectors, and live dancers that comprised The Sphongletron Experience. The giant feathers of Posford’s hat were about the only things visible of the DJ, who was perched three-quarters of the way up his 20-foot tall structure.
He was certainly not intended to be the focus of the stage, though. Owls, giant eyes, and unrecognizable waves of light projected across the stage, but the crown jewel in the center of it all was Sphongle’s six-eyed mascot who flailed its tongue and distorted its features, giving it an intensely realistic three-dimensional illusion.
rolled on the stage much later than planned due to quite the debacle (full story on his Facebook page
) and laid out his equipment on a simple table center stage, which seemed absurdly meager a setup after Sphongle’s spectacle. After a few short songs, the set ended abruptly. A clearly disgruntled Ott. packed up, almost as soon as he had set up, it seemed, and Posford returned to the stage, this time as his more modest psy-trance alter-ego Hallucinogen.
Back at the GRC Satellite stage, Paper Diamond
(Coloradoan producer Alex B) was already pumping out his bright, colorful bass music. Even this deep into the night Diamond managed to keep the crowd moving to his undeniably danceable tunes.
Though Diamond’s set ended around 3:30, the music would continue until 7:30 that morning. By that time, most festival goers had wearily stumbled back to their tents to get a little rest before the shows started up again in only a few short hours.
WAKARUSA 2011: DAY 2 REVIEW
WAKARUSA 2011: DAYS 3 & 4 REVIEW