By: Evan Townsend
Photos By: Matt Thomas & Victor Protasio (http://www.victorprotasio.com)
On the last full day of the festival, Wakarusa was nowhere near winding down—quite the opposite, in fact. Many fans were just arriving with their one-day festival passes, anxious to see acts such as the two-time Grammy Award winning Ben Harper and his band Relentless7. Electronic music fans found quite the lineup waiting for them Saturday night, as well.
got things started, they began their set in the Technaflora Outpost at seven in the evening, in the midst of Mumford and Sons’ Main Stage performance. By then, a decent number of people had already gathered to enjoy the group’s Zen psychedelia, which took on a markedly energetic flair in their live show. From their first few songs they had the crowd off their blankets and dancing close to the stage. The set ended with Nadis Warriors playing a daring new track—a funky remix of a hit from the King of Pop himself, “Billie Jean.” The crowd roared back and let loose with approval.
By 10:30 Saturday night, the Main Stage had already hosted quite a few big name acts and some of the largest crowds the festival would see all weekend, but one of the biggest was yet to come.
is made up of a group of people as eclectic as the sound they create. Without a gimmick, Thievery still created a spectacle for the audience. Bassist Ashish Vyas romped around stage wearing nothing but grippy-style briefs, while the fully clothed Frank Orrall calmly played bongos in the back. Rob Myers switched from serene strumming to full force dancing each time he traded sitar for guitar. The performance had a revolving door of vocalists who passed the mic with almost every track. With all the performers sharing the stage, it was hard to notice that one half of the Thievery Corporation was missing.
Rob Garza ran the production end for the entire two-hour performance, but Eric Hilton didn’t make so much as a cameo appearance. The group didn’t seem any worse off for it, and most of the crowd was having too much fun to care.
Much deeper into the night was Big Gigantic
’s slot. The duo, comprised of saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken, have enjoyed a steady uptick in popularity over the past couple of years due to their unique style of saxophone-infused electronica. The strange mating of instruments doesn’t cross over genres, as the concept might suggest, but takes the sax out of its original context entirely to give it a fresh and unexpected flavor. But the studio tracks they produce are filled with new life and possibilities in the live performance. Both musicians played with an obvious passion for their instrument and enthusiasm for their music. The Technaflora Outpost, the smaller of the festival’s two tents, proved to be far too small a place for the duo. As tightly packed as the crowd was, they still stretched to the back of the tent and sprawled far out into the yard outside.
Big Gigantic wrapped up around four, but the music continued until early in the morning over in the Grassroots Satellite. Back in their tents, the festivalgoers were lulled to sleep for the last time by the rolls of bass that rocked the hillside.
Festivalgoers were given a small comfort on the last day of the festival. Sunday was the first, and only, cloudy day all Wakarusa. (There was even a short rain mid-afternoon.) The welcome shade gave many campers a chance to sleep past sunrise, which the heat had made virtually impossible every other day. But many people didn’t have a chance to enjoy it.
Starting early in the morning cars were lined down the festival entry road traveling to, according to their license plates, places as far away as California, New Hampshire, and Florida. By noon there were gaping patches of grass in the fields where tightly packed tents used to be. Deconstruction had already begun on the Main Stage, and what used to be a festival teeming with life was starting to look more and more like a ghost town.
Wakarusa still had a few punches left to pull though. John Brown’s Body, Here Come the Mummies, and Toots and the Maytals were all in Sunday’s lineup. On the electronic scene, Karsh Kale, Resident Anti-Hero, and Beats Antique all returned for their second sets of the festival.
In a Wakarusa tradition, Two Fresh
was one of the last acts to play. Twin producers Sherwyn and Kendrick Nichols prove a different dimension in their live sound than the one immediately apparent on their studio albums. Accompanied by drummer Colby Buckler, the whole ordeal had an energetic overtone. Not intensely so, though. Their relaxing but upbeat sound proved to fit the mood of the crowd, who seemed reluctant to leave the spirited atmosphere of the festival behind.
With the Main Stage already laying in parts, a little schedule rearranging was in order. EOTO
, who was originally to play at 10:30, instead played in the Revival Tent much later than planned. With the number of venues down by one, and almost all of the other shows already ended, most of the dwindling crowd wound up at the Revival Tent.
This was EOTO’s second set of the festival, so by now most of the crowd was familiar with their style of dubstep- and electro-jam without prerecorded loops.
After their usual set, followed by a short break, the duo brought in a few collaborators. Jamie Janover
played his hammered dulcimer while running his production gear. David Satori and Tommy Cappel of Beats Antique
added their flair on electric guitar and drums respectively, and Karsh Kale sat in on tablas.
Different instruments, different bands, different musical ideologies, all combined in a jam session can easily turn south. But as improv veterans, the group held the sound together well and shared the set equally. The few thousand people still at the festival grounds seemed determine to vent any energy they had left from the weekend. The VIP section was torn down to allow free access, and all manner of hula-hoopers and fire poi spinners showed up for their last performance. A few were even invited on stage.
No more than 100 yards from where EOTO and their friends were jamming away under the tent, Austin based Lance Herbstrong was busy serving up a dance party of their own in the Technoflora Outpost.
DJs Bill Sarver and Kamal Solomon and their live band of Peter DiStefano (Porno for Pyros), Frank Orrall (Thievery Corporation) and Ricky Gonzalez were giving the remaining crowd their moneys worth.
Charging the crowd through bass-filled, groove-layered remixes of "Cocaine" and "Break on Through" accented with guitar solos and drum fills, Lance Herbstrong came to party. Even in the final hours of the last night, the remaining crowd obliged as the dance party migrated from the floor on to the stage.
As late as the sets went, it was still too early for most of the people dreading their return to drab, non-festival work lives the following day. A few were just ready to get back to their showers to wash off the healthy layers of dirt, glitter, and glowstick residue they had accrued over the weekend. As the last of the crowd left Wakarusa, some that night, a few Monday morning, they left each other with the simple, but implicit parting of “Waka waka.”