Wakarusa Music Festival: Friday June 1st, 2012
Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis & J-man
Our eyes opened just briefly to feel the overwhelming heat that had arisen in our tent. It was clearly a morning at a festival. We gasped for the cool refreshing breeze as we unzipped the tent and poured onto the camp path. A certain festival grogginess had over taken us as we attempted to transition back into reality. Following the neccessary cowboy coffee intake and a makeshift rinse, we were back in action and ready to wander the grounds of Wakarusa in search of all that the festival had to offer. Up and down the paved roads of the festival we wandered, past elaborate camps, smaller stages and sanctuaries tucked into the woods. Lots of energy went into properly manicuring the woods for Wakarusa. We wandered back up the gradual hill towards the front of the venue, to an oddly placed painted piano the would officially signify the start of day two at Wakarusa!
We made one last pit stop at camp and with that, our "work" day was in full swing! We stopped by the Kum & Go Outpost Stage to catch Monophonics before what I assumed would be one of the highlights of the festival, Snarky Puppy. Arriving at the stage, we quickly discovered that there was an issue. After consulting the sound engineer's revised schedule we realized that Snarky Puppy had been pulled. I turned back to the stage to discover one of the most awful bands that I had ever heard. I was embarrassed for this young group of pop star pretenders singing about bubble gum and girls (literally). We returned some time later to catch a brief bit of Monophonics, who clearly impressed the fairly crowded tent. Their roots sound crossed with solid instrumentation captivated me and conveyed to me what all of the excitement was about surrounding this young band.
Following a phone call to Snarky Puppy's manager, I was told that Wakarusa had made a mistake contractually and in scheduling and that it sounded like Snarky Puppy would be rescheduled for the following morning. Needless to say, we were not happy, but if that's the worst that we had to deal with in regards to festival logistics, I was ok with that.
Heading over to the Main Stage for March Fourth Marching Band, we passed the loose picking, sloppy yet energetic and fun, Mountain Sprout. They drew a decent turn out and somewhat intrigued me, but our focus was on March Fourth. This rag tag group of musical adventurers took the stage to a moderate turn out, however rain and timing aside, March Fourth came out with the same energy that I had seen in previous packed performances. Stilt-walkers, dancers, costumes and a wide-array of instruments help to elevate their performance to a spectacle. It was as if the circus had come to town and instead of displaying abused animals and slight of hand tricks, they treated us to a concert! Following their set, exhaustion set in from the previous night and day's drive as well as our limited sleep from the night prior. Once again, we found ourselves back at camp, this time crawling into the tent for a brief afternoon nap.
A couple of hours later we awoke to darkness. Checking my phone it became clear that we had missed the Royal Family Ball. Regardless of my recent opinions of the Royal Family, I was looking forward to catching that show specifically. One closed door opened up another, and where as we missed Soulive and Lettuce, we were now energized for an evening of Railroad Earth and Umphrey's McGee! Walking over to the stages, there was a great energy in the air. As is the case with most festivals, when the sun sets, as opposed to folks turning in, more seemed to come out of the woodwork... Ourselves included.
Things quickly began to heat up in the Revival Tent for one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend! Railroad Earth took the stage with smiles on their faces and excitement in their step. This was for me, one of the most enjoyable sets of the weekend. Railroad Earth has come a long way over the course of their relatively brief existence. They have done an incredible job of keeping the train moving down the track through ever expanding compositions with clear direction. Additionally, to see the emotion that they evoke in their fans is tangible proof of their effect on the scene. Towards the back of the tent, I closed my eyes and smiled from the inside.
At some point during Railroad Earth's set we bounced over to the Kum & Go Outpost to catch a little bit of Perpetual Groove. I was impressed with what I heard, as their compositions and ability to jam seemed to have greatly improved since my previous PGroove experiences. People were going wild to the enhanced jamtronica exploration that was taking place. After some time of truly enjoying what PGroove was doing, Railroad Earth called us back for the tail end of their set.
Backstage the excitement was high as folks gave praise to members of RRE, ourselves included. We spoke with Tim Carbone, who offered yet another obscure recommendation for the evening... a band called Balkan Beat Box. In the mean time we made our way over to The Avett Brothers on the Main Stage. The field was packed with folks sporting glowing attire and flashy toys! Though The Avett Brothers did nothing for me, I was immensely entertained by all of the visual stimuli.
Back at The Revival Tent, Umphrey's took the stage to an insane crowd. They began with "Wappy Sprayberry > In the Kitchen" pleasing the crowd to no end. The complexity of their instrumentation is indeed masturbatory, but what else would you have this immensely talented progressive group of musicians do? Mind bending shredding from Jake Cinninger on guitar Let the crowd with their jaws hanging open. From the back of the stage drummer Kris Myers threatened lives with his intense and forward moving kit work. I was blown away by what I witnessed early on in the set and was reminded of Umphrey's staggering consistency.
Staring at the gorgeously lit Ferris Wheel for a bit, we wandered over to the conveniently placed large-print festival schedule/banner where we found Tim. We checked the schedule and made our way middle center to wait for the Balkan Beat Box show to start. It was great to spend time with Tim at a show. My show experiences with him are typically limited to Tim playing on stage and me getting down in the crowd. It was fun to enjoy music together as fans. Balkan Beat Box hit the stage and the crowd perked up. A political oriented sample lead into what can only be described as a melting pot of world influences. The combination of drums, horns, electronics and conscious lyrics made for an elevated experience.
We danced like crazy and purely enjoyed what we were hearing. The uniqueness of Balkan Beak Box can not be overstated and though Tim was occasionally pulled back into the musician realm by several fans offering their appreciation, he spent the majority of that set as a fan. Following the set, we said our goodbyes to Tim and headed in the direction of camp. In the distance the Main Stage glowed with Girl Talk. I could only imagine the non-sense was taking place in the distance.
Once again we crawled into our tent on Mulberry Mountain and as I reflected on the day that had passed, I looked to the following day. Saturday would be a day of hard work, big interviews and warm weather. I had one last conscious exhale before drifting off into nothingness...
Carly & J-man's Friday Photo Gallery