Wakarusa Music Festival: Saturday June 2nd, 2012

Ozark, KS

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis & J-man
Video By Carly Marthis

My eyes opened and once again the heat overwhelmed our tiny tent. The door was quickly unzipped and a minute amount of effort went into getting the ball rolling on our attempted return to consciousness. A cup of cowboy coffee assisted in the process and contributed to a touch of energy the went into some slight organization at camp before we set out for some music.

Colorado bluegrass band, Head For The Hills, would be the additional kick in the ass that we would need to jump start our day. Their powerful blend of heavy rhythms and deep melodies captivated me. Their musicianship was great and their progressive drive was solid. Passing by Mountain Sprout, I was once again intrigued, but Balkan Beat Box pulled us to the Main Stage. The pit was littered with confetti from the previous evening's Girl Talk happening. There was a decent turn out for Balkan Beat Box as they began their show with the same sample as the previous night. The first few songs sounded like the first three from the previous evening at Wakarusa. It seemed that they were playing the same set, losing our attention and interest.

We returned to the Artist/Media area where we met up with Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, the guitarists from Umphrey's McGee, for a short interview. As we headed into the woods we passed a group of horses and several hammocks before arriving at our destination.

Following the interview we headed back to the Artist/Media area where we engaged in some solid music conversation with a handful of members from the media, before running into Chris Pandolfi (Infamous Stringdusters), Andy Falco (ISD) and Alan Bartrom (Del McCoury Band). We made arrangements for a Stringdusters session and headed back over to The Kum & Go Outpost for some Emmitt-Nershi Band. The combination of Bill Nershi (String Cheese Incident), Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon), Andy Thorn (LOS) & John Grubb was stunning. With a focus on traditional bluegrass with a progressive approach, this powerhouse of a group performed a stellar set at Wakarusa.

A conversation with Joe Lessard and Matt Loewen of Head for The Hills, turned into a brief run-in with Les Claypool that was followed by a conversation/jam with Toubab Krewe aboard their bus. Following the Toubab experience, we rushed back to the Outpost for a session with Bill Nershi and Drew Emmitt.

Carly and I were thrilled about how our Saturday was unfolding! It was without a doubt a lot of work, but well worth all of the time and effort that we put in. Inside the Outpost tent The Travelin' McCoury feat. Keller Williams put on one hell of a set, with Del and Mrs. McCoury seated at the back of the stage. once again, we had to step away. This time for a session with The Infamous Stringdusters.

The Stringdusters blew me away and as we headed back to catch The Del McCoury Band. They played beautifully and reinforced the notion of them being the best band in bluegrass music. Del sounded great, though it seemed that Ronnie was stepping up more vocally. I treasure all of The Del McCoury shows that I am able to experience. As we headed out towards Umphrey's McGee on the Main Stage, we passed a drum circle that included members of Toubab Krewe.

The sun began to set triggering splashes of orange and purple in the sky. We sat in the grass briefly to catch our breath from a crazy day. I began to stare off and reflect. "Did that all just happen...?" I thought to myself, surrounded in disbelief. As quickly as we sat, we were back on our feet heading towards Umphrey's McGee. Their sets have become something of an anomaly with staggering consistency and musical perfection. Songs like "Cemetary Walk II," "1348" and the Talking Head's "Girlfriend is Better" were a few of the set's highlights. We had to pry ourselves away towards the end of their set to head back to the Outpost for The Infamous Stringdusters late-night set.

The same can be said about the Stringdusters, as with Umphrey's; They are indeed on the opposite end of the spectrum, but much like UM, ISD are a deviation from the norm. Their set boasted perfect instrumentation, impeccable timing, incredible melodies and a fantastic flow of movement on the stage. The Infamous Stringdusters are the hottest thing in bluegrass music. If you don't believe me, check out their new album, Silver Sky or go see them live. Once again, we had to tear ourselves away from the stage... this time to catch Primus!

Primus would be our last band of the weekend, as our musical cup was overflowing. In fact, Primus would cause that cup to spill! The largest gathering of people that weekend would show face for Primus' set. The photo pit was packed with photographers looking for a shot of the infamous Claypool. Their moment came. Primus hit the stage to a massive showing of gratitude from the Waka crowd. From the first notes of the set, the intensity grew. Claypool's characteristic vocal lines were secondary to his huge bass riffs. The monkey mask came out as folks stared in disbelief and captivation. Primus lived up to the spectacle they are known for and as the set progressed we moved towards the back of the field where we found a large group of folks lighting off "bags of fire" as Les called them.

"Back in my day, we didn't have bags of fire..." Les said with en element of entertainment.

We watched as the communal effort began, removing the bags from their packaging, lighting the flammable element and letting them float into the night sky, illuminated. This is where we will leave you, at the absolute climax of the Wakarusa experience. For many, all that would remain the following day would be memories. Much like the bags of fire, the memories were there and then they were gone. Let our coverage help to serve those memorable moments of that wonderful summer weekend at Wakarusa Music Festival...


Carly & J-man's Saturday Photo Gallery


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