Wakarusa Music Festival: Thursday May 31st, 2012

Ozark, KS

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

At around 1:00 AM Thursday in Denver, our adventure began. Following a night of music at the Highland Tap, the camping gear was loaded into the car and our fourteen hour/nine hundred mile journey to Ozark, Arkansas began! Through the dark of night to the sunrise, we passed windmills, cattle, endless cornfields and were treated to the craziest of conservative religious radio before the final turn onto the thirteen mile road that would lead us into the festival. In the brief time that we were on the road in, we passed a plethora of police cruisers, thirteen in total. I had heard the horror stories of Wakarusa's past and ultimately didn't see any cars actually pulled over this year. Pulling into Mulberry Mountain, I was taken aback by the property's beauty. Immediately a calmness overtook me and my excitement began to build. It was time to dive into my first Wakarusa Music Festival!

As my girlfriend Carly and I set up our tent in Media Camping, we could hear The Big Wu from the Main Stage. Within' minutes we were greeted by some folks from Michigan that were covering the festival for an electronic publication, then shortly after, another group of friends from Michigan. As we made our way towards the stages, we passed multiple groups of friends and folks that we recognized from Colorado. People had clearly come from all over the country for this celebration of live music.

Security waved us through the concert gates with smiles and we found ourselves on the Wakarusa Midway. Lining the Midway were the usual suspects of grillers, peddlers, hippies and capitalists. Passing through the Midway, we found ourselves in the beautiful meadow that would house the Main Stage. We were surrounded by aesthetically pleasing decorations, costumes, art and interesting activities like an inflatable igloo and an inflatable water slide. On the Main Stage ALO could be heard performing a mellow afternoon set as folks danced, hooped and soaked up the sunshine. Following ALO's set, we made our way over to what was being called "Revival Village." There we found a large Ferris Wheel, more food options, as well as two additional massive tents; The Revival Tent and The Kum & Go Outpost.

A glance at the time triggered our directional shift towards the Main Stage for Railroad Earth, the reason for our relatively early arrival. Railroad sounded fantastic from the start! Looking around, people seemed so happy and carefree as many sang each song word for word. This instrumentation of Tim Carbone, Andy Goessling and John Skehan II has no boundaries and created a beautiful platform for Todd Sheaffer's lyrical brilliance. Highlights of the set included "Bread and Water," "Seven Story Mountain," "The Hunting Song" and "Long Way to Go." What an afternoon set. I looked forward to Railroad Earth's performance the following night.

Railroad Earth Live at Wakarusa Music Festival on May 31, 2012.

Set: Saddle of the Sun, Just So You Know, Bread & Water, Seven Story Mountain, Daddy-O, 1759, Potter's Field, The Hunting Song > Hard Livin', Sing For Me*, Long Way to Go

Encore: Waterfountain Quicksand

* Dedicated to Doc Watson

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset before reconvening at the Main Stage for Bob Weir, Jackie Greene and Chris Robinson. Though I wasn't expecting much from this acoustic trio, I was pleasantly surprised. The energy and chemistry was bright as the trio ventured through folk covers including Grateful Dead material. The vocals were solid, featuring near perfect harmonies. Our time at the Main Stage would be short-lived as Colorado's own, The Motet would play their first set of the weekend in The Revival Tent.

As we walked towards the Revival Tent, I reflected on what this opportunity would provide for The Motet, a band that plays very little outside of Colorado. Unfortunately, we arrived to an empty tent, aside from a few rail-riders. What began as a seemingly normal sound check, slowly turned out to be the absolute worst, most disastrous sound check that I have ever personally witnessed (no fault of The Motet's). Twenty minutes after their scheduled start time, members of the band started to look irritated and rightfully so. Forty five minutes after the scheduled start time, members we outwardly pissed. As this was our first Tent set of the weekend, I was hoping this wouldn't become a common theme.

By the time the crew had The Motet dialed in, the Revival Tent was PACKED! What began with frustration, quickly turned into excitement and energy as The Motet put on one hell of a dance party for both dedicated fans and new-comers. The rhythm section of Dave Watts (Drums) and Garrett Sayers (Bass) is one of my favorite and that night, they paved the way for the fantastic melody and lead work of Ryan Jalbert and Joey Porter. During The Motet's set I texted Tim Carbone regarding an interview and catching up. As The Motet party peaked, Carly and I backed out of the tent and headed backstage to find Tim, who was also watching The Motet. After a short time we headed back to The Railroad Earth trailer for a conversation. Following an interview Tim played some music for us and offered up some recommendations, per usual. One thing that I admire about Tim is his drive to constantly explore new/unique music.

On the Main Stage was Pretty Lights with one of the largest draws of the weekend. For me it did little to nothing and within' just a few minutes we were heading back to camp to sleep for the first time in about forty hours. Granted there were several more sets that we wanted to see that evening, we had a long weekend of work ahead of us!


Carly & J-man's Photo Gallery


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