My uncle told me something a while back. “I’m really glad I’ve gotten to see so much of the country because of music.” Damn right. I never thought that I’d be driving for over a day to the boonies of Ozark, Arkansas with a group of whacko miscreants heading to see some live music. Yet, here I am, sitting on the steps of my porch in the woods, watching over the still Lamprey River on the first actual nice night of spring here in New Hampshire, writing a preview for Wakarusa. A full moon is rising over the trees in front of a sea of blue, and the breeze finally doesn’t make you shiver your ass off, despite any tucked in shirts or wool long-johns. It’s been real chilly lately.
This will not be the case with Mulberry Mountain at the end of May, and the folks at Wakarusa have some serious treats for us out-there individuals who find a way to these very weird and very beautiful gatherings. Since 2004, Wakarusa has facilitated live music, easy living and community, becoming a renowned piece of the music scene in an attempt to overcome all of the incessant, mild-to-awful bullshit that swells throughout the world. It has been a rough time in many respects for all of us wild animals, violence scarring the most peaceful aspects of life and those innocents who want nothing more than simply to figure it all out and try and be happy. But music never fails to bring us together, and remind us that community can overcome.
So after five years of rocking in Lawrence, Kansas, and four years of jamming in the mountains of Arkansas, Wakarusa is coming back for a tenth year with a lineup to rival all lineups. In true Wakarusa fashion, there is something for everyone. Rock lovers will be found at Widespread Panic, Younder Mountain String Band, Umphrey’s McGee, and The Black Crowes, to name a few. If funk is what you’re into, be sure to check out Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Galactic, The Motet, and/or Yo Mamma’s Big Fat Booty Band. Of course, Wakarusa still caters nicely to the electronica lovers, featuring STS9, Amon Tobin, Tipper, Emancipator, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, The Polish Ambassador, and Bluetech, to name some Sparkleberry favorites (most of which are featured in the always poppin’ off Interstellar Meltdown stage). And if transcendental music is your steez, you can flow to the beats of Govinda and The Human Experience. And where else do you have the chance to see Shpongle’s Masquerade show, a set by Snoop Lion, and a set by Gogol Bordello all in one weekend?
You’re going to want to pace yourself at this fest, because there is so much new music to be discovered. For instance, who are the Dumptruck Butterlips, The Apache Relay, and The Brothers Comatose? Being exposed to new music all in one place is what makes music festivals special, and Wakarusa is no exception. In fact, the Waka Winter Classic spent the winter season traveling shows around the Midwest and hand picked the best regional artists to bring to the Wakarusa table.
This grass-roots grown event is going to be a worthwhile escape for those that feel overwhelmed, or even just the need to go. Attendees can forget about the office or the classroom and become a part of the Wakarusa community by participating in the interactive art installations, or just get lost in an artist’s live painting, which will surely be some of the best around. Along with a killer lineup and activities galore, the Wakarusa community strives for sustainability, and encourages festival goers to bring reusable drink containers instead of disposable ones. For every bag of recyclables you haul from your campground to the Recycalusa Booth, you’ll get a prize like band merch or a t-shirt. And for helping volunteers sort campsite recycling, you could win a ticket to Wakarusa 2014. Info can be found at www.wakarusa.com/info/sustainability. Remember: keep the venue and our weekend home clean so we can carry this festival tradition as long as possible. Volunteer applications are still being accepted if you want to be part of the team that helps make an event like Wakarusa a success. Finally, if you are dying to go but are stuck without a ride, or you want to minimize your carbon-footprint while getting to the fest, check out Rootless.me and get ready to make some new friends.
Full event tickets are a reasonable $184 dollars at the moment, and three and two-day passes are even available. Prices can be found at www.wakarusa.com/tickets. Camping is paid for separately, and right now, riverside camping is the only over-night camping available (sober camping and day parking are available, as well). The good news is that it is only $29, and this site is located only 3 miles south of the main festival venue, with free shuttles to take you to and from the show. It is not only the most spacious of Wakarusa camping grounds, but it is also located next to the Mulberry River; I’m sure that many of us festival-goers have longed for a cool dip in the early hours of the day before things really start to happen.
If camping under the relentless Arkansas sun turns you off, Wakarusa is offering Hotel packages this year. Attendees can stay nearby at a hotel in Fayetteville, and take the shuttle or drive themselves to the festival grounds.
Times are tough and money is tight, but if you can make Wakarusa happen, you won’t regret it. Ask any Sparkleberry that’s been, and they’ll tell you it’s a fest for the record-books. I truly hope that more individuals decide that the trip and the expenses are worth-while: there is something real and fulfilling to all of this fun. Not to say that I know what, because I have no fucking clue, but every time I leave one of these crazy things, something feels incredibly right, and I am filled with a renewed passion for living. I know many of you know full well what I’m talking about, so I’m sure I’ll see a lot of you in the Ozark mountains or at another show way in the distance; I hope you’re all ready to come alive this summer. Spread the sparkle everybody and keep an open mind; I’ll see you all out there.
Check out Wakarusa’s Facebook Page for more great photos from years past!
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