Review: Wakarusa Music Festival 

click to enlarge Severe storms didn't stop fans from raging all weekend at Wakarusa Music Festival. - LACY BURSICK
  • Severe storms didn't stop fans from raging all weekend at Wakarusa Music Festival.
  • Lacy Bursick

A changed forecast midweek to potential thunderstorms didn't stop thousands of people from traveling to the Mulberry Mountain in Arkansas for Wakarusa Music Festival this past weekend. Unfortunately for once, the weather people were right. Thursday night during the first set of STS9 brought in warm summer showers that eventually turned into torrential downpour forcing festival officials to cancel some of the evening acts. After the rain passed, music began again except dancing proved to be difficult in the mud. But when trip-hop producer Tipper took the stage, his visualizer and smooth beats were exactly what the electronic fans needed to tromp around the mud in.

As we woke up Friday morning, the venue area was a flooded mud pie. The afternoon's sunshine and warm temperatures allowed for campsite recovery from Thursday's storms. Friday saw acts such as Of Monsters and Men, The Motet, Umphrey's McGee.

Dark clouds rolled in again Friday night just as the STS9 tent show approached. Then to everyone's disappointment, bad news came from the main stage. Festival officials announced severe storms were headed their way and that everyone needed to take cover and heed tornado warnings. Electronic fans in attendance were let down Friday as acts like Zeds Dead, Figure, Minnesota and Spongle were cancelled.

The storm moved in and everyone sought refuge in their cars and a few brave souls held down their tents. As I sat in my car, I did everything in my power to not have an anxiety attack as I watched funnel clouds form above me. One even swept down and pulled a purple tent up into the air, only to fade away moments later and -- thankfully -- not fully form a tornado. The storm raged on for what seemed like hours and I eventually fell asleep in my car to wake up to another blue sky.

After losing two nights of festival fun, people were ready to rage Saturday regardless of the mud up to our knees. The mud pie was now mud soup and Shakedown, the area with all the vendors, was a sloppy mess. Anyone who forgot their rain boots at home probably left. Many of the campsites were left vacant. All the stages were trashed with mud making it almost impossible to dance and groove around.

But the weather stayed clear, revealing a beautiful starry sky on Mulberry Mountain. Saturday featured a three-hour set by Widespread Panic. This was my first Panic show ever, and I was very pleased. Jimmy Herring is hands down one of the best guitar players I have seen live. It's not everyday a percussion solo woos me away, but their percussionist Sunny Ortiz was incredible. Widespread Panic definitely had their followers in attendance because nearly everyone in the crowd was singing along.

Saturday's beautiful weather allowed me to hang my hammock and sleep in. I awoke in perfect time to make it to the Cherub set, which was my most anticipated band of the weekend. This electro-pop duo's set was well above my expectations for a new band and I will be on the lookout for more music from them in the future. They were even able to hit the high notes live when performing their most popular song "Doses and Mimosas."

Snoop Lion performed on the main stage Sunday evening giving the crowd a set that I would dub more of a Snoop Dogg performance, rapping songs like "Drop It Like It's Hot" and "Gin and Juice." The only thing giving him any Rastafarian creditability was his Bob Marley t-shirt.

Amon Tobin's intense visualizer boxes were the coolest stage set up I saw all weekend. They even asked people to put down the rage sticks so people could enjoy the show. His tempo began mellow with heavy trance then sped up to 808 kick drum beats (trap).

Eoto brought out the lasers for the last scheduled act of the night. The tent was overcrowded and impossible to find solid ground amongst the muddy surface, so I left early. According to friends, Gramatik joined Eoto for a special late night performance to make up for the lost acts from the rain.

Although the mud and storms put a damper on the weekend, overall the spirits of the people were still blissful. I didn't hear many complaints and was surprised at how many people stuck it out through the severe weather. Fingers crossed for beautiful weather next year!

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Lacy Bursick

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