There is no better way to kick festival season into full gear than with Wakarusa! Mulberry Mountain housed all of us for four days of magic. Not even the rain could bring us down, which it tried to do more than once with lightning, hail, and chilly nights. I took the chilly nights as a blessing in disguise, remembering the heat from last summer. Thursday night started off with a bang. Pretty Lights opened the party with a wild set on Main Stage that made all of us festi-goers realize that we were in for a crazy weekend on the mountaintop. I’m sure we all agree it was nice to hear Pretty Lights playing his older music for us. His song “Finally Moving” hadeveryone moving! The night kept on rolling with overlapping sets from Popadosio and SAVOY that kept me running from one stage to the other.
After a night like Thursday, it was acceptable not to go down to the venue until Royal Family Ball featuring Soulive & Lettuce at 5:45. They brought the funk, that’s for sure. You couldn’t help but boogie. The down time before Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero offered the perfect time to eat the amazing vendor food. If you missed out on the Spicy Pie Pizza then I feel bad for you. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero had the most emotional set of all of Wakarusa. Personally, I broke down in tears more than once. Their song “Home” was a real tearjerker. Wakarusa IS home away from home. Everyone who witnessed that set would understand exactly what I mean. After we got a grip on our emotions we slammed right into the first of two energy-packed sets from Umphrey’s McGee in the Revival Tent. Their final song Miss Tinkle’s Overture told us that we had better hold onto our hats tomorrow because it was going to get a little rowdy. Girl Talk on Main Stage took us back through our earlier years with music from what seemed like every decade from the 60’s on. If you wanted to hear rap from the early 2000’s, you got it. If you wanted to hear rock from the 70’s, you got that too. We all had our dancing shoes on. Some of us, like myself, danced so hard that we lost our phones.
Saturday started off with a nice refreshing bath in the river along with 500 other people. Clean is clean no matter who’s watching. (Too bad the people who really needed to bathe are afraid of soap and water…) The weather was hot and humid with an overhang of daunting clouds that threatened to not just rain but storm on our parade, which it did with a side of gumball-sized hail that shut down the party. Once the venue was finally reopened, Slightly Stoopid picked us right up with a more reggae style show than punk, which was a crowd pleaser to say the least.
You never know what you might see at a music festival, and you would think by Saturday that nothing would shock you anymore, but seeing and getting hugged by a man with only a penis sock on still has a little shock value to it. By the time Umphrey’s McGee took the Main Stage for their second set, the sun was just setting and there wasn’t a single cloud in sight– just a full moon, the ferris wheel and a sky dotted with at least a hundred paper lanterns. They certainly did not waste any time going straight into “Depth Charge”. We learned something about Brendan Bayliss, Umphrey’s McGee’s guitarist and vocalist that night as well. “I’m really looking forward to tonight. I grew up in high school with a steady diet of Primus and really bad pot,” he said right before they blew us away with “1348”. After that set I needed a breather, which took me into a big blow-up air conditioned (yes, I said air conditioned) dome with bean bags everywhere, a DJ playing calming beats and tranquil visuals projected on the ceiling. The dome was such a pleasant surprise after dancing my butt off.
After the nice AC relaxing session, it was back to the Kum and Go Outpost tent to see SOJA. I was never aware that I knew songs from this band until I saw them play. It was a beautiful set with really positive vibes flowing from everyone in the crowd and from all of the band members. SOJA had smiles on all of their faces, which rubs off on you. I am now a fan for life. The pace was picked back up by Beats Antique but was interrupted half way through by Mother Nature bringing us another doozy of a storm. The storm shut down the venue and sent all of us back to our tents. At least it was 3am at this point, and that means it was acceptable to get some sleep with out feeling guilty when the venue was reopened.
Sunday Funday, right? Wrong! The humidity was unbearable, the clouds were menacing, and it was the last day, which means there was a certain sadness in the air. After the horrible afternoon storm, which shut everything down again, we were all ready to hear the last few hours of music and soak up as much Waka love as we could. Slightly Stoopid was the first post-rain show and they didn’t let it dampen their spirits one bit. They kept it mellow with their reggae sound for the majority of the show, then blasted us with a few of their more punk songs to close out their final Wakarusa set. Keller Williams lightened the mood with his anything-but-ordinary set in the Revival Tent. If you weren’t laughing and smiling then you were trying not too. It’s hard not to love goofy, whimsical, barefoot Keller Williams. I closed out my Wakarusa 2012 experience with the enchanting Matisyahu. He put the icing on a perfect weekend. Even with the weather, I would not change a single thing. I know that I am suffering from Post-Waka-depression and I bet all of you are too. Let the yearlong wait begin!