EPIC FESTIVAL RECAP: Wakarusa 2012

Continuing on with our Wakarusa 2012 review…

After a good nights sleep and cold beer for breakfast, I started off my friday with a trip down to George’s Majestic Backwoods stage to see Cordovas. This bands self-titled debut album is the brain child of Joe Firstman whom you may recognize from his solo work or his position as band leader on Last Call with Carson Daly. The set was reminiscent of listening to the Doobie Brothers covering songs by the Black Keys, with bright blues guitar setting the scene for soulful, identifiable lyrics. More and more began to fill the area in front of the tiny stage as the set went on, however at the first sign of rain, I was off to seek protection for my camera.

I found shelter in the photo pit of the main stage where MarchFourth Marching Band was starting. Horn solos and an energetic drum line accompanied stilted dancers and outrageous costumes as this marching band for the new age taught the crowd how to dance in the rain. The incredible costumes and infectious energy of everyone on stage made a new die-hard fan out of me and I was excited to see they had a second set scheduled for the following day.

Up next on the main stage was probably my favorite set of the festival, Soulive. Eric Krasno and musical brothers Al and Neal Evans are the kings of funk as far as I’m concerned. Incredible jazz drumming brought new life to ‘Elanor Rigby’ and Krasno’s magic fingers pushed raw emotional expression out through the speakers to an infectiously dancing crowd.

As the set change from Soulive into Lettuce began, I ran up to the Revival tent to catch the highly anticipated The Devil Makes Three. These guys have given birth to a new genre known as folk-punk, combining the high energy rebellious attitude of punk with the fast pickin’ fun of bluegrass/folk music. The tent was probably the most full I’d seen all weekend and I had to take a break from snapping photos to dance a little jig to my favorite song off the album of the same name, ‘Do Wrong Right’.

I finally made my way back to the main stage for Lettuce’s set (which was already in full swing) in which Al Evans of Soulive had switched out with Adam Dietch (Break Science) on drums and Krasno and Neal were joined by an all new backing section. The addition of instruments gave even more emphasis to the supergroup of jazz musicians and the set had even more energy than the Soulive set that had occurred just previous.

After Lettuce had finished, I made my way up to the revival tent for Blitzen Trapper but was quickly distracted by the costume parade which had begun nearby. Again, the talent and creativity of the festival patrons was made apparent as outrageous costumes like a Barrel of Monkeys, Papa Smurf, and some Na’avi accompanied a slew of other equally awesome get-ups around the festival grounds.

As a result of my distraction, I only caught a few songs of Blitzen Trapper, the most notable of which was ‘Saturday Nite’ off of their break out album Furr. After getting a few decent photos, I decided I needed more of Adam Dietch’s drum skills so I hurried off to the satellite stage for Break Science. I was surprised to see Nashville native Wick-It the Instigator still on stage laying down heavy dubstep tracks and pop remixes. I didn’t hesitate to get down and dirty with his bass-heavy tracks but I was certainly disappointed that I was being made to choose between one of my favorite artists on the Pretty Lights Music label Break Science and the headliner for the evening, The Avett Brothers. I eventually decided to make the trek back to the main venue for The Avett Brothers and I am definitely glad I did. This trio is capable of bringing so much life to stage with so little in the ways of production that I was completely blown away. It isn’t something I would have guessed having listened to their studio album, however for me this group has since been defined by their spectacular performance and their incredible stage presence.

Afterwards, I started towards the Revival tent to see Umphrey’s Mcgee’s first set of the weekend but the dauntingly huge crowd encouraged me to check out something different. I walked slightly further to the Kum and Go Outpost tent to see the Israeli Dance Band Balkan Beat Box. I was hesitant to get right into the music at first but a great response from the crowd warmed me up to the groups eclectic foreign sound. Not quite rap, not quite electronica, and not quite funk, this group has a vibe that is for sure unique and I was again glad to see them with another set on the Main stage on the following day.

The late night started up with mash-up master and party king Girl Talk. Though I can’t say I have the utmost respect for what Girl Talk does in the music industry, I will say that he throws one heckuva shindig. Massive stage production and eager fans recreated the biggest house party you’ve ever seen on stage as familiar beats and recitable raps hit you’re ears with rapid fire. I know I may never be one to buy a ticket to see Girl Talk do his thing in any small venue but for a late night festival set, it was not a bad way to keep the party going.

Up next seemed to be a veritable barrage of lasers as both Ghostland Observatory and MiMOSA offered up incredible productions in the back tents. Ghostland’s lead singer and guitarist Aaron Behrens hooted and hollered through miles of reverb as he strutted goofy dances and rock star attitude up and down the stage.

MIMOSA showed off his flashy new lasers and chilled out bass lines against heavy drums, keeping the late night crowd on their feet. I wanted so badly to stay for NObody Beats the Drum’s 4:15am set as well as Michael Menert’s 5:00am set however I couldn’t stay standing for another minute and made my way back to camp.

Read on for my notes and photos from Saturday…