EPIC FESTIVAL RECAP: Wakarusa 2012

Continuing on with our Wakarusa 2012 review…

Saturday morning was rough. Hot hot sun had me up and out of the tent much earlier than I could have slept, however I was glad for the opportunity to grab a shower and a breakfast burrito before the music was underway. I sat in the lawn and let G. Love & Special Sauce instill some more party spirit in me as I finished my meal and glanced over the days schedule.

I applied a quick layer of sunscreen (it was getting pretty hot by this point) and I made my way over to the Backwood’s Stage for Denver up-and-comers The Lumineers. The performance was incredible and actually brought me back to the high energy Mumford and Sons performance on the main stage the previous year. They had a beautiful sound with long classical cello melodies over back porch folk sensibility. Their recent single ‘Ho Hey’ got the crowd into a frenzy and for a moment I felt that this may be the last time I see this group on a small stage before they hit it big.

I checked my schedule again and realized I had a sprint ahead of me to catch the blues guitar magic of Gary Clark, Jr. When I arrived (slightly out of breath I might add), Gary was in the middle of a soulful guitar solo that was pulling shouts of “Hell Yeah!” from the crowd. He seemed to be channeling the virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix as he moved between classic sounding blues riffs, hip-hop record scratching noises, and wah-wah driven melodies that put this genre-less performance on top of my “To see again no matter what” list. I stopped at the merch booth briefly after the set to enquire about a Gary Clark Jr. T-shirt but was unsuccessful and instead purchased his 2011 EP ‘Bright Lights’, which I highly recommend you give a listen to.

I strolled casually back out of the venue and through the campgrounds, admiring the feats of campsite engineering and flag pole design that surrounded me and eventually found myself at the Satellite stage for PLM artist Gramatik. I was lucky I arrived early because by the second song into his glitch-hop/dubstep set, the small area in the satellite stage was completely full. Several Colorado flags migrated through the crowd closer to the stage as dancing room seemed to grow more and more scarce. A live guitarist, who I believe was producer and filmmaker Anze Koron, provided live instrumentation over Gramatik’s signature sample heavy dance beats and the stage lights flipped on signifying the beginning of the last full party night of the festival.

Lines to re-enter the main venue were huge preceding Umphrey’s Mcgee’s final set and I unfortunately missed the cutoff to get into the photo pit. Luckily for me though Umphrey’s is not a band which you need to be super close to to appreciate. To put it simply, Umph goes hard. They jam hard, they perform hard, and they just all around take things to the next level. Combined with the most scenic sunset of the weekend and hundreds of fire lanterns floating off into the sky beyond the main stage, I’m not so sure that watching this set from the back lawn wasn’t one of the best single moment of the festival.

Primus was next on the main stage and this time my camera and I would not be caught off guard. Les Claypool took the stage and I was up close trying to capture his nimble finger work over his legendary bass guitar. A very large glowing octopus puppet swarmed over the crowd behind me with smaller jelly-fish party sticks close in tow. Along with the ever-present fire lanterns filling the sky and the silhouette of mulberry mountain behind the color changing ferris wheel, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a ridiculous and beautiful festival crowd in my life. Les even encouraged guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde to attempt to “blow the balls off of that there octopus” which he did with a shredding minute long solo that had the crowd laughing and cheering all throughout.

I decided to skip out on the next set in favor of taking in the festival view from atop the ferris wheel. When I returned to the ground, I saw an incredible light display coming from Quixotic’s stage and sprinted over to check it out. Unfortunately I was unable to grab any useable photos, however it was a healthy reminder not to underestimate the visual spectacle that they bring to the table.

Big Gigantic was next on the main stage and the crowd was just as rowdy as it had been for Pretty Lights two nights earlier. Howling saxophone and super massive bass drops made for a loud-as-hell set that I thought might even blow out the speakers. The crowd went crazy hurling glow sticks on stage and making use of whatever dancing energy they had left. I started to make my way down to Opiuo but upon arrival I was informed that music across the festival was cut off for the evening at this point due to a tornado/hail/high wind warning in the area and everyone was made to return to their tents. A few small showers came not an hour later but otherwise there was no noticeable storm that evening much to my disappointment.

Read on for my notes and photos from Sunday…