By the third day at Wakarusa I felt like I was hitting a groove. I had learned the layout; I knew the strategy of getting around. I knew how to meet up with friends easily. I had learned the secrets of how to bend the rules. Actually on day three there seemed to be very few rules – there were only suggestions. Because of my comfort with the festival vibe and the high caliber of music, Wakarusa Day Three was one of the most enjoyable days I have had at a festival in years.
I continued the strategy of staying out of the sun most of the day until the Black Keys came on the main stage at 5PM. I absolutely love Dan Auerbach’s dirty guitar tone. The Black Keys delivered huge riffs, soulful singing and on point performances of most of the new songs from their new record Brothers. It was well worth standing in 100 degree heat to see it.
Zappa Plays Zappa was up next, also on the main stage. Since seeing this incarnation of the Zappa Plays Zappa band live I have gained a new appreciation for Frank Zappa’s music. The musicianship in the band Dweezil has put together is astounding. I loved the Wakarusa set and was especially excited to hear two of my favorite Zappa instrumentals – Peaches in Regalia and Apostrophe.
READ ON for more of The Joker’s take on Wakarusa…
Both the Black Keys and Zappa Plays Zappa had a sparse crowd, most likely due to the intense heat and lack of shade around the main stage. As I mentioned in previous updates, the Wakarusa crowd comes out in force as the sun goes down and Widespread Panic had a prime time slot just after dusk.
Panic have become pros at the festival super set. No set break needed- the Georgia boys know how to do it and played a monster 151 minute set:
Widespread Panic 6/5/2010
Wakarusa Main Stage
Henry Parsons, Tall Boy> Junior, Holden, North, Dirty Side Down, Im Not Alone, Cotton Was King, Flicker > St. Louis Jam > Surprise Valley > Drums > Surprise Valley > Protein Drink > Sewing Machine, Saint Ex > Machine > Travelin’ Light, Papa’s Home > Rock, Give
E: Up All Night, Pleas > Mr. Soul
Panic played several new songs off the recently released Dirty Side Down that were first-timers for me. The group was playing so well that I truly enjoyed their execution in the live setting of songs that I thought were mediocre on record. Lead guitarist Jimmy Herring and the big man on bass, Dave Schools, were both in fine form, but the experience of being in the field among the party atmosphere at Wakarusa raised the level of this show to greater proportions.
Surprise Valley was perhaps the single greatest moment of Wakarusa for me. From the very first riff the crowd exploded with joy. I got goosebumps as John Bell belted out “kiss the mountain air we breathe!” Fireworks went off from somewhere in the RV camping area just outside the concert field and the sky rained down glowsticks. Roman Candles were launched from the back of the crowd as an ocean of spreadnecks cheered and sang along.
Two sexy girls in bikinis climbed on top of recycling barrels mid crowd and enthusiastically waved a home made Wakarusa flag. The crowd energy and jubilation was electric. The word epic is overused in the scene…but this moment is one that I will always remember as truly being epic.
Sometimes at a big festival there are tough choices to be made when bands overlap. Not at Wakarusa 2010 – we left Panic during the encore, still able to clearly hear Up All Night and Pleas on the walk to Umphrey’s McGee in the Revival Tent. As we walked into the tent, Bridgeless began and we were off on another musical journey.
Umphrey’s McGee, 6/5/2010
Wakarusa – Revival Tent
Bridgeless > Partyin Peeps, In The Kitchen > Bridgeless, Come Closer#, Miss Tinkle’s Overture > Steppin’ Razor > Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Much Obliged > In The Kitchen
E: Cemetery Walk I
#Beatles “Come Together”/Nine Inch Nails “Closer” mash up
Panic may have won the medal for the best moment at Wakarusa, but Umphrey’s McGee wins the medal for best show start to finish with their late night Revival Tent set.
Nights like last evening at Wakarusa are the reason I travel across the country to see music. The tent was as hot and humid as a Birkam yoga studio but the nastiness just added to the intensity of the show. I feel Umphrey’s is playing the best music of their career right now. They make everything look so easy and their tightness is astounding. I simply cannot pick a highlight from this show because the entire thing is straight smoke. I could have listened to them play for another two hours and might have to figure out how I can catch some more Umphrey’s shows this summer.
After having our faces melted by the one-two punch of Panic and Umphrey’s we went to check out Dub Tribe Sound System. I don’t know the story on this band but their sound reminded me of melodic, downtempo, electronica bands like Thievery Corporation or Tosca . We enjoyed the show just outside the tent and gave our legs a break after dancing and sweating for nearly five hours. Dub Tribe delivered melodic soundscapes that seemed to fit the mood whether you wanted to dance, bob your head or catch up with friends.
When I think of staying out late, I think of New York City, New Orleans and Las Vegas. I have officially added Wakarusa to the list of places where it seems like 3AM is early. After Dub Tribe was finished there was more fun to be had. I enjoyed the high energy Wookiefoot set, while OTT threw down the most beautiful electronica set of the weekend.
If there was a person awake at Wakarusa this morning it seemed they were at the Satellite Stage watching Mark Farina spin before Bluetech played his sunrise set. The Satellite Stage bowl was packed to the gills. When Bluetech finally came on at 5:30AM there was a feeling of jubilation and excitement from the crowd. It was the Wakarusa graduation party – we had all made it the the finish line. Three days of music and nothing but smiles. Bluetech’s set was soft and gentle, just what we needed to come down from the intense music we had just witnessed. I found myself socializing with friends new and old – it was the perfect ending to one of my favorite festival experiences ever.
Overall, Wakarusa 2010 was fantastic. The vibe was friendly, the security left us alone and I saw almost no sketchy characters. My only complaint was the heat. I hope next year has a solid lineup once again, I would love to make a return trip to Mulberry Mountain.