Wakarusa 2011: Café Con Leche’s take
Remember Wakarusa, you guys?! No? Oh, my bad. It’s been almost three months since this year’s Wakarusa hit the Natural State and you still haven’t seen our photos. Let me correct that. But seriously, who stole Summer? It’s gone by so fast.
Wakarusa was fabulous this year. The line-up was great, and it made it really hard to catch everything on the must-see list. Next year, I’m taking my bike to get me from one stage to the next.
I knew I’d have a blast seeing Ben Harper & Relentless7, Mumford & Sons, Ozomatli, and Michael Franti & Spearhead; but I also came home with new favorites, like Mat McHugh of The Beautiful Girls, Here Come The Mummies, Kinetix, Ha Ha Tonka, Hugo, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, and MarchFourth Marching Band.
Keep reading for photos and top fave sets from Waka 2011.
Top 3 Favorite Headliners:
I had great intentions of exploring new bands, but I’m not going to pretend I did as much as I wanted to. I tried, but the main stage line-up was too awesome to spend too much time wandering around anywhere else. So here are my top 3 favorite headliner acts:
Mumford & Sons
When you get goosebumps over a show that you saw three months ago, you know it was quite the experience. The set began with “Sigh No More” and the crowd roared. It was the perfect set, balanced with beloved hits and new songs like “Bellow My Feet,” “Lover of the Light,” and “Lovers Eyes.” Bringing it to the grand closing with “The Cave.” I’m sure I wasn’t the only one on cloud nine at that point. I’m still smiling. I’m positive this set brought the biggest crowd to the main stage. Mumford, Winston, Lovett, and Dwane, along with other supporting musicians, did an excellent job that day. The intimate lyrics and their love for their music made the Wakarusa stop an unforgettable show.
Ben Harper & Relentless7
One of the sets I had looked forward to the most, Ben Harper & Relentless7, surpassed my expectations. Harper nailed it, when he started the set with “Burn One Down,” talk about knowing your audience! The band played new material, like “Don’t Give Up On Me Now,” “Clearly Severely,” and the first single from his most recent album, “Rock N Roll Is Free.” They covered Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and Neil Young’s “Ohio,” which blew music lovers’ minds. Harper & Relentless7 rocked hard, you could even find a few Waka artists in the VIP crowd, including Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons. It was great to see the band really enjoying themselves while in Arkansas. Lead guitarist, Jason Mozersky (aka Moz), sported an Arkansas Razorbacks baseball shirt; and Harper gave the Hogs a shout out after the first couple of songs, which sent the semi-sober crowd into an inevitable, and quite honestly, amusing attempt to Calling The Hogs. It was awesome, ya’ll.
I was SO excited to catch these guys at Waka. TWICE! It was their first time in Arkansas and it was my first time seeing them live. The L.A. band has been around for about 15 years, and they’ve gone beyong making great Latin-funk-rock music; In 2007, they were named Cultural Ambassadors by the U.S. State Department. I had originally planned to only catch their main stage set on Saturday afternoon, but after the great dance party they threw under the extra hot sun, I decided to stay for their set on Sunday night. They closed out Waka at the Revival Tent on Sunday with an even hotter set. SO MUCH DANCING. Don’t ever missed them, if they come to a stage near you. They’ll have you dancing and speaking Spanglish in no time!
Top 3 Unexpected Favorites:
Here Come The Mummies
Come Sunday, the main stage had closed at Wakarusa and the camping was starting to empty out, but that doesn’t mean the quality and/or quantity of acts diminished. In fact, some of my favorites played Sunday evening, so I decided to stay till the very end. One of the acts that was on my list since a few days prior to Waka was Here Come The Mummies. I wasn’t familiar with their music, but I wanted to see if they’ll really play in full mummy costume in the early June, Arkansas heat (and it was HOT, yo!) So I went to see them and yes, they were all dressed as mummies and they were awesome. Play that funky music, dead boy? They were one of the best sets to photograph, with all their props, dance moves and facial expressions. Watch for the photo post for more of them. And check out their music. If you live in Northwest Arkansas, get excited, they’re coming to George’s in December!
MarchFourth Marching Band
The MarchFourth Marching Band wasn’t limited to a stage, they took the party everywhere around the mountain. I first saw them at the costume parade on Friday evening. They headed the parade and ended up at the foot of the main stage. What a party! After the parade, they just didn’t stop. I ran into them again around 1am and they were still going strong, with a huge crowd following them around, dancing. I’m not sure what the stage experience was like, but the party around the festival grounds was a great touch. I hope they come back to Wakarusa every year, it definitely added a great deal of life to the festival.
A few months ago, I went to see John Butler Trio at the House of Blues in Dallas. We got there just in time for JBT, just to find out that The Beautiful Girls (TBG) had been the opening act. My heart sank when I found out I had just missed them, knowing I’d probably wouldn’t get a chance to see the Aussie group anytime soon. So when I saw Mat. McHugh, lead singer and composer for TBG, on the Waka lineup, I thanked the universe for the second chance. And what a second chance! McHugh played solo, sharing old and new songs. And he was surprised to find out people in the middle of the States knew TBG music. It was an instant favorite for me. But I have a weakness for surfers and mellow reggae-rock, so his set just hit the spot.
Wakarusa 2011 was epic! Make sure you make your way to Mulberry Mountain for next year’s fest.