The Beginning of it All - Wakarusa Music Festival

On Wednesday evening, June 1, I set out on my way to Ozark, Arkansas, for Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival, my first ever campout mega-fest and my first festival of the summer. 

 After a cramped 14 hour ride (I sat with a full-sized djembe in my lap) with old friends and some new, I was beyond excited to get to Mulberry Mountain. My ride had done street teaming, so we had the hookup on a special camping spot. When we finally arrived, there was quite a bit of confusion over where we were supposed to be camping, and we were sent back and forth between festival workers who knew little more than we did. But, that confusion made it possible for three of the people in our car to sneak into the festival. Eventually we got our tent set up right behind one of the stages, which was great for seeing music, but not so great for sleeping (I went to bed Friday with Skrillex’s distorted bass screaming in my ear – not exactly a lullaby). 

My first show on Thursday was The Pimps of Joytime, a funky FloydFest favorite that always puts on a great live show. I’ve seen these guys several times all over Virginia, and even got to jam a drum circle with Brian J. and Chauncey after a Floyd show. Immediately after The Pimps, I raged front row at Papadosio, jamtronica currently residing in Asheville, NC, and a personal favorite. I got to say hi to Billy Brouse (keys) before the show and later ran into his brother Sam at one of the free water stations set up throughout the festival grounds. 


(Sidenote: Thank you Waka for providing free water; I hate paying $5 a bottle. The waterfall and the river were pretty legit, too. Otherwise, the upward of 90 degree daytime temperatures would have been unbearable.) 

Some other memorable shows of the weekend were: STS9 (2 sets), Galactic, The New Deal, Big Gigantic, Two Fresh and John Brown’s Body (it sounded a bit like the lead singer was losing his voice).  Big G, members Dominic Lalli (production/sax) and Jeremy Salken (drums), packed the Outpost tent Saturday night and played one of the best shows of the weekend. 

The New Deal

Sunday morning I headed out to a drum circle, got lost on my way to the stage, and ran into an old friend from last year’s Pink Moon Festival. The drum circle, led by Brandon Draper of Quixotic, was extremely refreshing and the high point of my festival experience. 

Our plan was to leave Sunday night right after the last show, because my ride needed to be back by 5 p.m. on Monday (we didn’t actually make it back until 7 p.m.).  However, it became apparent that we wouldn’t have enough gas money to get home when we realized that the other three who had ridden with us would be continuing on the festy trail, not returning to Blacksburg. 

Dilemma: Do I call my mom and ask for money (so lame) or do I try to peddle the handmade jewelry I brought to make up the difference? I chose the latter, and my ride and I set out to make a few bucks. Security had been tightened on the last day, because someone had apparently blown up a porta potty (I don’t know either), so now they were actually searching bags, where before they had just been giving them a gentle rub down. Since unauthorized vending wasn’t allowed, and I certainly hadn’t paid for a vendor’s license, we had to find another point of entry. 

Just a man and his van

I guess we weren’t the only ones looking for another way in, as a section of the fence lining the main camping area had already been lifted. So we scooted under in time for the last show, a set by EOTO followed by EOTO & Friends. EOTO & Friends consisted of Michael Travis and Jason Hahn of EOTO joined by David Satori and Sidecar Tommy of Beats Antique. The resulting sound remained pretty EOTO-esque; I was expecting more of a gypsy house influence from Beats Antique. But it seemed to be putting people in the mood to spend, and I was able to sell enough jewelry to get home.

All in all, Waka was a fantastic way to start off the festy season. I met tons of cool people and artists, danced, laughed, got lost and found myself again, all with beautiful mountain scenery as the backdrop. I already can’t wait to go back to Mulberry Mountain next year. Waka Waka WAKA!

Printed in 16 Blocks Magazine
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