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Wakarusa Comes To The Natural State

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Black Crowes headline Wakarusa

Summer Festival Has New Home in the Ozarks

By Brian Washburn


The biggest four days of the summer for Arkansas music junkies is right around the corner. The immensely popular, electro-jam festival Wakarusa is coming up next week and as the dates grow near (June 4-7), so does the anticipation of the fans, bands and promoters. But while lineups, set times, ticket prices, camp grounds and all that good stuff have already been settled, this is still the first year Wakarusa has set up camp in the Ozarks and what the experience will ultimately be like has yet to be seen.
“This will be the sixth year and obviously the first five were outside of Lawrence, Kan., and this one will take place at Mulberry Mountain,” said Wakarusa Festival organizer and director Brett Mosiman. “We decided to do it because we saw the great impact of Bonaroo launch a year or two before that and thought the Midwest needed something like that.
“We were on state property and they were pretty closed-minded about our progress as an event and put pretty strict restrictions on capacity and things you could do and it’s been a long process, but we’ve actually been looking (for a new place) for several years,” Mosiman said. “We’re not going to just move for no reason, we’re moving to a better location. (Mulberry Mountain) is an amazing property on top of a mountain.”
While the festival has been immensely popular in Kansas (the festival is named after the Wakarusa River outside of Lawrence), the move to Mulberry Mountain will ultimately be a move for the better, Mosiman said. With more area, festival organizers are going to add more activities. There will be a Ferris wheel, canoeing, floating and the attraction of the Ozark Mountains and the outstanding natural scenery at Mulberry Mountain.
However, the main draw to Wakarusa is the music and this year’s lineup is proving to be just as strong as ones in the past. Headliners include The Black Crowes, Gov’t Mule, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Les Claypool, G. Love and Special Sauce, Yonder Mountain String Band, Matisyahu, Cross Canadian Ragweed, plus tons more.
“There are a lot of personal favorites in this year’s lineup,” Mosiman said. “There are some bands that we have had before and some that are new and never played the event. We did take into consideration what’s popular in Fayetteville, Tulsa and Little Rock rather than Kansas City.”
Though this year’s lineup is attracting people from all over the state, the price of admission, camping and the recent economic downturn is taking its toll on Wakarusa this year. Tickets jumped to $140, but Mosiman said the price is a “pretty reasonable service charge.”
Even with the price of admission to Wakarusa, a person’s day at the festival might be like a vacation, especially with the new, loosened regulations Wakarusa have at Mulberry Mountain.
“An average day might be wake up, go visit a coffee vendor, take a hike to the river, take a dip, splash around in water. The music will start at 10 or 11. Nearly 30 bands a day on four stages, so music runs continuously and into the wee hours of the evening. Arts and crafts vendors will be on site and food vendors are on site. You might want to go take a balloon ride or Ferris wheel ride. There are plenty of activities for families and kids, just a wonderful vacation for the price of a hotel room in Chicago or St. Louis and you get a four-day first-class vacation with bands from around the planet playing multiple sets,” Mosiman said.
The location change might affect the turnout, but Mosiman believes the number of attendees will go up as a result of the new venue. Because of this, festival organizers plan to keep Wakarusa at Mulberry Mountain as a long-term home.
“We really couldn’t be more pleased with the site owners. They’ve spent a ton of money making it a really wonderful vacation site. It’s a pretty cool place to go year round, take a day float or a day or hike. They have cabins on the site and it’s a great place to spend the weekend,” Mosiman said.
Even though the people running Wakarusa have added several new attractions, changed locations and are attempting new things to attract more people, they feel their “midlevel festival” compares positively with the rest of the nation’s festivals.
“We have been doing this for decades in one form or another. It’s a great value and at the end of the day it’s less than half the price ofBonaroo,” Mosiman said. “If you break it down into sets by bands, you’re paying less than a dollar a set and getting to camp and everything is available on site.
“It’s a great value and it’s a great time. You meet lots of friends from all over the country and one unique thing, even though it’s a midlevel festival, we’ve sold tickets in all 50 states the last four years and in six or seven countries. People come from all over,” Mosiman said.
Wakarusa tickets can be purchased at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, at Sticky Fingerz in Little Rock or on the festival’s Web site. Tickets for specific days can be purchased and four-day passes are also available, which allows access to the entire festival and camping for the four days.
Wakarusa features many artists that are familiar to Northwest Arkansas music fans, but there will also be some acts that have not played in the NWA area before.
“We’ve got multiple sets from bluegrass, rock bands, DJs, electronic, folk acts and alt-country. A little bit of something for everybody all in Mother Nature,” Mosiman said. “It’s so cool to be outdoors in the woods watching a killer bluegrass band.”


Wakarusa Performers
* The Black Crowes
* Gov’t Mule
* STS9
* Yonder Mountain String Band
* Les Claypool
* G. Love and Special Sauce
* Matisyahu
* Gomez
* Cross Canadian Ragweed
* Shpongle – DJ Set
* Galactic
* Buckethead
* Sly & Robbie
* Railroad Earth
* Steve Kimock Crazy Engine featuring Melvin Seals
* PRAANG
* Porter Batiste Stoltz
* Perpetual Groove
* JJ Grey & Mofro
* Jimmy Herring Band
* The Egg
* 20/20 Soundsystem
* Lucero
* Split Lip Rayfield
* The New Mastersounds
* Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
* EOTO
* Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue
* Secret Chiefs 3
* Boombox
* New Monsoon
* Moonalice
* Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
* Ott
* Ganga Giri
* Cornmeal
* Joe Purdy
* Telepath
* Jessie Baylin
* Langhorne Slim
* Dusty Rhodes and the River Band
* Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm
* Big Smith
* Josh Phillips Folk Festival
* Dirtfoot
* Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
* Elmwood
* Pretty Lights
* Heavyweight Dub Champion
* Underground Orchestra
* DJ Rekha
* Chuck Love
* Wax Fang
* The Heavy Pets
* Old School Freight Train
* Mishka
* Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights
* My Dear Disco
* Radiohiro presents DubFi Soundsystem
* Blue Mountain
* Hoots and Hellmouth
* Burnin’ Smyrnans
* Scythian
* Public Property
* Madahoochi
* Elephant Revival
* Euforquestra
* Hana Pestle
* The Hood Internet
* My-Tea Kind
* Home
* Paul Benjaman Band
* Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers
* Turbine
* Mayola
* Spoonfed Tribe
* Charliehorse
* Uncle Lucius
* Reelfoot
* David Hasselhoff on Acid
* Mountain Standard Time
* Blue Martian Tribe
* GEM
* Spotting Waldo
* The Running Wild Band
* The Moai Broadcast
* Damn Bullets
* The Corduroy
* Green Sugar
* LFDC Funk
* Gum

Complete schedule at wakarusa.com.

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