By Brian Washburn
The Ozarks are about to be filled with thousands of people clamoring around stages in an Ozark pasture, surrounded by trees and a national forest, for the sweet sounds of chill music, all while basking in the summer sun and cool June nights. Tie-dye shirts will be plentiful and showers optional. Nature will converge with the congestion caused by those spending four days in a tent and in their own state of mind who are just wanting to listen to good music and have their own unique experience.
It’s the time of year when Wakarusa will set up camp for the second time at Mulberry Mountain, about an hour east of Fayetteville.
The groove/jam festival — with plenty of roots, rock and electronica — relocated to Mulberry Mountain from its original location on the Wakarusa River near Lawrence, Kan. The already extremely successful four-day concert is primed to take it up a notch this year.
The festival opens June 3, runs through June 6 and feature headliners Widespread Panic, STS9, Umphrey’s McGee, The Disco Biscuits, The Black Keys, Blues Traveler, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, John Butler Trio, Bassnectar, Slightly Stoopid, plus many more nationally known artists and many up-and-comers who want to overshadow those on the main stage — much like Pretty Lights did last year.
With 150 acts playing 200 sets, attendees will not have to travel far from their campsite to find the music that’s perfect for them. Though the music attracts people from Illinois to Maine and Massachusetts, the music is not the only attraction.
“We have added quite a few elements,” said Wakarusa organizer Brett Mosiman. “We will have a huge laser show Thursday night. We will have several carnival rides, including a seven-story Ferris wheel. We’ll have a silent disco, which should be awesome. We have music 24/7 now with the addition of our coffeehouse sets in the morning. We’ve added a stage, making it five total stages now, that will go until 8 a.m. There’s a beach party costume contest, a parade and a Sunday morning gospel grass set by Big Smith. No one will be bored.”
However, with the response from last year’s festival and the rate at which tickets sold for Wakarusa 2010, it doesn’t seem as if anyone was bored last year, either.
“It’s a great experience, just great atmosphere, great people and great music,” said University of Arkansas student and Fayetteville resident Zack Allen who attended Wakarusa for the first time last year.
While music fans will definitely have their fair share of activities and sets to watch, they will have the problem of choosing between overlapping sets from some of the festival’s favorite bands.
For instance, choosing between Robert Randolph and the Family Band and country singer-songwriter Hayes Carll on opening night, and electronica act BoomBox and the ever-popular festival headliner Widespread Panic on Saturday night (June 5). But problems like these do not overshadow the overall experience of Wakarusa and the growing popularity of the event.
“Ticket sales are way up and the feedback has been extremely positive to the line-up and the event in general,” Mosiman said.
VIP passes, prime camping passes and parking passes next to the main stage sold out quickly. If you don’t have tickets, a four-day pass is $159, plus a satellite camping fee of $66.
It appears the word has leaked out about the success of the Mulberry Waka, and fans have flocked to get tickets and camping early to be a part of the Wakarusa experience, one that is about as surprising as it is enjoyable with the number of lesser-known acts who will capture the ears, minds and hearts of those who get the opportunity to catch them in an intimate environment on the cool June nights in the Ozark Mountains.
Even though the main stages attract many of the thousands of fans attending the festival, there are several other tents and smaller stages where bands that have a cult following and are catching on in the jam or electronica-techno music scene will be playing.
This was extremely potent last year when Colorado DJ Derek Vincent Smith, better known to his following as Pretty Lights, packed one of Wakarusa’s smaller tents and put on what could only be described as the set of the weekend.
This was also evident when the concert organizers set up a late-late night show at 2 a.m. with festival favorites STS9 in one of the smaller tents and put on what was basically a rave party for all involved, much to the liking of the band and the fans.
A few lesser-known artists attempting to build a following or steal the show at this year’s Wakarusa include Truth & Salvage Co., Constellations, Rebulution, Mishka, Tipper and Black Joe Lewis, Mosiman said.
While it was an amazing experience for most of those who attended Wakarusa last year, Mosiman had expected a learning curve and a few setbacks to occur the first year at the new venue. However, he and his crew found very few problems for the festival’s inaugural Mulberry Mountain set up.
“Usually the learning curve is a little less forgiving, but it went very smoothly last year all things considered,” Mosiman said. “There are certain challenges with it being in such a remote location, but we have one of the best festival staffs anywhere and they really know what they are doing.”
Much credit does go to the Wakarusa staff for making the transition from Kansas to Arkansas a smooth process, no doubt the overall feel and atmosphere helped affirm the move down south.
“The vibe was definitely more relaxed and more positive. The site was much more manageable,” Mosiman said. “The support and cooperation (in Arkansas) blew us away.”
The support and positive atmosphere has led festival organizers to feel like they are going to host Wakarusa at Mulberry Mountain for the long haul.
“We had a great experience in Arkansas and at our new home at Mulberry Mountain. I really believe it is one of the best festival sites in the country all things considered,” Mosiman said. “Everyone really made us feel welcome and were very helpful. It definitely feels like home. We love it; the fans and artists love it and we hope we’re here for a nice long run.”
Festivals like Lollapalooza in Chicago, Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Coachella in California offer their own experience, but it is nothing compared to the music fanatics and bands that can be found in the Ozarks during Wakarusa. Music junkies travel to the Ozarks from all over the nation to attend this event. It is a point to hold in pride and respect that the nation’s one-of-a-kind, unique and, at times, bizarre festival experience takes place in Fayetteville’s backyard.
WAKARUSA ARTIST LINEUP
THURSDAY, JUNE 6
Disco Biscuits, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, 7 Walkers with Papa Mali and Bill Kreutzmann, Todd Snider, Tiffany Christopher, Shannon McNally, Jay Nash, The Hypsys, Fatty Lumpkin, Mountain Sprout, Missed the Boat, Groundwork, The Moai Broadcast, Mother Hips, Split Lip Rayfield, Shannon McNally & Hot Sauce, Somasphere, Band of Heathens, Hoots & Hellmouth, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, The Heavy Pets, Truckstop Honeymoon, Earl Greyhound, Rocket Science, Oakhurst, Hayes Carll, Pimps of Joytime, WWDJ, Groovement, Fort Knox Five, Railroad Earth. Spankalicious, Helen Keller Nation, Resident Anti Hero, Cquence, The Machine, EZ Brothers, Dirtfoot, Lotus, LYNX & Janover, Defunct vs Shabb Ruffcut, BoomBox, Tortured Soul, Miss J, Kraak & Smaak, MiMosa, Vaxination.
FRIDAY, JUNE 7
STS9, Umphreys McGee, The Constellations, Julia Peterson, Funkotron, Jay Nash, Zoogma, Goodpaper, The Bridge, Starroy, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstphunk, Truckstop Honeymoon, Black Joe Lewis, 3 Son Green, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Cash’d Out, Brother Bagman, Inflect aka Brett Smith, JJ Grey & Mofro, Trampled By Turtles, Earl Greyhound, Wolf-E-Wolf, Railroad Earth. Dirtfoot, Spoonfed Tribe, D Jason, Umphrey’s McGee, The Midland Band, Pimps of Joytime, WWDJ, Supervillains, Tiffany Christopher, Big Gigantic, Rebelution, Hoots & Hellmouth, Johnny C, Future Rock, Bill Pile, Bassnectar, Deadman Flats, Jeremy Word-Kid Icarus, EOTO, Tea Leaf Green, Dead PA, Sub Swara, Spacemen, Tipper, Clandestine.
SATURDAY, JUNE 8
Widespread Panic, The Black Keys, Fishbone, Dweezil Zappa Plays Zappa, Blues Traveler, Mathew Mayfield, Flatland Travelers, Pete Francis, Bootleg, Beach Party, Truth & Salvage Co., Hundred Hand String Band, Cirrus Minor, That One Guy, Trampled by Turtles, Tea Leaf Green, The Uglysuit, Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Black Joe Lewis, Nadis Warriors, Passafire, Ben Miller Band, Tim Hjersted vs Alan Paul, Ekoostik Hookah, Backyard Tire Fire, WWDJ, Last Waltz Ensemble, The Giving Tree Band, Funk Philosophy, Slightly Stoopid, Justin Sane, Boom Box, JJ Grey & Mofro, Good Gravy, Sunshine Jones, James Zabiela, FSTZ, Umphrey’s McGee, Split Lip Rayfield, Dave Brock, Dub Tribe Soundsystem, Wookiefoot, Radio Hiro with MC Zulu, Ott, Mark Farina, Bluetech, Doohickey.
SUNDAY, JUNE 9
Big Smith, Wes Kirkpatrick, Pete Francis, Mathew Mayfield, The Uglysuit, Indofin, Speakeasy, The Incredible Sandwich, Jake Jackson, Spoonfed Tribe, Astral Landscapes, Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, That One Guy, Randy Soeung, Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, Mary Jane, Mishka, Backyard Tire Fire, Simplified, MonadKiysuren aka TURK, Funk Philosophy, State Radio, Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Kinetix, Echo Base, John Butler Trio, Mountain Sprout, Last Waltz Ensemble, Two Fresh.