Festivities were fully underway yesterday with the first band, War Chief, kicking off at noon in the Backwoods Stage. With so many outstanding acts, it was not always easy for fans to choose where to be and what sounds to immerse themselves in, but it's hard to go wrong. The weather was overcast and cool for the morning, offering fans a chance to explore without the heat glaring down on them. Most of the 4-day attendees have arrived overnight and begun to form neighborhoods in the main venue camping area. My day started with a leisurely tour around the perimeter of the festival, which is a circuit surrounding the main camping area. This year the entrance to the Revival & Outpost tents is through the same gateway as the Main Stage, which makes it easier to travel from act to act and sample the sounds. I meandered through the art structures and giant puppets on display and listened to ALO play their first time slot until it was time for my first band interview with Rubblebucket.
The notoriety of this psychedelic indie rock band growing and picking up fans as they appeared on festival lineups such as High Sierra Music Festival 2010 to Bonnaroo 2012. Rubblebucket has worked with artists like The Infamous Stringdusters, and the band is eager to get back in the studio after they are done engaging fans on the festival circuit. Band leader/trumpeter Alex Toth and singer/saxophonist Kalmia Traver met with me in the artist's lounge area off of the Main Stage. We spoke about how their live act fits into the festival scene at a place like Wakarusa. The charm of a Rubblebucket show is, according to Kal, the atmosphere of interactive expression that they have designed to bring listeners into an active role. Alex says he hopes to annihilate the wall between the crowd and the performers with dancing robots and a tunnel of love for fans to dance with. Between the funky pop and rock sounds and art moving through the crowd, it's impossible to be bored during their show (it's clear the band members are enjoying themselves as well; I saw him crowd-surfing while playing the trumpet!). The band dances as they play, and more finely tuned ears will zero in on the musical techniques and coherence of the eight-piece ensemble. Although you'll be missing out on the dancing and general merriment of their live show, I urge you to give them a listen on your computer. Their latest full album, Omega La La is available on their website or for streaming at SoundCloud.com. They play again today at 5:30 at the Outpost Tent.
Early in the evening at the Outpost, the Heartless Bastards played their first of two sets. As I listened to Erika Wennerstrom strumming and gracing us with the big sound of her vocals, a passerby began asking me for more information about her. He had been walking past and was smitten by the voice on stage and was instantly hooked. Later that night, fans began collecting toward the Main Stage in a steady stream to hear Weir, Robinson, and Greene Acoustic Trio. As the sun went down, their harmonic sounds warmed up the crowd and seemed a perfect fit in the chilly mountain air. Their sound is so smooth and yet so rugged at the same time. At one point the trio took turns with solo performances, each performing a tune. It was calm and cool and quite comfortable with fans singing along and taking in the sounds.
Later the Main Stage Area would be full again with a huge crowd partying to Pretty Lights. Glow toys and fire spinners covered every available space in the field. I was pretty worn out by this point, so I found a spot at the Backwoods Stage to sit and watch a Wakarusa favorite, Split Lip Rayfield, as they entertained and made it hard to keep your toe from tapping. The Backwoods Stage feels a bit like your average outdoor venue and offers a close-up vantage point to see your favorite artists. Split Lip will be playing again on today as well in the Revival Tent, and I look forward to speaking with them at a press conference at some point this weekend.
It's time for me to plot out my day and get ready for a sunny afternoon of amazing music. My camping friends and I have decided to make the journey down to the waterfall at some point, so I need to wear my hiking shoes. I can't think of a better way to spend the first day of June.