Countdown to Wakarusa 2013
Amidst the lush rolling hills and wondrous greenery of the Ozark Mountains, thousands gather each year for one of the country’s premier camping music festivals. Wakarusa, now on its tenth year, is home to an eclectic music line up that runs the gambit from electronic Djs to rock acts to bluegrass to funk and is sure to provide ample musical refreshment for even the newest comers to the “scene.” And what a scene it is. Wanderers and travelers from far and wide, adorned with outfits containing all the colors of the rainbow accented by creative pendants, furry hoods and booties, and garments that light up and glow come night time. They came to party, to get down, and to have the best weekend of their lives, again.
Coming near the beginning of the festival season, Wakarusa is one of the best ways to kick off the summer with a proverbial bang. As an attendee of the festival for the past five years I’ve seen it bloom from a wonderful small festival into the yearly behemoth that it is now. The logistical challenges of providing accommodations for ever growing crowds has been accomplished beautifully by the festival producers, allowing for the freedom of a smaller festival and the wild and crazy atmosphere of the larger. Wakarusa walks a perfect line in terms of structure and security, allowing for the atmosphere of controlled chaos most needed at a festival to allow for the elements of creative expression and community exchange to arise organically. People peddle handmade goods and trinkets on the hood of cars or along the stretches of vendor tents that line the walkway down to the main stage area. The quality and diversity of goods displayed by vendors coming from all corners of the country is truly a compliment to the wide-reaching draw of the festival.
The daytime heat leads many to seek shelter and shade within the sprawling rows of multi-colored canopies and tarps that adorn the camping area. Weaving through this maze of tents and cars one finds small pockets of people and little hang out communities filled with those resting and relaxing, feeding and boozing, or possibly crafting new projects or repairing rage-staffs and totems from the previous night’s festivities. A short hike down the hill from the stage area one can find a creek and small waterfall that provide one of the coolest festival hangout areas around. Splashing around or standing ankle deep in the cool water one enjoys conversations with others, gentle music from guitars dragged down the hill, and possibly even the creative act of building one of the numerous stone pile structures that can be found up and down the river by the end of the weekend. Going back up the hill the sounds coming from the stages draw closer and closer, bringing one back into the musical world they traveled oh so many miles to immerse themselves in.
Come night time the festival is transformed from the wondrous green landscape of the Ozarks into a sea of glowing neon and RGB color changing lights. The stages and dance tents are all wonderfully decorated and adorned with hanging orbs and illuminated fabric stretched into star-like patterns. The sound quality is excellent at each of the festival’s five stages and the orientation of the dance tents prevents the unfortunate inter-mixing of sound. The two large dance tents, where during the daytime many sit and relax to escape the sun, become a sea of loving dancing bodies come nightfall. One overhears and sees the all too common disagreement among groups of friends over what set to see and what stage to be at, which can be problematic given Wakarusa’s stellar line-up year in and year out. The night continues, the music only gets better and before too long the big name acts have come and gone and the main stages are emptied for the night. It is here that Wakarusa truly shines as a festival. Whereas other festivals provide music until three or four and then shut-down, and others only supply a silent disco area for all-night revelers, Wakarusa has a wonderful Satellite Stage that becomes the late-night hot spot where many keep the party going all the way up through the dawn. For many, the arrival of the sun means it is time to return to the tent, rest, relax, and then rage and repeat.
For a constant traveler and professional festival hopper such as myself, Wakarusa is a haven for the soul and provides ample stomping ground to release one’s wild self, the inner dance-maniac often penned up for months waiting to be released within the comfort and anonymity of the pulsating crowd. Amidst the revelers, those crazy spirits bouncing up and down, sashaying to and fro, and becoming beautifully lost in the effervescent sounds spilling out of the speakers and seeping into their ears, one can find peace, tranquility, and often chaos. This is where the beautiful occurs, this is where one begins to believe the awesome. Events like Wakarusa give the opportunity and freedom to find the fun and love and community that so many find missing from the day-to-day humdrum of the work or school year schedule. For just the briefest period of time the many can become one in mindset and in feeling amid the sweaty shaking mass of the crowd.
So that was my take of Wakarusa and I hope you enjoyed it. I would love the opportunity to blog for this site at Waka this year and to do my best to pin down the beauty and magic that occurs each summer during weekend festivals throughout the country. Wakarusa is one of the best festivals I have been to and I am well versed in the music acts that are playing this year and can rattle off countless reams of paper on bands like Widespread, STS9, Umphrey’s, EOTO, Yonder, Emancipator, Tipper, and the many others on the bill. I love checking out the smaller acts just as much as the bigger ones and since I have been around the “scene” a good bit I have no problem forgoing a big name or a favorite act in order to get the scoop on a smaller or lesser known artist. I write fast (essentially wrote this in a one hour sitting) and I like to think I write well, or at least well enough to suit the pallet of your readers. Give me a chance, throw me a line, and help me get back to the wondrous Ozark mountains for Wakarusa this summer. Love and life.