Flock to Wakarusa 2012
I can’t believe I let this slip under my radar until the eve of the day the contest ends but alas, that’s how it’s happened so I’m just doin’ this thing on the fly. Which is befitting for the situation in which I’d find myself writing during the festival for you all you who care to read the authentic rants of verisimilitude, from a hapless junkie of all things funky, loud, poetic, offensive, bizarre, and truly awe-inspiring… then I believe this is the perfect chance for me to showcase that I’m the man for the job. A dazzlingly talented midwest fella from the Great Lakes State who has the exceptional ability to often turn procrastinated scribbles and taps of the keyboard into nuggets of beautifully-crafted surreal integrity. Like learning a great truth in a dream and fighting to remember it as your morning dissipates, my writing will offer you sincere correspondence on many levels. Not just about the music… we all know that we’re there for god damn music. But there is a lot more to be said about the atmosphere in what is sure to be a fabled four days of rumble and rabble at mulberry mountain, Ozark Arkansas. Guaranteed the only place in Arkansas where you can get your fuckin’ kicks like this ladies and gentlemen. I’ve spent the past four or five years chasing a degree in English, as well as adventures of the mind body and soul in these dark years of our lord, called the second millennium! Creative non-fiction writing and poetry being my main areas of study at Michigan State University in the past half decade have provided me with ample opportunities compose the worthy stories of my experiences at concerts and festivals, and project the images on the inside of reader’s eyelids. Like a midnight movie of all those unforgettable riffs, beats; all the twisted faces flickering on your brain screen as you relive those moments in which you actually felt alive. Despite tearing cross-country accumulating new friends, and faded memories of great set-lists at some of the most conscience exploding festivals this nation has to offer, I have consistently kicked myself in the ass for missing Wakarusa the past 4 or 5 years. I can’t dream of a more proper way to pop my Mulberry Mountain cherry.
When I checked the lineup for this year, the first thing I saw was a picture of Derek Vincent Smith’s face. I was immediately reminded of the story I am reminded of every time I see the mug of the Pretty Lights Music brainchild. My ex-girlfriend was really into PL after the first time I’d introduced her to their music at the second round of Rothbury. So that following year we went and saw him probably 6 or 7 times at least, tapping it off at his new years eve show at the Vic with the largest tent I’ve pitched in public thanks to the sexy black dress donned by previously mentioned ex-girlfriend. Her name is Amanda for sake of easier story telling and she looked so gorgeous that NYE that I doubt the raging hard on suffocating in my trousers went unnoticed by a single Windy City stranger we happened to pass that night. Well a couple months before that on a previous trip down to Chicago, my impression of Derek was forever solidified with a belly full of mints and Jameson. Amanda and I had a couple girlfriends from Muskegon (west side of MI, way chiller people since they live on the water), who had met Derek at a recent show and said that he had invited us onto his party bus before the show that night. I’m sure when he had invited “us”, that wasn’t meant to include the tag-a-long boyfriend chained like a true cock-block to the three supple groupie candidates. It was seconds after shaking hands with Derek and former drummer Cory Eberhard that I was nursing another strong whiskey drink and complimenting them on an Atmosphere sample placed at the end of “Ask Your Friends”. To my surprise Derek brushed off my verbal offering of respect without even a thanks or flash of eye contact. I’m a midwest boy so I was taught to mind my P’s and Q’s, even if you had started drinking whiskey on the 2 pm train out of Michigan City, Indiana, and strapped to the nostrils with a solid buzz by the time your train stopped in Chicago, Illinois. But I followed suit and silently wrote off the absent gesture. It wasn’t until after my third whiskey sour and a few stern slow your roll glances from Amanda that I overstepped my boundaries and had apparently broken the “first rule of the bus”. While on the subject of what we considered to be truly dope hip-hop, I mentioned that I dabbled in battling and had been known to compose a few verses of my own. I don’t think I made it to the end of the first rhyme before Derek announced that I had infringed upon the first governing law of his tour bus. And since these lips have never been pursed and ready to kiss any ass for simply being famous… I decided my time had come to exit the Pretty Lights party bus and join the rest of my midwest folk inside the club. I left my ex and her two girlfriends to sit and waft Derek’s rose petal farts in the cramped quarters of the coach. It was amazing how quickly my own girl and two of my close friends pretended that they had not encouraged me to spit a verse on several other occasions. It was amazing how their attitudes changed in the presence of at the time, a slightly well known musician.
But I learned something from that first and lasting impression of Derek Vincent Smith; just because I think he’s a tool or we don’t see eye to eye on who’s the most gifted rapper doesn’t change the fact that he is producing some of the hottest shit around the independent music scene today. I love a good Tarantino flick as much as a climax with an above average looking girl, but that doesn’t mean that I’d enjoy a forced conversation with the man at a Hollywood party. You don’t have to love the artist to respect the fact that they are providing not only art but love to all their devoted fans. And that love for the soulful and hip productions that could get your gram gram swayin’ in her wheelchair, is the reason that we all should be very excited to see what Pretty Lights has in store for us this summer.
Wakarusa is the best festival to not only get your moneys worth but leave with over-exercised smile muscles and sores on your swollen tongue from the constant ingestion of true chemistry. Among some of the reasons this is true lie in a list of seasoned veterans. Any chance to see Les Claypool play with the original members of Primus is nothing short of a miracle sprinkled on us earthlings from the spirit of universe or whatever bullshit the digital hippies believe in now-a-days. Seeing Les Claypool tear it up not only with Primus but in his Flying Frog Brigade in my two years at Rothbury have made me a firm believer that the man must have mutant space spiders for fingers. He is quite simply the most impressive and unique being to plunge his bass lines into our ever so welcoming ear-pussies.
What can be said about Umphrey’s besides the fact that I have never seen them play anything short of amazing. And if you like surprises, well they are chock full of em. Like they’re impromptu set with Matisyahu at the first Rothbury to their classic cuts with Huey Lewis at last years Summercamp Music Festival. One thing is sure, you won’t want to miss your chance to swim through the beautiful radiant purple, pinks, and yellows that swirl the night sky as they shred away.
As I seem to be encountering the dwindling minutes of time remaining before this thing is due, I’d like to express my excitement for several other names of Wakarusa’s impressive list of guests. If you missed Papadosio last year, be sure to check out their loyal fanbase begging for bigger and louder waves of their signature psychedelic-electro-rock. And for those of you who don’t know the true magic of vinyl, be sure to check out RJD2, one of the most respected instrumentalists and hip-hop producers still displaying his chops on the analogue gear he loves so dearly.
Well If i had more time I would be chomping at the bit to share more stories and reasons for why I would be outrageously stoked and honored at the privilege to write/blog or whatever the fuck you want to call it, for your website. I guarantee that my coverage of the festival will be a great way for attendees to relive the moments we all struggle to permanently commit to memory, in addition to convincing those not in attendance why this will be the last year they miss Waka. It never ceases to blow me away that so many poor bastards are going about their daily lives oblivious to their chance to walk the trails of heaven from May 31 to June 3 in Ozark Arkansas. I hope you enjoyed this short sample I whipped together faster than Rick Ross and some coke in a kitchen because I would love to share more If you feel that I’m fit for the job.
Stephen Jennings O’Neil