Wakarusa 2011 Day One
A few years have passed since I last roughed it in the great outdoors and in the interim I’ve realized that I truly appreciate the wonders of modern life…you know, the basics like running water, air conditioning, and queen-sized mattresses are not to be taken for granted. However, we’ve got a really nice tent, a pretty sweet camping spot, and we packed well, so I’m not exactly Tom Hanks washed up onshore in Castaway. What brings the thousands and myself to the rolling hills of Arkansas is the great music and communal atmosphere, both of which were on display throughout Thursday’s official opening day. There are five music stages scattered throughout the camping grounds, a headlining stage appropriately titled Main Stage, and a second slightly smaller stage hanging under a canopy dubbed the Revival Tent. Smaller more intimate stages bear the names Outpost, Satellite, and Backwoods, found literally in the backwoods reaches of the grounds.
This stage may be one of the coolest things we’ve stumbled upon so far. After turning right into a smaller campsite, you enter a screening gate and find yourself in a small clearing of woods anchored by a tiny, log-cabin stage. It’s an oasis for escaping the crowds and provides the best opportunity to see music from a close vantage point. It’s like seeing a band at a backyard barbecue and Ha Ha Tonka absolutely killed it during their hour-long set that ended in a rousing sing-a-long to “12-inch, 3-speed Oscillating Fan with Langhorne Slim and Hoots & Hellmouth helping out. Other highlights included Grace Potter and the Nocturnals tearing the roof off of the Main Stage, Buckethead doing his thing and passing out candy to the front rows like the neighborhood dad at Halloween, Split Lip Rayfield working their bluegrass charms to an assembly of dedicated fans, and Lotus turning the Revival Tent into a late-night trance of a dance party complete with the requisite glow sticks. Although it’s not my scene, I’ve also been told that Umphrey’s McGee knocked things out of the park last night too.
Lest we forget, we’re also in the midst of a large state park. Nature lovers have been hiking a somewhat strenuous course and are rewarded by a shower in a cool, majestic waterfall. There’s a fishing pond for the outdoorsmen and a disc golf course for the college players. And of course, people watching is half the fun of an event like this. The best are the passed out fans, passively sleeping away the hours as rock and roll and revelry rages on around them. Of course, sleep is likely not achieved by natural means but hey, it’s funny nonetheless. A close second is the clothing, everything from chicken suits and astronaut gear to near-naked dudes on Segways provides for epic scenery and great photos. Real world be damned, people just bring it out in these types of environments. Good times for sure!