Waka-bout: Rolling hills and strings. Lots of strings.
By: Bob Casey
Located in the hills of Ozark, Arkansas, Wakarusa has become one of the quintessential stops on what has now become the insane summer festival circuit. Mulberry Mountain is the place the party calls home and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
There are many activities you can partake in on and off the festival grounds including a nine-hole disc-golf course, fishing in one of four mini-lakes that are always full of fish, and your choice of canoeing, kayaking or rafting in Turner Bend. But the most popular activity is also the simplest: hiking. Every year, thousands of attendees make the grueling trek through one of several paths spread out across the Ozark National Forest. The path most travelled is the Ozark Highlands Trail, which leads you to waterfalls that every thrill seeker jumps at the opportunity to, well, JUMP off of and into mountain creek. During the day you will always find a couple hundred people posted up here, simply loving life.
But let’s face it, the diverse musical lineup is why this place is famous. Waka’s bread and butter is anything with strings (jam, rock, alternative, bluegrass, reggae) but they are also known to throw in a couple crowd-pleasing hip-hop acts.
When it comes to electronic music they have the Interstellar Meltdown. Dubbed as “a festival within a festival,” Interstellar Meltdown showcases some of the most unique acts in all of electronic music. The last acts featured on the Main Stage, Revival Tent and Kum & Go Outpost are all electronic artists to keep you raging well past bedtime. The best part of Interstellar Meltdown is the Untz Grassroots California Satellite Stage. This stage is strictly dedicated to Interstellar artists and goes the latest – or should I say earliest? Every night/morning, festival-goers are treated to a sunrise set. When the music starts it’s still dark and by the time it’s over, the sun is up. Interstellar Meltdown is an experience every music fan must partake in at least once and you will be hard pressed to find something more unique or beautiful at any music festival, ever.
Last year’s edition of Wakarusa featured the festival’s first-ever electronic headliner, Pretty Lights. His two-hour set gave him time to dig deep into the crates, dropping tracks that spanned the PL sound spectrum in one of his best performances of 2012.
Live-tronica act Big Gigantic’s Saturday night set atop the main stage was the best performance of the entire weekend. Given nearly two-hours to play, they made the most of their time by debuting a bunch of new originals and remixes. This set was the catapult for what turned out to be the BIGgest, most GIGANTIC summer of Big G’s career so far.
Other highlights included Phutureprimitive’s day set which featured the very talented KaytiBunny hooping for almost the entire time, The Weir, Robinson & Greene Acoustic Trio, Umphrey’s McGee in the Revival Tent, Matisyahu, EOTO and Michal Menert’s beautiful sunrise set performance.
The 10th Wakarusa is on for May 30-June 3 this year at Mulberry Mountain. Expect it to be the biggest one yet. After each having been away from the festival for some amount of time, Widespread Panic (2010), STS9 (2011) and The Black Crowes (2009) all return as headliners along with new Waka headliner, Dispatch.
Other big names include the recently reborn Snoop Lion (the artist formerly known as Dogg), perennial Waka favorites Yonder Mountain String Band and Umphrey’s McGee, those gypsy punks from Gogol Bordello, Iceland’s new favorite band Of Monsters and Men and indie standouts GROUPLOVE.
Other acts we’re excited about include the glitch-hop master Tipper (we’re really hoping he gets one of the coveted sunrise sets), electronic dance producer Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, The possibility of a GrizMatik set (Gramatik & Griz are both on the lineup), hip-hop veteran Del The Funky Homosapien, jamtronica specialists Zoogma, trap king RL Grime, the sexy sounds of Cherub, and the guitar-packed electronic beats of D.V.S*.
Tickets are on sale now! For other info on Wakarusa, click here