(cont. from part 1) At this point of the day, the multiple walks back from the venue side of the festival and lack of sleep were really taking a toll on me physically. I ended up going back to camp to put a few beers back and before I knew it was in full blown wook mode. I had no aspiration to trek back to the venue side of the festival, let alone walk the short distance for a shower or a bite to eat. I lounged around our camp most of the day enjoying the company of friends new and old while deliriously yelling “wakarusa” and other various nouns in a British accent, slipping into very abrubt naps in a horrible attempt to recharge myself. I woke up abruptly around 4:30 p.m to rain pitter pattering gently on my face with the realization that Lettuce and Soulive were about to start their “Family Ball” sets at the Main Stage. Luckily, the rain did little more than to make everyone a bit damp, which wouldn’t matter much after Soulive unleashed their soul/funk potential. Soulive has done so many mind blowing things since their conception that it is not hard to classify these dudes already as living legends. From opening up for the Rolling Stones, to recording songs with Talib Kwali and Dave Matthews (just to name a few), the band rolled onto stage nonchalantly, ready to show the crowd a great time. Their set started off with a super beefed up version of “Uncle Junior” followed by a barage of older instrumentals as well as a few songs pulled off of their 2010 RubberSoul beatles cover album, including a totally jazzed up, bass filled quick tempo version of “Eleanor Rigby,” which blew my mind to pieces!
Seeing this band live was the audio equivalent to making love, and seeing Lettuce directly afterwards was like smoking a cigarette and going for another round. The funk allstars dove right into “Let It Go Go.” Flexing musical muscle with Krasno again at the helms of lead guitar, a beautifully sounding three man horn section backed by Neal Evans’ keys, Adam Deitch’s powerful & timely drumlines, and Erick Coomes’s powerful bass guitar. These dudes oozed fun through the entirety of their set, which translated into an awesome experience for everyone within earshot. If you want to hear super fast paced funk frenzy versions of their studio stuff, definitely do yourself a favor by taking a listen to their performance of “Lettsanity” at Wakarusa.
After the funk I just kind of slipped back into super heady bass mode, which led my eyes and ears back toward the Grass Roots stage to watch Nashville’s Wick-It the Instigator completely crush the crowd. If you don’t know about this dude yet, do yourself a favor and go back in time and erase any conception you have of a DJ/producer and download every mash up he has on SoundCloud (for free!). Wick-It utilizes his deep hip hop roots and even deeper DJ skills to appease a wide array of music lovers with remixes fresher than anything you could buy at Whole Foods. He opened his set with “Future Krunk,” and seemlessly worked through tracks old and new, not stopping for a second and just absolutely pummeling the crowd into submission.
Up next on the Grass Roots stage was Brooklyn based duo Break Science, a tag team consisting of powerful percussion, production, and amazing stage presence. Its no surprise for a fan to find out that Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee have over 30 years of musical experience under their belts collectively, and they effortlessly utilized their instrumental hip-hop influences to build intricate and intelligent soundscapes for the crowd to get down to. The unique concept of this drummer/producer duo is one of fusion: stitching together intricate samples and sounds that are heavily manipulated for an ultra fresh feel and layering that with the power and passion of a live drummer. This spectacle was on full display tonight, and was even taken up a few notches when Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic) took the stage directly after a stellar drum solo by Deitch to up the ante on the improvisation going down on the stage.
Break Science’s set well exceeded the schedule’s parameters, and before I knew it, I had missed The Avett Brother’s Main stage set and had just enough time to make it to Umphrey’s before their opening song. I, along with everyone fortunate enough to find themselves inside the revival tent’s bursting crowd, was hard pressed to find room to dance, drink, or take pictures. Nevertheless, it was a show not to be missed, with UM kicking off their face-melting brand of jams by playing a bit of “Wappy Sprayberry” directly funneling down to “In the Kitchen.” Stasik’s heavy string slapping intro from”Room to Breathe” followed, with “Der Bluten Kat” directly after. Joel and Brenden killed that song vocally, and it was only natural that I had to reach down feverishly after the songs finish to pick up my face, which was melted completely off thanks to the exceptional guitar skills that Cinninger put on display. Umphrey’s finished off their set with “Live and Let Die” and the ever so technical “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” which in my opinion was enough to keep me hungry for more while still letting me get a dose of one of my favorite bands playing the festival. At this point, I was cursing myself for not attending Summer Camp and obtaining as much of a fix as the “Scampers” did back home in Illinois.
The minutes following an Umphrey’s set are a very comparable experience to that of someone who has just been in a car crash: your heart races, your skin is flushed, and the adrenaline in your system affects you in such a way that you may just stumble to the closest human being and grab them by the neck and prolifically ask them if they had just witnessed what had happened. I sauntered away from the Revival tent stunned by both the light show and the music, completely soaked in sweat and beer.
I walked back to camp to take a breather, then turned around and walked back to the Revival tent to watch a bit of Ghostland Observatory’s lazer filled spectacle. The music really wasn’t my thing, but to be fair it seemed as if there were some issues with the sound. At times though, the heavily electric synths and samples teamed up with pounding bass and screaching guitar licks produced an atmosphere unlike any other. The lazers seemed as if they could pierce your skin. The billowing smoke seemed as if it could render your lungs useless. The aggressive dance moves Aaron Behrens performed made him seem as if he was conducting a huge massacre, baiting would be passers-by with vibrant technicolor lasers and dance music, only to lead them to their demise.
By this time of the night, my mind had experienced so much stimuli that I was desensitized to everything. I walked down the paths back towards camp and everything about Wakarusa seemed normal to me. The mountains, the music, the people: they were not the same to me as they were just a day prior. The special qualities that everything in the equation held made it all seem unreal, yet there was always a lingering feeling as if I belonged here on the mountain top as part of a very vast and intricate community centralized around music. I tried to imagine what it would be like to hit up every major U.S. festival in a year, and how amazingly twisted you would become on the real world. As I started to form these thoughts, something in my brain had told me it was time for more. More music. More lights. More of anything that I could cram into my already over saturated mind. So I walked back to the Grassroots stage, for the 2nd time today and the 4th time of the festival. It was 5 am and I was about to let a heavy dosage of amazing EDM slip into my soul.
Michal Menert and A.C. Lao started their set a bit after 5 in the morning and did not stop until well after 7. These men were musical monsters on this morning, bringing with them energy and emotion matched only by the crowds energy. Song after song I was hit with waves of pleasure produced by beats that seemed as if their sole purpouse of creation was to make the listeners spine tingle with enjoyment. The packed crowd gave back everything they threw at them, cheering after multiple lyrical freestyles by Michal and even a tribute to the recently passed Beastie Boy MCA. Menert’s set was a climax of love between an artist and his fans, and I honestly could not have thought of a better way to end my day. After his set ended, Menert and Lao greeted the crowd with smiles, autographs, and handshakes before returning back stage.
By the end of Menert’s set I was so pumped up and psyched on life that I couldn’t even fathom trying to sleep. I ended up staying at the Grass Roots stage til 8:30am straight through a very uplifting speaker’s words and catching a set by a dubstep artist named Clandestine, who threw down some of the craziest psy-dub I’d ever heard. I came back to camp and was the only soul still stirring, and some how this gave me a huge sense of satisfaction.
Saturday morning slowly melted into Saturday afternoon, and somehow I was still awake from the night before. I slipped up the mountain towards the press tent and in an effort to push forward with the day consumed as much caffiene that I could injest. With little left in the tank, I stumbled back through the tent metropolis and back to my camp to find everyone awake and recharged by something that I was seriously lacking. Again, I had slipped into a delirious state where the only way I could communicate was by utilizing loud noises and an english accent. I took full advantage of our neighbor’s empty cots, and fell in such a deep sleep that I missed Gary Clark Jr as well as most of Slightly Stoopid’s main stage appearance. By the time I made my way back through the security gates, it was 7:15 and I had little time to waste before Umphrey’s main stage performance.
And what a performance it was. Umphrey’s let it all go that night, and once again thousands of fans were blown away by the shear power that this band’s music possesses. Bayliss and the crew opened with the new intro “Depth Charge,” continued with “Plunger” and followed with”Conduit,” all songs that feed off the light show and showcase the bands power and talent as a whole. We were even lucky enough to hear them break out a Talking Heads cover song when they broke into “Girlfriend Is Better.” Joel was on point with the key strokes, and Bayliss definitely rocked the vocals hard. Umphrey’s McGee closed their set with one of my personal favorites, the ever so fun “40’s theme,” which allowed Jake Cinninger and Bayliss to have what appeared to be immessurable amounts of fun with the crowd that was growing weirder by the second.
The fact that Primus was about to grace us with an amazing performance weighed in on alot of people’s minds, and the crowds reaction to the ending of Umphrey’s and the set up of Primus’s stage including the set up of two 35 foot tall spacemen with alternating faces, a huge projection screen that played videos pertaining to the songs being played, and the consumption of several thousand hits of LSD collectively, turning the Main Stage venue into a funny farm filled with freaks adorned with festival gear that ranged from basic friend finder sticks to huge, elaborate float set ups rigged to the teeth with LED lights. These floats came in the shapes of animals including but not limited to an Octopus with a pack of Jellyfish in tow, a huge ant, and an even huger Praying Mantis. In all my years on this planet I have never witnessed something as weird as when Les turned to Larry and warned him of the Octopi’s presence and than assured him he could blow the balls off of it with his telecaster guitar, in which turn Larry busted into an amazing solo that surely dropped everyone’s facial expression into that of awe. One of my favorite aspects of Primus shows has to be the way that Les interacts with the crowd. He started the set off with a reference to Bath Salts and the Miami zombie, as well as a reference to a festival attendee who had managed to steal an Arkansas state trooper’s Tahoe earlier in the day. Primus bashed the crowds altered mindstate with huge songs such as “Southbound Pacyderm,” “Those Damned Blue-Collared Tweekers,” “Jilly’s on Smack,” and “Tommy the Cat” to name a few. The show ended with a salute and a thank you from Les accompanied by the raving mad crowd in its entirety chanting “Primus sucks.”
With a show of that magnitude just taking place, it would be a hard fought battle for any act to live up to. Up to the plate was the Main stage’s Saturday closing act and Boulder, Colorado’s very own Big Gigantic. The first time I ever saw this band was prior to the creation of their huge stage production, which utilizes thousands of ever changing LED light patterns and colors situated in two orb like shapes to perfectly accentuate Big G’s songs, which range in energy level from high to down right electrifying. The time allotted the stage crew to strip down Primus’s set up and put up Big Gigantic’s proved to be enough, which was in my opinion one of the most amazing technical feats I have ever had the chance to witness. Before the crowd and myself knew it, we were deeply submerged in the energy saturated tracks that Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken are best known for, creating a dance party atmosphere that in my opinion was unmatched by anything else at the festival. Tracks that caught my attention included an unreleased reworking of Kanye West’s new “Mercy” track, which boasted a surplus of bass and rhythm as well as melody that just appealed to me in a very overwhelming manner, forcing every part of my body to become intertwined with the music. “Get Em High” was a great reworking as well, I just don’t think it is possible to get tired of that beat or the lyrics to the the song, especially when Dom and Jeremy get their hands and minds on it and mold it into something that explosive. Around 2:00 in the morning and well into Big G’s set, Dom came on the mic and announced that there was a very severe thunderstorm making it’s way towards the mountain and he was informed that Big Gigantic’s set would have to be cut short for the safety and well being of the crowd.
Being no stranger to early summer thunderstorms in this region of the country, I literally ran as fast as I could back to camp to secure my tent and anything I had laying around camp. Before we knew it, we were greeted again by Arkansas rain clouds and wind, which were surprisingly short lived. By the time the storm had passed, it was nearing 3:00 in the morning and to our group’s dissapointment all shows for the rest of the night were either cancelled or postponed. These acts included Beats Antique, Paper Diamond, rjd2, Gramatik, and Nadis Warriors to name a few. A few of the members of Amrita decided to head back to the Bus of Rock to jam out and at least enjoy what would be our last night on the mountain. I decided it was best for me to get some sleep, so I headed into my tent and listened to my friends play to a growing crowd of restless listeners on Shakedown Street, reflecting on the last few days of my life and hoping a storm didn’t sweep me away in my sleep.
I awoke to everyone at the campsite packing their things in an effort to hit the road early. Thoughts of returning to the real world were closing in around me in every direction, and I even skeptically thought long and hard about staying for sunday and hitching a ride back in another friend’s band van. The day grew hotter by the second, and when I looked at the weather report and saw another round of southern storms heading towards the mountain I threw out any notion that I could stay for another day. I packed my things in the most unorganized and fastest fashion possible and headed back down the mountain, whipping through the rugged Arkansas country side and back to my life in Chicago’s sleepy suburbs, with a greater appreciation for music and the fans that make every show unique, and a better understanding of what it meant to attend a camping music festival. Thank you to every single person who shared this experience with me (as well as the great people at Pipeline Productions for the access) and also to the amazing stage, security, and sound crews at Wakarusa for providing professionalism throughout the weekend. This was one of the most amazing events a person can attend. A music festival at its finest.