Wakarusa Music Festival, tucked away on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas, is here again for its 12th year. The music festival is a staple of festival goers from all parts of the country, promising something for all types of music lovers. TrueFire, along with our online magazine Riff Journal, will be covering the event daily.
The first day of Wakarusa featured familiar faces, acting as a homecoming of sorts for the artists who have made it their home over the years. The backbone of the festival is the individual local music scenes that back it up—bringing in acts from Lawrence, Kansas (Wakarusa’s original home) and Fayetteville, Arkansas. Artists that started playing Wakarusa on the small stages during less than desirable times, finally found their stride on the Main Stage during primetime Thursday night.
Andy Frasco, a one-time emcee for the festival (who was “fired and then re-hired” in his own words) known for raucous “party blues” music, started the day on the Main Stage. A regular of both Lawrence and Fayetteville, Frasco is known for his antics as much as his music, but its when the two meet in the middle that he hits his stride. Starting onstage battles of all types—guitar, bass, saxophone, drums, etc.—he invites other musicians to compete against his band in scorching solos that lead to a full-blown party. Frasco didn’t disappoint Thursday afternoon, braving the heat and making his Main Stage debut one to remember.
Andy Frasco (center) with Lucas Parker from Mouth (left).
Familiar faces headlined the night as well, with Umphrey’s McGee—long time Wakarusa favorites—ruling the roost. Their breed of jamming is the secret to their appeal—a fast paced, quickly evolving, masterfully crafted behemoth of a sound that leaves the listener just as much amazed as it keeps them dancing. The band doesn’t shy away from the heavier side of guitar playing as well, showing off the connection between styles of metal, blues, rock, and funk by switching between them at will. They took the audience far away from charted territory on Thursday night, taking them all these places and then bringing them back to comfortable ground by throwing in covers like Pink Floyd’s “In The Flesh.”
The Floozies on stage Thursday night.
Finishing off the night on the Main Stage, The Floozies, an electronic funk duo from Lawrence, Kansas finally got their first shot, bringing their inventive, dance-ready music to a packed audience. “This is one of those things you dream about,” frontman and guitar player Matt Hill exclaimed.
The night symbolized something bigger for Wakarusa as a whole, a much needed homage to the festival’s roots that have been difficult to find recently. Plagued by rain and mud in previous years that drove several away, the warm, sunny Wakarusa that everyone fell in love with in the first place showed itself Thursday bringing the artists who define the festival with it.
Stay tuned all weekend for more updates from the Wakarusa Music Festival!