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.
One of the more difficult things about a music festival is the conflicts. Playing the Main Stage is someone the whole world knows about, and it just so happens that you’re favorite local band is playing the tiny stage in the same time slot. Do you see the big national act just to witness the spectacle, or do you stay loyal to the guys who you’ve seen dozens of times?
Thus was the situation Saturday at Wakarusa. Festival headliner Major Lazer was pitted up against the home-town hero Andy Frasco, a David vs. Goliath match-up that split the festival in two. Trying my best to stay out of the fight, I split time between them (a festival sin, I know) moving between the Main Stage and the Backwoods Stage—the smallest stage at the festival.
Andy Frasco started the showdown as anybody in his situation would, by throwing off his gloves. “Thanks for choosing us over a cartoon DJ,” he said as the band dove in to their first song. Frasco’s show delivered the same feel good/party animal atmosphere that he brought to the Main Stage on Thursday, this time in a more intimate setting that lent itself to his specialty: bringing people on stage. The swelling number of musicians on stage came from countless bands, turning the simple five piece’s sound into a cacophony of scorching guitar solos, saxophone swells, chanting vocals and absolute mayhem. Before leaving to check out the other side of battle, the stage hit critical mass—there wasn’t even room for another musician to even stand on the stage!
Frasco brought the heat, but how could he top the sheer size of a Major Lazer show? Diplo, the group’s mastermind, has made a name for himself for maximizing the scale of electronic acts, turning them into something completely new. What once was a fairly standard gig (just stand behind the table and move the turntables around) now resembles a broadway show more than a concert. Teams of dancers, mascots, lights, a slew of props, fake money, confetti, etc. all make Major Lazer’s show worth a watch.
But the thing that was missing—the thing that Wakarusa prides itself on—was the human touch. A show that size reeks of being pre-planned and no longer one of a kind, something that the jam-rock scene has founded itself on. How can a concert be a concert if you can’t make a mistake? So, the buzz word for Saturday was just that: Authenticity.
“Captain” Kirk Douglas plays guitar for The Roots Saturday during sunset.
This was backed up by performances earlier in the evening by some of the greatest bands on the scene, with The Roots (self-proclaimed the “hardest working band in show business”) and Ben Harper leading off for Major Lazer on the main stage. The Roots with seven people in their band and Ben Harper boasting six, seeing these musicians on point with each other can shift the perspective about what makes a concert what it is. The audience wants to see the mistakes, and revere the artists when there are none to be had.
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals playing Main Stage.
Stay tuned for our final day of coverage of the Wakarusa Music Festival tomorrow!