Four days amidst stunningly beautiful nature, more than 150 bands, no rules, no responsibilities, plenty of cold beer, plenty of whatever else you might be into.
What’s not to like about that?
Nothing, that’s what.
If you wanted to be the guy wandering around with one shoe, no shirt, and a mason jar of moonshine tied to your neck with a piece of twine, you could do that. It’s your day and nobody’s going to stop you.
That was the vibe last weekend on top of Mulberry Mountain, the new-ish site of the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival…
This was my first jaunt down to the new site, and I must say, though I loved having the fest in Lawrence (I went home every morning to shower and sleep in the A/C), Mulberry Mountain is much better than Clinton Park.
Everything seemed a bit more accessible. From where we were camping I could walk to any of the stages in about five minutes. Nothing seemed too crowded. No real wait going through the gates. No crazy lines for beers or port-a-potties.
And, oh yeah, no night vision security cameras hiding in the trees busting people smoking pot, or state troopers flying around on ATVs or cops searching cars and RVs.
In fact, I’m not sure I saw a cop inside the festival grounds even once.
There was an Arkansas State Patrol Command Center set up just down the road and I’m sure there were some cops around, but there wasn’t a noticeable police presence anywhere else really.
And there didn’t need to be.
Everyone I ran into was fairly peaceful and respectful, save for the whacked out guy who trampled my tent at 4 in the morning on Saturday. But really, you can’t see very well after that much moonshine, so no worries.
My neighbors at the campsite were the coolest ever and I’ve been to a few festivals in my day.
They were from the Arkansas side of Memphis and had a crew of good guys and girls just trying to have a chill weekend, drink some beer and smoke some ribs. They invited anyone and everyone in the vicinity to come by and eat their food, including eggs and bacon for breakfast, sausages and pineapple for lunch, and like I said, late night ribs. One of them even apologized one morning when they ran out of eggs.
Like I said, nicest festival neighbors EVER.
There were nice, friendly people all over really. Friendly folks offering you a big ol’ glass of Arkansas wine. Like Adam Wiederkehr of the Wiederkehr Winery, who was more than happy to oblige a couple of thirsty travelers after the My Morning Jacket show Friday night with free samples and more. And honestly, all three or so of the wines I tried were very tasty.
Besides the big acts playing over the weekend, there were a bunch of new ones that I’m going to be keeping an eye on. First and foremost is a band from Vermont called Chamberlin. Yes, that is spelled correctly. They sound a bit like Delta Spirit, crossed with Arcade Fire crossed with a band from back in the day called Dayroom. I saw them at the Backwoods Stage with about 100 other people and they killed it even though few were brave enough to venture out of the shade at 3 in the afternoon. Check out their song, "Is It Me."
Oh, and they’ll be at the Bottleneck August 23rd with Carbon Leaf, so mark your calendars now.
All in all, I was happy as hell with the Arkansas version of my hometown music festival.
And I think the 10,000 or so other attendees were too from what I could tell. I’ll certainly plan on making the trip again. Maybe even before Waka 2012. There’s a bluegrass festival happening at the same site later this fall featuring Yonder Mountain String Band, Bela Fleck, and a ton of other bluegrass, newgrass, and spewgrass acts.
It’s going down on October 13-16th when the weather will be perfect and cool. So none of the bands will have to worry about duplicating what happened to Mumford & Sons’ lead singer. (Read my Mumford review if you haven’t already).
Let’s just say he left part of himself on stage that hot Saturday afternoon.