Donnelly: More Ramblings – Saturday at Wakarusa

After a packed Friday at Wakarusa, Saturday was looking to be a tad less hectic.

The cool weather was perfect for us tent-dwellers who are normally driven out of our sweaty dens at the crack of dawn.  Not so this time around, and the additional rest sure came in handy. 

By the time Balkan Beat Box took the main stage I was rested, recharged, and ready for another 15 or so hours of music.  BBB got things going with their unique brand of hip hop infused with a Middle Eastern vibe created by dueling alto sax players, a DJ/drummer, and a bunch of other auxiliary percussion. 

Their front man jumped around the stage, running out and onto the speakers in front while throwing down quick rhymes.  BBB definitely gave off a more international vibe, which was a welcome change at the festival. 

Next up on the main stage was blues-folk-harmonica maestro G Love & Special Sauce.  The three piece created a very full sound for being as stripped down as they normally are.  G Love rolled through some favorites like Cold Beverage, I-76, and a cover of Biz Markee’s Just a Friend.  Late in their set a couple of horn players were added to infuse a little funk into the set.

Overall, G Love was a little predictable.  But his guitar playing was actually really impressive, more so than I remember.  He shifted easily from grungy swamp blues, to light acoustic reggae, to Chicago style slide guitar, all the while displaying his trademark Philly pride.  To finish out their set G Love played a cool version of Bootycall that morphed into Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?, the Beatles classic.

After that I wandered the festival grounds for a bit, tried some local wine that was being sold in water bottles (no glass allowed), and then made my way back to camp to recharge the batteries for a sec and fire up the grill.  As the sun was setting, hundreds of hot air lanterns were released into the sky, floating their way up and over the main stage into the black sky. 

It looked pretty sweet I must say.    

The first of the evening sets was Gary Clarke, Jr., a younger bluesman who plays smoking hot guitar, all finger style.  Clarke came out and absolutely torched the Revival Tent with his super confident persona and virtuoso plucking.  And he did double time with his spot on vocals that ranged from growly to falsetto smooth. 

I didn’t know much about Clarke before this show, but just like it always goes at festivals like this, I think I discovered a new favorite.

Not to be outdone, though, was an older gentleman who was all class in his white suit – Del McCoury.  He took the stage with several other musicians that were dressed equally as sharp.  OK, no one looked better than Del, let’s be honest. 

The elder statesman did his best to spread the love, letting each member of his band step forward and sing lead on a song as the others backed with multi-part harmonies.  And of course Del led the way plenty, too, his voice sounding strong as ever and his picking still top notch. 

Hmmm, what else?  Well, there were ferris wheel rides, hikes to waterfalls, air-conditioned porta johns in the artist’s lounge, and a few late night close encounters of the weird kind. 

You know, normal festival stuff…
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