The Word on Wakarusa
The Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival to Lawrence, KS, over the weekend, boasting one of its most eclectic lineups yet. In addition to marquee headliners like Widespread Panic, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Yonder Mountain String Band and Les Claypool, the multi-band gathering featured emerging rockers Earl Greyhound, punk-bluegrass sensations/former New Groove of the Month the Avett Brothers, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello (who played an acoustic set as the Nighwatchman), singer/songwriter Martin Sexton, world beat/dance ensemble Ozomatli, bluegrass icon Sam Bush, indie-folk singer Bobby Bare, Jr. and Australian jam-pop star John Butler.
Yonder Mountain String Band earned the gold star for setlist asterisks. After the group ran over its set time, and was forced to stop King Ebenezer short, Yonder finished the song the following afternoon during its daytime performance. Vince Herman made a surprise appearance, helping the newgrass outfit through a version of Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie. During Tea Leaf Greens set, Yonder Mountain String Band mandolinist Jeff Austin played on a medley of Let Us Go and The Garden (Part III).
Widespread Panic opened its summer tour at Wakarusa on Saturday, kicking off its set with Ain’t Life Grand, before running through chestnuts like Disco, Rebirtha, Holden Oversoul, Pilgrims, and Climb To Safety, among others. The group also offered an extended encore, consisting of This Part of Town, Makes Sense To Me, City of Dreams, None Of Us Are Free and Imitation Leather Shoes.
Ben Harper got into festival spirit, closing his set with Burn One Down and offering two separate encores. The first consisted on acoustic songs like Waiting on An Angel, while the second featured rocking versions of Jah Work/Exodus, Black Rain and Better Way.
Other standout performances included New Monsoon, who brought out Railroad Earths Tim Carbone for Romp, Water Vein and Traveling Gypsies as well as Tea Leaf Greens Josh Clark for Greenhouse, the North Mississippi Allstars who brought along keyboardist Kurt Clayton and Claypool, who is on a cross-country tour with his Fancy Band. An official memorial was also setup near the Sundown Stage honoring festival alumnus Split Lip Rayfield front man Kirk Rundstrom, who recently died of cancer. Early reports also suggest that onsite police presence was significantly smaller than last year.