Working at the college student radio station has opened me up to a lot of great experiences. Between having multiple specialty shows, interviewing touring bands and interning at the recording studio I have had my fair share of fun projects at KCOU. This summer I was fortunate enough to cover the Wakarusa Music Festival as a KCOU staff member. A good friend of mine, Andrew Yost, and I spent four fantastic days filming bands, attending press conferences and creating a media portfolio of our experience.
Day 1: Michael Franti & Spearhead, Vintage Trouble, STS9 (Thursday, June 5th)
Dave and Yost arrived at Walkarusa a little late on the first full day of the festival, so don’t let “Day 1” fool you. Walkarusa is a four day festival, but they have some night concerts as a “pre-fest” warm-up. Being familiar with the fest, Dave and Yost felt like they were limber enough to hang with the best beats. KCOU covered all four full-day music line-ups.
Wakarusa is an annual festival held in Mulberry Mountain, Arkansas. The festival originated in Lawrence, Kansas on the Wakarusa River (hence the name Wakarusa). A fun fact that many festival go-ers will tell you is that Wakarusa is a Native American term for “ass deep”. A handful of years back the festival was relocated from the Wakarusa River down to Arkansas where it has remained for many years since. This summer Wakarusa rang in the 11th year anniversary on the mountain.
This was my 3rd time at Wakarusa. Considering Waka’ was the first festival I ever went to there is, and always will be, a special place in my heart for it. I grew up a big music lover and player, but the last year of high school and a four day getaway with two vans packed full of my best friends heading down to Mulberry Mountain changed my life forever. The festival culture and experience made me realize the importance and the magic of music. Since then I have always wanted to find a career in music whether it be playing, performing, producing or covering it via media.
Day 2: Press Conference, Murder By Death, Dr. Dog, Nahko Bear, Nikki Bluhm, Alvin Risk, The Flaming Lips, String Cheese Incident
Waka’, like many other festivals, has a sense of culture that comes along with it. Being a smaller festival it is seemingly less commercialized than some other festivals I have been to and it attracts a crowd of very fun, wild and wacky minded folk. One of the evenings I walked around at two in the morning chatting up Wakarusians as an investigative journalist in hopes to digging deeper to the characters that make up the audience and atmosphere of the music festival. The question I asked was “What is your favorite part of the
festival?”. Almost unanimously the answer was “the people”. The folks that come year after year to Waka’ are a special breed and add a lot to the special atmosphere the festival is notorious for having. There are few places on earth that you can walk around with such high spirits, laughing so frequently and making friends with most every person you meet. High fives are given as liberally as the compliments and it makes for an incredible festival experience. I found this to be the case the first, second and the most recently third time I attended the Wakarusa music festival.
By the third day of the festival Yost and I had transformed from run of the mill Mizzou college students into “one of them”. One of the barefoot, care free, high spirited easy going festival goers. An idea that I kept tossing around was how in a strange way it felt religious. Growing up I always saw the synagogue as a place of unity and bringing people together. People who are in search of a higher quality of life and a better way of living. Wakarusa was exactly that. While it is (very) different from cultural norms there is a very real set of ideals that are consistently at each festival. You see positivity, friendliness, sharing, stress reliving, happiness, minimalist, anti-consumer, eco-friendly etc. There is a long list of great attributes that are exhibited by the masses at large. I’ve been there a few times now and it is very apparent to me that the festival culture resembles a religion in this since.
Day 3: Andy Frasco, The Mowglis, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, The Revivalists, Umphrey’s McGee, Bassnectar
The music ranges from funkadelic jam bands to no shoes boogie blues and from uplifting acoustic reggae to bass heavy gettin’ down DJ’s.