And with that yet another wonderful year on Mulberry Mountain at Wakarusa 2015 comes to an end. Wakarusa isn’t your typical music festival; each year it offers more to its Wakafarians, than just a musical aspect. It’s a combination of art, music, and the spiritual experiences one has that keeps participants coming back year after year. Despite the detour due to the landslide on highway 23, Pipeline did a great job of funneling the crowds through the security gates and up the mountain in a timely manor. Even in the initial long security check lines spirits were at an all time high, people were cheering, beers were being passed, and “Happy Waka’s” were being said everywhere. Celebration was thick in the air, as everyone was pumped to finally be back in the presents of the mountain.
Whether you arrived Wednesday afternoon or early Thursday, first item on the docket is to reacquaint yourself with the grounds for veterans or get the initial lay of the land for newbies. With the main stages not housing music till the later afternoon one might stumble into one of the two stages not in the main festival grounds, the Backwoods Stage where Shawn James and the Shapeshifters were getting the festival off to a great start with their part heavy metal, part banjo pluckin’ bluegrass jams. Walking into the main grounds for the first time, festival-goers are delighted with what they find. Each year they give grants out to help fund some of the art instillations seen around the grounds and this year was no disappointment. Providing artists with a place to showcase their talents while onlookers enjoy, creating a magical space to spark artistic talent in anyone. Up on the Main stage was indie-progressive rock band, Moon Taxi, followed by The Devil Makes Three; both providing the perfect soundtrack to the beautiful day. Nestled back among the lush shade of the mountain trees lies the Satellite Stage, where Goldroom was queued up to play. Taking the stage, his sunset disco had the crowd dancing to the beautiful backdrop of the setting sun. Providing the perfect mix of tunes to get you pumped for the rest of the night. Reggae-rock band, Slightly Stoopid, stepped foot on the Main Stage around dusk, bringing calming vibes before crowd favorite Umphrey’s McGee brought the heat. Electronic Duo, The Floozies, had the crowd mesmerized with their sea of lasers and party rocking funk. Gigantic Underground Conspiracy, which features members from Big Gigantic, Conspirator and Underground Orchestra, closed out the Main Stage and did not disappoint. For those not ready to call the night quits, after hours were held at the Satellite Stage where Minnesota threw down some nasty beats and Govinda closed out night one with a 5am sunrise set. Exhausted, those who made it to the end shuffled back to their tents to catch what few hours of sleep they could before the sweltering Arkansas sun wouldn’t allow anymore.
One of the best features of Wakarusa is the hike to the waterfall. Forewarning, the hike down is not that tough and once hikers arrive they are ready to take the plunge into the brisk mountain water. The hike up on the other hand, is a much different story. What seemed to be a breeze on the way down is now an all-uphill boulder climb to make it back to the main festival grounds. Don’t let this scare you off though, it is definitely worth the workout.
First up on Friday’s agenda was Tropical house sensation, Thomas Jack, at the Satellite Stage. His soothing, island beats were a perfect way to easy you into the night. Electric disco man, JackLNDN played after and hyped the crowd up for one of my favorite duos Hermitude. Their remixes to popular songs like Odesza’s “Say My Name” and Flume’s “Holding On” got the crowd into the party mood. Back for another year, STS9 took the Main Stage where they blew everyone’s mind with their funky beats and eye-popping light show designs. Jeremy Salken of Big Gigantic made a
surprise appearance on stage with a marching band percussion section and continued to amp the crowd up for their upcoming set. As Big Gigantic took the stage there was an intense feeling of excitement throughout the air. As soon as they played their first note, the crowd was in all out party mode from that moment on. Blasts of confetti canons shot into the crowd and rained down covering the boogying festival-goers like gifts from the sky. The night closed out with gravity defying aerialists Ouixotic. Their mesmerizing artistry choreographed to progressive electronic music artists left onlookers wanting more.
Awaking Saturday to the extreme heat of the sun was no different any of the other two days but in the early afternoon there was a sudden shift in wind. The stages closed down as a near by thunderstorm halted performances for the time being. This did mess with the stage schedules for the day but Pipeline did a great job in recovering by letting the artists push their sets back by the time lost. When Young The Giant finally took the Main Stage the crowd was more than ready to start gettin’ down. They played songs from their new album “Mind Over Matter” along with classics like “My Body” from their first record. Hip hop/neo soul band, The Roots, followed up with a killer performance. Indie rock band, Glass Animals played on the Outpost Stage, in arguably one of the best sets of the weekend, drawing quite the crowd. Playing hits from their debut album ZABA, they definitely did not disappoint with their first Waka experience. Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals provided some much needed relaxation before the craziness of Major Lazer ensued. I have to say, Major Lazer knows how to get down. With scantily clad, booty shakin’ ladies on stage the whole place was one huge party. For those who were not ready to call the party quits, The White Panda and Black Tiger Sex Machine provided the nasty beats to keep you dancing into the wee hours of the morning.
Awaking Sunday morning there was a sadness that hung in everyone’s mind. This was the final day on the mountain and no one was ready to return back to reality just yet. Spending most of the day at Satellite Stage to get away from the sun, Mouth, Greenhouse Lounge and Nadus all were providing the perfect beats to chillax under the shade of the Satellite Stage trees. Portugal. The Man took the Main Stage right before the sun started to set and brought the perfect sound track for the last nights sunset. Lotus was up next and played arguably one of the best sets I have ever seen. To close out the main stages, the tough decision between Eoto at Revival Tent or Thievery Corporation at Main Stage needed to be made. Not be able to decide, my time was split, getting down hard to Eoto’s funky beats then switching it up to Thievery’s more mellow sound really hit the spot. Satellite Stage housed the very last set of the weekend put on by Goldfish. Once the music ended the party was still going. Renegade stages were being set up throughout the campsites for those who were not ready to stop the party. Final memories were being made between old friends and new as the sun started to peek out behind the mountain backdrop. Reality began to set in as those still awake found their way back to their camps before starting to trek home.
Whether you’re at Wakarusa to escape from reality or to find yourself again, the mountain provides each with what they are searching for. The comradery between fellow Wakafarians is unmatched and cannot be replicated at any other festival. There is something magical in that fresh mountain air that leaves everyone awakened and refreshed. As you return home to your TVs and hot showers and conveniences of civilization, remember the feeling you get on the mountain. Carry it with you and plant it in life, love, and Mother Earth and then maybe the world will follow.
We can’t wait to see you all on the mountain in 2016!
Check out our Full Gallery From Wakarusa 2015 Here