We sat in silence as the sun came up over the Ozarks in Arkansas. One beautiful blonde hoola hooper, a man holding a silver duck, a guy in green tights, a true southern gypsy, my friend Duncan perched on his throne and me. The dimly lit sky taunted us to go to bed but we refused. We had tequila to drink as if we weren’t drunk enough. Our neighbour sparked up the barbecue and the aromatic scent of brisket washed over us – a smell I can’t forget. Off in the distance the faint trailing of music from a stranger’s campsite could be heard and a man and woman wearing lion costumes skipped down a nearby trail. I studied them. These two encapsulated what Wakarusa is and always will be: a celebration of music, culture and freedom of expression. It was at this moment when I fell in love with the festival. Held deep in the Ozarks, Wakarusa doesn’t limit people, it allows them to grow, let go, shake out and be free.
Thursday morning we woke to a biblical Oklahoma size flood in Tulsa, the nearest city we could fly into before our final destination: Wakarusa. Thunder boomed over the rolling hills and black clouds smothered the horizon. We sat inside debating whether we were going to wear rain sheets or bathing suits: +30 degree rain storms cause quite a stir for clothing choices. After running across the street for truck stop coffee, we stole a pre-ordered cab from someone who was running late (lucky for us) and hung with Eddie our cab driver for the next half hour. Eddie is from Yemen originally, where he immigrated to California and eventually landed in Tulsa Oklahoma chasing love. Eddie is now a follower of the blog and more importantly a new friend.
Kora and I rolled down the historic Route 66 to pick up our RV rental, which turned out to be a 2015 castle that could have its own slot on “Cribs.” Sally, our rental agent greeted us with a hug and popcorn. The resident kitty named RV sat quietly with us while we got the crash course in RV 101. We gave RV and Sally a hug goodbye and drove directly back to the Tulsa Airport to pick up Nick, Duncan, Dash and Cole of The Funk Hunters. After passing droves of cattle and armadillo road kill, we were on route to Mulberry Mountain, home of Wakarusa and deep into the Ozarks.
The hospitality at Wakarusa is unparalleled. Staff and volunteers see to it that you’re having a good time which is greatly appreciated. Southern hospitality was at an all-time high, and being from Canada we were impressed. Kora and I were lucky enough to receive artist passes as we accompanied The Funk Hunters on their trip down. Experiencing a festival with an artist pass is a completely different set of wheels, one set which I hope to enjoy again! Not only do you get wicked free meals, you get free booze and VIP access. We felt like queens for the next four days.
Our caravan of Canadians rolled in on the evening of Thursday, June 5, just to catch the last songs from Michael Franti. We were pretty bummed that we missed him but that’s the way she goes sometimes. The first minute we disembarked we ran into Tucker (The Festival Guy), and were reunited with our festi-friend! We always somehow run into him at extremely opportune times and Wakarusa was no different. Tucker’s friends Jackie and Miranda were equally awesome and Miranda would end up becoming our new party ninja. Shout out to Miranda – we love you!
Wasting no time Kora and I poured bourbon cocktails with burnt orange rind and bitters (we keep it classy) for everyone and ran to catch STS9 on the Main Stage. The energy was electric and carried through into the wee hours of the morning for Break Science and Keys N Krates. I must apologize to the unsuspecting campsite that I stole my party beacon from…in hindsight I would have made the original owners proud. It stuck with me all weekend and not in the ground where it was first staked. Pinwheels are made for awesome…and should never be grounded.
“Who wants bacon, eggs and pancakes,” we asked. All members of The Funk Hunters put their hands up and rolled out of bed. Some of the team went on a coffee excursion while some of us cooked. I have to say, we had the best team on the planet down there and we lived like royalty. Kora and I’s first mission was to run through the festival snapping photos and videos of the people we met along the way. We found this incredible door that lead to nowhere, a duck and bear beside a pool, a man standing on a chair handing out mini paperclips, a group of Aussies that had been on a two day LSD bender, a telephone in which you could call “Space Goat” and discovered just how hot and humid the South is. Thank god for buckets of ice in the VIP areas. That shit is like gold.
The Funk Hunters were on at 5:45pm at The Satellite Stage. We hooked up our camera gear and the Hitcase, this amazing device that is a smash and water proof case for your phone, that comes with camera lenses and a monopod which was THE BEST THING EVER!!! Thank you Mark Zealand! Ok, back on track…The Funk Hunters started to play to an audience that clearly needed a mid-day timeout. It was hot and uncomfortable and everyone could have used some water and a hug at this point. By the second track in, the entire crowd was on their feet. Nick, Duncan, Cole and Dash threw down an amazing set – just check out the photos. They speak for themselves.
We ran like crazy people to Nahko Medicine for the People, who were playing the Backwoods Stage. The stage looked like an old honky-tonk bar, sandwiched between giant oak tree’s and finger-like vines. We tried to crawl our way to the front, and we’re mildly successful. We were sardined stage right, standing behind an easel and an artist. He pained what he heard and it was magical listening to Nahko and watching art take shape. A group of older women were standing beside us sobbing, saying how moving Nahko’s music is. This culmination of smiles, tears, music and art made us all emotional. It always comes full circle; live music is more than the music itself. It’s the holistic collective experience of everyone. Whether alone or among millions, live music tugs at your core of what it means to be human.
We left Nahko humbled and gave stranger’s hugs and friends high-fives. We caught the second half of Gigamesh’s set which was a combination of everything you wanted to hear mixed with a dash of everything you needed to hear. I waited until the end and shook his hand. Gigamesh is a game changer in the House Music world and I needed to tell him how much I appreciated him. We left in a hurry, to catch The String Cheese Incident followed by Minnesota, The Floozies and Rusko. We were running and catching these neat little cabs (golf carts) called Festi Cabs which later played a big role in meeting new friends and getting stuck in the mud… several times.
Part 2 coming up tomorrow and our official photo album!