Music Festivals

Waka Waka Wakarusa

Precursor: Accuracy of dates and information are as reliable as my memory.  Please forgive any inaccurate facts, as being ass-deep into this experience for 12 years leaves some room for misconceptions.

200px-Wakarusa I attended my first Wakarusa in 2004, when I was 18.  My friend told me to buy a ticket that some great bands would be there. I loved OAR and they were the headlinder, so it seemed like a reasonable experience.   When my parents dropped me off at my camp site, they almost didn’t let me get out of the car.  After having my eyes blown open to a culture I had known very little about, I told myself I would go every year if I could afford it, and that I would never look back.

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The second year, I remember spending $79 on my ticket (I got the early bird special).  Wilco and Gov’t Mule were apparently a big deal?  Lawrence, KS never looked so good that summer going into sophomore year of KU.  Chipotle sponsored a food/music tent, and it was the greatest event known to man in my eyes.  Andrew Walker wore a red speedo with Trey Anastasio’s face and I spent most mornings on a fallen tree branch that hung out over Clinton Lake, thinking to myself “why couldn’t we live like this every day?  In some sort of village…. with our friends.  And great music.  And good food and art?”  I’m an idealist, what can I say…
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2006 I joined the art team.  Terribly proud, we painted street signs and snarky reminders like “wear sunscreen” which hung all over the festival and promptly got stolen.  Lesson: Make art that is indestructible and that won’t walk off.  Meet me at the piano is a great example. Meet-Me-At-The-Piano-Wakarusa
That year I slept on top of my car because there was a spider in my tent.  The Flaming Lips were there, wearing orange hazmat suits and doing what appeared to be very silly, yet important work, all weekend.  My friend tried to buy me a hula hoop, but I said no.  Didn’t really look like my thing… I can tell you that Michael Franti  changed my life, though.
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The 2007 lineup was fresh.  I took it upon myself to run the Wakanvas, a giant piece of plywood that was an open canvas for anybody who wanted to paint.  It was a lovely experience…these people worked on it all weekend and it was incredible.  I walked away for a short while on Saturday night and somebody covered the entire mural with black paint while I was out, ruining this amazing piece of art.  Lesson: Don’t leave important projects unattended.  Anything is possible at Wakarusa.
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2008 I became an intern for Pipeline Productions, working for the Barrett brothers in Lawrence, KS. In 2009 I began  working on the street team, handing out fliers in Lawrence and KC in exchange for my ticket.  I was more than thrilled with this arrangement.  That was the year of C-mon and Kypsi.  Another story, for another time, but I think it’s safe to say that weekend still may have been the best weekend of my life, to this day.
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Then the next year, everything changed.  The arrangements in Lawrence became heated. From what I understand, the police situation was getting a little outrageous, and the festival itself was damaging the National Park land of Clinton Lake.  The festival made a decision to move the event to Mulberry Mountain, outside of Fayettville, Arkansas, however at first, nobody trusted it.  In reality the magic was never lost.  The festival’s original name stemmed from the Wakarusa river in Kansas, from a native word literally meaning “ass-deep”.  Mulberry Mountain and the wacky nature of Wakarusa itself, never ceased to fulfill that title.
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2010, The Black Crows headlined, and I’ve never seen a show like that again. STS9 was a staple at this point.  G Love.  Galactic. Yonder Mountain.  EOTO.  JJ Gray.  Everybody that was anybody was there.  I was thankful to be  there, in Arkansas, the year I FINALLY learned how to hula hoop…  and I wanted MORE.
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Wakarusa allowed me bring a small team of fire spinners to help with the crowd entertainment.  We called ourselves, the Vibe Tribe.  Cicada Rhythms hosted a spoken word intermission featuring MissConception and Nightlife Jones.  It was a good year for artists.  That year Widespread Panic took the lead with Umphrey’s McGee, and Wookiefoot came on the scene.  Spoonfed Tribe met The Heavy Pets, and it was all smooth on the Waka front.
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2011, the vibe came on strong, with Thievery Corporation and Mumford and Sons to name a few.  I worked the artist check-in that year, and while it felt like one small step for my kind, it was a tough position because I missed all the action!  I wanted to be out in the thick of it.  Not just experiencing the festival, but participating in it.  Creating it.  This experience gave me a huge appreciation for the people who run and work this festival, all of the volunteers and Pipeline Staff, who work endless to create this experience for us.  THANK YOU WAKARUSA for doing it right.
2012 Pipeline brought Primus and Girl Talk…. OMG!  What more do you need?  I upped my game by bringing a team of 30 people and we created an artistic village, with light up jelly fish puppets, workshops and costumes galore.  MissConception and the VibeTribe even had a set that year at the Satellite stage.  Maybe a highlight of my performance career. The year there were storms.  It was hard, on everyone.  But NOBODY was prepared for 2013.
“Muckarusa” was a very real experience.  Humbling.  If you’ve never tromped around in nine inches of mud for four days, you really haven’t lived on the edge. It doesn’t matter who was playing, half of it was cancelled.  I really only remember Snoop Lion bombing.  Nobody had fun.  Everybody was miserable. Nobody ever wanted to go back again.  Ever.  It was a low moment for the Waka crew.  But it only made us stronger.
I went back.  Those of us, who died hard the year before, we STILL went back.  I went back namely because of the shrine that was built for Toby Keith out of the broken tents and chairs when all of the shows were cancelled during the mud storms.  I went back because of the moment we were under Yosh’s geo dome and the tarp ripped off by the rain and we all scattered like ants for safety.  I went back because, how could it get ANY MORE insane, right?  I went back because that is the exact kind of wacky-waka spirit that was there since the beginning, and I couldn’t not see how it was all going to go down.
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The only thing that could have saved 2014 was the String Cheese Incident… and by golly they did.  By the grace of the Gods and the String Cheese Incident, Wakarusa prevailed… It was the Greatest Show on Earth.  It was everything you would want in a festival and more.  It was home, again.  Bassnector, Wookiefoot, the Flaming Lips, Infected Mushroom, Edward Sharpe, John Butler, Claude Von Stroke, Nahko.  That 1 Guy.  It was BIG.  We were larger than life.
Proudly, as this year’s the 2015 Live Art Coordinator for the Wakarusa Music Festival, it is with my whole heart that I jump into this experience year after year…. knowing that there is no greater place on earth for my soul, than ass-deep amongst my best friends rockin’ out to Slightly Stoopid, spinning fire beneath those mountain stars – it’s EXACTLY where I need to be June 4-7th.  You buy the ticket, you take the ride, and you never know what you’re going to find…. but I find comfort in knowing that at Wakarusa, it’s going to be something interesting that leaves me begging for more. Wakarusa. “Where music meets mother nature”.  This year it is with deep gratitude that we bring to you not only more live painters and interactive art, with an emphasis on participation and circus entertainment, installations and also with a focus on leaving no trace.  You can attend a solar workshops.   Reusable and functional art are the goal.
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  I look forward to making it to  Mulberry Mountain every year, and for many years to come.  Thank you Wakarusa community for sticking it out and making this so all so magical!  Until next year, you have my heart, Wakarusa.  You always will.
Unknown Love,
MissConception

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