The Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival celebrated its ninth year this weekend, and what a celebration it was. An estimated 20,000 fans turned out to see performances from a variety of acts like Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Primus, and Ghostland Observatory. But these 10 moments stood out.
10. Weir, Robinson, & Greene Acoustic Trio
What do you get when you mix equal parts Black Crowes, Grateful Dead and The Prince of Americana? Fans at Wakarusa found the answer at the Main Stage on the first day of the festival during Weir, Robinson, & Greene Acoustic Trio’s performance. The group performed several Grateful Dead songs together with guitars and banjos and a Buddy Holly cover before taking turns doing solo performances.
Matisyahu’s Sunday night performance was one of the last great shows of Wakarusa. The rapper fit right in with the reggae groups that abounded during the day, but his band took it up a notch, exploring genres with extended psychedelic jams, arena-rock crescendos and some electronic manipulation. However, the hip-hop artists’ unique vocal delivery and lyrical prowess was the high point of the show.
8. Fitz & The Tantrums
Wakarusa wouldn’t have been complete without the neo-soul sounds of Michael Fitzpatrick and his band. The group performed at the top of their game, trading in their dapper suits for more breathable summer wear to combat the heat. Vocalist Noelle Scaggs even sported a shorter haircut and sundress for the occasion. The band’s take on The Raconteurs’ “Steady as She Goes” was an especially memorable moment.
7. The Lumineers
The Lumineers performed to a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Backwoods Stage on the third day of the festival. Audience members were either singing and dancing or content to sit and let the band’s sweet indie folk tunes wash over the in the shade of the forest. Is there a better way to listen to these guys?
6. The Sheepdogs
This Canadian rock group laid down some Southern boogie at the Revival Tent featuring Allman Brothers-inspired riffs without forgetting the power of melody and vocal harmonies. The band gained widespread attention when they became the first unsigned act to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. Fans that attended either of group’s two Wakarusa performances will certainly be looking forward to their upcoming album produced by The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney.
The dance-pop octet took to the stage on Wakarusa’s opening day for the first of two performances during the festival. Rubblebucket welcomed festivalgoers with high energy, vibrant neon scarves, colorful dancing blobs and foot-stomping-fun tunes. The band joined the crowd to dance and, on their second performance, carried a homemade “tunnel” through the gathering of fans, giving listeners who passed through a few seconds of private dancing.
4. Heartless Bastards
Most of the members of Heartless Bastards looked stoic during their first set of the festival, but Frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom contrasted her stoic bandmates with passionate vocals, eyes tightly shut and face wrought with emotion. The songs were introspective and full of beautiful—weary, lovelorn lyrics held up by the driving rock beat and garage attitude. Dana Falconberry’s guest harmony vocals gave several of the tracks a bit of added loveliness, blending perfectly with Wennerstrom’s powerful low-toned voice.
3. Girl Talk
No matter how many times you see Girl Talk, each party is better than the last. The mash-up DJ mixed samples featured on several of his albums, particularly his most recent releases Feed the Animals and All Day, and dropped in a few new ones including the hook from the newest Dr. Dre single, “Kush.” And of course, no Girl Talk performance is complete without explosions of confetti and toilet paper guns.
2. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
The merry band of hippies took to the stage on the second night of the festival in front of a massive crowd playing songs from their recently released sophomore record and their critically acclaimed debut, as well as “Truth” from frontman Alex Ebert’s solo album. The singer took a break in between songs to chat with the audience about basketball to cries of “Miami Heat!” and “Fuck the Heat!” When he launched into an unreleased song, Ebert pretended to shoot hoops while singing. As the drums queued up for “40 Day Dream” a girl in the crowd turned to me and said, “This will change your life.”
1. The Avett Brothers
The audience at The Avett Brothers’ headlining set was held in thrall as the boys performed songs old and new. Despite being backed by a full band of upright bass, drums, and the thoroughly entertaining Joe Kwon on cello, the Seth and Scott Avett still didn’t refrain from using their own foot-stomped bass drum and high hat. The “Down in the Valley to Pray” a capella tribute to the recently passed bluegrass hero Doc Watson was an especially moving performance, and the new song the brothers closed with left fans eagerly awaiting the band’s forthcoming album.