The 11th annual Wakarusa Music Festival will offer some 130 confirmed acts appearing on six stages over four days at Mulberry Mountain, north of Ozark. Admittedly, that’s a lot of bands and a lot of music, and deciding exactly who to hear can present a serious challenge.
This series of stories, called “Seven to See,” offers daily recommendations for music. Sometimes these include the major, can’t-miss acts. But they also offer suggestions for intriguing acts with the potential to put on a great live show. (Programming note: In assembling these daily lists, attention was paid to performance times, though a quick turnaround might be required to travel between stages.)
72C on THURSDAY (June 5)
• Calliope Musicals (Riverside Stage – noon to 12:45 p.m.)
Following a hoop and flow workshop late Thursday morning, the music starts up noon. We suggest you head down to the Riverside Stage, new to this year’s festival, in the Riverside camping area along the Mulberry River. There, you’ll find the rollicking music of Calliope Musicals, a group that hails from Austin, Texas, and describes themselves as a “psychedelic party folk machine.” Band members Matt Roth and Carrie Fussell had a most interesting first meeting – at a hookah bar. They were inspired by an Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros show – a band that returns to this year’s Wakarusa festival. The band started with an acoustic lineup, but soon added Craig Finkelstein on vibraphone, Josh Bickley on drums, Andrew Vizzone on bass and Chris Webb on guitar.
• St. Paul and the Broken Bones (Main Stage – 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.)
Next, head back to the Main Stage to take in St. Paul and the Broken Bones, a seven-member band from Birmingham, Ala., that features horns and a Hammond B-3 organ. And those spectacular, spiritual vocals from lead vocalist Paul Janeway are not to be missed. He grew up singing and playing guitar in church in his small Alabama hometown of Chelsea. The group recently was nominated for Emerging Act of the Year in the 2014 Americana Honors and Awards. Also, they recently released their debut album, “Half the City.”
• Moon Hooch (Outpost Tent – 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.)
Now, scoot on over to the Outpost Tent for a treat from Moon Hooch, an unusual New York-based group. The three members – saxophonists Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen and drummer James Muschler – met while all three were students at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York. We featured these guys in the preview story. (Read our interview with McGowen here). They call their music “cave music” – a play on house music, but something that is more “primitive and jagged and raw.” They create a perfectly synched, driving techno sound with their very much human-powered instruments.
• Black Joe Lewis (Main Stage – 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.)
Get yourself back to the Main Stage for Black Joe Lewis, another Austin-based group that’s returning to Wakarusa after an appearance in 2010. Lewis, who grew up in Austin, learned to play guitar after pulling one from the walls of the pawn shop where he worked. He started playing and recording in 2005 and is clearly inspired by Delta and Chicago blues and Memphis soul; the inspiration from James Brown can be heard in the energetic “Sugarfoot.”
• Vintage Trouble (Main Stage – 6:15 to 7:45 p.m.)
Don’t move. Next up is Vintage Trouble – a group that’s opened for The Rolling Stones in London and toured with The Who. The Los Angeles-based band, formed in 2010, is stopping by this mountaintop festival, and they’ll blow you away. Front man Ty Taylor offers amazing vocals and attitude that both seem to come from an old-school soul era. The group mixes rock, soul, rhythm and blues for a fresh take on a classic sound.
• Michael Franti and Spearhead (Main Stage – 8:15 to 9:45 p.m.)
Grab some dinner, and then head back to the Main Stage to settle in for the night. Michael Franti and Spearhead is a return performer to this festival, having played twice at the Kansas venue and then at Mulberry Mountain in 2011. Franti is a musician, humanitarian and children’s book author who uses his music to make a positive change in the world. One popular tune is “Sound of Sunshine,” and this music absolutely will lift your spirits.
• Foley’s Van (Backwoods Stage – 9:15 to 10:15 p.m.)
Scoot back to the Backwoods Stage to grab as much as you can of the performance by Foley’s Van, a group that just formed in 2012. They play some super fast tunes – bluegrass, old-time and other genres – equipped with instruments such as mandolin, banjo, guitar and upright bass. It’ll be an energetic, fun way to wrap up the night.