MULBERRY MOUNTAIN — The ninth annual Wakarusa Music Festival boasts about 150 confirmed acts appearing on five stages over four days at Mulberry Mountain, north of Ozark. That’s a lot of bands and a lot of music, and deciding who to hear can be challenging.
This “Seven to See” (72C) series offers daily recommendations for music. Sometimes they include the major, can’t-miss acts. But they also offers suggestions for intriguing acts that promise 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.
The 72C on Thursday (May 31):
• Nathaniel Rateliff (Kum & Go Outpost – 1 to 2 p.m.)
The music starts at noon, but we suggest you ease your way into the festival with Nathaniel Rateliff at 1 p.m. at the Kum & Go Outpost. He offers a sometimes quiet, melancholy sound, with a voice that is strong, pure and emotion-filled. He grew up in rural Missouri, taught himself to play drums and guitar and wrote songs, then moved to Denver, where he developed a following. He’s been praised by Spin (for his “massive, alluring voice”) and by the New York Times (for his “stark, eloquent [Johnny] Cash echoes”). Just days after his Wakarusa appearance, Rateliff will play the Gentlemen of the Road Festival in the United Kingdom and Ireland with Mumford & Sons (performers at Wakarusa last year).
• The Big Wu (Main Stage – 3 to 4 p.m.)
Get your groove on with this next band, The Big Wu, when they take the Main Stage at 3 p.m. They started in the early 1990s as a Grateful Dead tribute band, forming at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. They started writing original tunes — “Red Sky” and “Kangaroo” are among the most requested — and, by the late 1990s, were touring profusely. They’ve had some changes from the beginning — namely going from five to four members. They only play occasionally now, mainly at their “Big Wu Family Reunion Tour” in Minnesota, so this is a rare chance to catch them.
• Kids These Days (Revival Tent – 5:45 to 6:45 p.m.)
This Chicago-based band of seven musicians is just intriguing. They’ve only been around since 2009, forming when they were in high school. They’re 18- to 20-year olds, yet they have a mature sound, bringing a mix of hip-hop, jazz and rock. They’ve played Lollapalooza and South by Southwest, and they released their debut EP, Hard Times, last year. Singer Liam Cunningham offers soulful lead vocals (and plays guitar), harmonizing beautifully with Macie Stewart (the only female band member). Rapper Vic Mensa offers smooth lines to the groovy tunes, and the entire sound is backed by trombone, trumpet, bass and drums.
• Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (Kum & Go Outpost – 7:15 to 8:30 p.m.)
This is an energetic, solid rock band, with tight instrumentation and great harmonies, that hails from Arizona. That’s where lead singer and songwriter Clyne — who also plays guitar, harmonica and kazoo — grew up. The band has released six consecutive albums that debuted in the top 10 on Billboard's Internet Sales chart — the first independent band to accomplish that feat. Note: Catch about an hour of this set before scurrying off to the Main Stage for the following must-not-miss show.
• Weir, Robinson & Greene Acoustic Trio (Main Stage – 8:30 to 10 p.m.)
As stated before, this set is not to be missed. The stellar individual reputations and histories of these three musicians can only be amplified when assembled in this acoustic trio. Bob Weir, a singer-songwriter, guitarist and founding member of the Grateful Dead, has gone on, after the disbanding of the Grateful Dead in 1995, to play in various reformations of Dead members. Chris Robinson is lead singer for The Black Crowes (currently “on hiatus”). His newly formed Chris Robinson Brotherhood is expected to release a debut album this year. And Jackie Greene is a great singer, adept at various musical styles, and master of many instruments. This trio is stopping in Arkansas on the way from Nashville to Boulder, Colo. This promises to be an unforgettable jam.
• Pretty Lights (Main Stage – 10:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.)
Stay put in your spot for the next musical offering, Pretty Lights. There’s something special about listening to tunes long after the sun has set. Colorado-native Derek Vincent Smith is the creator of this electronic music experience, which relies on digital sampling of many genres. And, there’s a dazzling light show to go with it. This is one of many festival stops for him this summer, and a great way to wind down the evening.
• Quixotic (Main Stage – 1 to 2:15 a.m.)
But, before you hit the hay, and lay your head down to dream, stay at the Main Stage for Quixotic, a comprehensive artistic experience. This Kansas City-based ensemble of visual, musical and performing artists, which formed about six years ago, will serve an artistic feast. Conceived by founder and composer Anthony Magliano, this group brings together disciplines of aerial acrobatics, dance, fashion, film, music and visual effects. Music from the five-piece band drives the rest of the activity on stage. This multi-sensory experience will send you off into lovely dreams.