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.
72C on SATURDAY (JUNE 2):
• Fundimensionals (Revival Tent – Noon to 1 p.m.)
Start out the day at the Revival Tent with some tunes from the Fundimensionals, a band from Westchester, N.Y. Formed in 2009, this band blends funk, rock, jazz, bluegrass and Latin in their jams, combining that with some electronica sounds. They’ll produce some very danceable grooves. Plus, their name is just fun to say.
• Mountain Sprout (Kum & Go Outpost – 1:45 to 2:30 p.m.)
Make your way to the Outpost for Mountain Sprout. The members of this bearded band from Eureka Springs play fiddle, guitar, banjo and upright bass. They have an irreverent and no-nonsense attitude. With song titles like “Screw the Government” and “Dry Counties,” you get the idea. They sing with a backwoods twang, and are just entertaining. They’re known to drink a few beers while they’re playing, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re sure to prompt some foot-stomping dancing.
• MarchFourth Marching Band (Revival Tent – 3 to 4:15 p.m.)
The Revival Tent is the place to be next. Though they don marching band-themed costumes, this is no ordinary marching band. The group grew out of a Fat Tuesday party in Portland, Ore., on March 4, 2003 — hence, their name. Equipped with a five-piece percussion corps, seven-part brass section, bass and guitar, they draw on a range of musical styles, playing what they call a “brass-rock-funk assault” with bits of swing, jazz, bollywood, ska and metal. The addition of stilt-walkers make this group less of a performance and more of a must-see spectacle.
• Gary Clark Jr. (Revival Tent – 4:45 to 6 p.m.)
Stay put, but shift gears, for some soulful, guitar blues from Austin-based Gary Clark Jr. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you’ll get the chance to hear why you should. He has strong credentials: He’s played Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival. He joined Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger and Jeff Beck at a White House performance. His voice can be raw and strong on Delta blues, or smooth and tender. Then, in the same song, he can step right into lightning-quick guitar licks. Rolling Stone called him the “best young gun” in its April 2011 “Best of Rock” issue.
• The Travelin’ McCourys featuring Keller Williams (Kum & Go Outpost – 6 to 7:30 p.m.)
Hustle on over to the Outpost and give a listen to the band that plays with Del McCoury, enhanced by the vocals and guitar of Keller Williams. When he’s on his own, Williams is a one-man band, combining elements of genres including progressive bluegrass, alternative rock, folk and funk. The McCourys include Del’s sons Ronnie (on mandolin) and Rob (on banjo), plus Jason Carter (on fiddle) and Alan Bartram (on upright bass). Last year, this band performed their own set of amazing music, but it’ll be nice to experience them with another vocalist.
• The Del McCoury Band (Kum & Go Outpost – 8 to 9:30 p.m.)
Grab some dinner and then return to the Outpost for a very special treat, the Del McCoury Band. Now 73, Del is a legend, an old-school bluegrass musician. Three years ago, he released a boxed set of 50 songs celebrating 50 years of making music. That doesn’t means he’s stale in any way. This veteran keeps evolving, and he’ll bring those seasoned skills to this festival crowd. He comes to Arkansas right after a weekend of his own festival, DelFest, in Cumberland, Md. His band includes sons Ronnie and Rob (on mandolin and banjo, respectively), who’ve been playing with their dad since they were teenagers.
• Primus (Main Stage – 11 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.)
Shift gears again for Primus, which makes its first festival appearance, performing on the Main Stage. The San Francisco-based rock band has had various incarnations since its founding in 1984, and current members are Les Claypool (on bass and vocals), Larry “Ler” LaLonde (on guitar) and Jay Lane (on drums). Much more than a bass player, Claypool is zany in presentation and exploratory in sound. He’s no stranger to Wakarusa, having played twice when the event was held in Kansas. His solo performance here in Arkansas in 2009 was fantastic, and it will be great to see him with his band. Last time, he wore a pig mask, vest and bow tie while playing an electric upright bass. He also plays a unique instrument, the Whamola, a direct descendent of the washtub bass. It features a single string that’s controlled by a pulley-and-lever system. Prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience.