by John Tarpley
It's been three years since Wakarusa, the annual music and outdoors festival, relocated to Arkansas and, since, organizers have been focused on recreating the sights, sounds and smells of your dad's hippie fests: jam bands, light shows, knotted hemp, stray clouds of sticky icky icky smoke. Stay fast, we say. But we're thrilled to see the festival flirt with big names outside of the proverbial drum circle. This year's line-up welcomes back the regular cast of friendlies — Ben Harper and Relentless 7, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Umphrey's McGee, STS9 — while making room on stage for a few bright-lit names.
Leading the pack of surprises: My Morning Jacket, the not-Southern-rock Southern rockers whose career path has taken the band from fuzz-ball "Live Rust" acolytes to ambitious, epochal critical darlings. The festival showcases other drawling indie acts like Mumford & Sons, the folk ravers who were handed the "Best New Artist" and "Best Rock Song" Grammys last year; the Oscar-winning songwriter Ryan Bingham; and a soon-to-be-huge Nashville grrrl-country act, Those Darlins.
The festival seems to be expanding its techno offerings, as well, booking Thievery Corporation, the jazzy, trip-hop duo; Shpongletron, a jam-friendly electro-eclecticist; and Austin electro-rockers Ghostland Observatory.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, those much-celebrated soul revivalists, also duck into the festival for a Friday evening set.
Other notable names: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Toots & the Maytals, Lucero, Minus the Bear, Budos Band, Lanhorne Slim, Peelander-Z and, one of Arkansas's contributions to the festival, our beloved two-headed beast, Tyrannosaurus Chicken.