Tuesday, May 27, 2008
It's an exciting year for outdoor music in Lawrence no matter what style of tunes trip your trigger-and the 5th annual Wak Fest is a big reason why. It's shaping up to be the best year evar thanks to four diverse days of music, and top-shelf artists each day.
° The full stage schedule is available at lawrence.com/wakarusa or via the iPhone-friendly m.lawrence.com. You might also find the Pocket-friendly PDF version of our Waka guide exceedingly referenceable.
° Blog: Wakascopes
° Photos: LOL Hippies
° Just for fun: Dam Libs! Annoying Festival Dude Edition
° The more you know: Festival legal advice
and of course,
° Our best bets...
NOTE: Be prepared for severe weather Thursday - more info.
1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Revival Tent
Get over the Deliverance bib overalls and the Ozark ax-killer faces. The five guys in Springfield, Mo., outfit Big Smith have long cultivated the Ozark hillbilly look, and further it with a tear-ass musical style that puts them in the company of groups like the Gourds and Avett Brothers. They usually look like they've just arrived from a turkey shoot or pig roast, but Big Smith can play high-energy, bluegrass-influenced roots music with anybody on the farm.
3 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sun Up Stage
and Revival Tent, Sunday, June 8
Since relocating to Lawrence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Truckstop Honeymoon (a.k.a. Mike West and Katie Euliss) have continued doing what they've always done best: writing, recording and performing music like their lives depended on it (which, as full-time musicians, is exactly the case). The duo's latest LP, "Diamonds in the Asphalt," invites some new neighbors into the fold to create a full-band racket that amplifies the raw mojo of previous folk and bluegrass-informed efforts. Whether traversing blues, rock, rockabilly or campy show-tune territory, "Asphalt" is a joyous expression of old traditions and new beginnings. TSH also has another record nearly in the can, targeted for a fall release. (Watch TSH on The Turnpike).
4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sun Up Stage
and 1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m., Friday, Sun Down Stage
Boston trio Apollo Sunshine mixes classic rock chops with modern indie-pop sensibilities. The trio met while attending the Berklee College of Music, an undertaking that paid dividends when they put those booksmarts to use on their wildly eclectic debut "Katonah" and ensuing self-titled LP. Culling the troughs of psychedelic rock, acoustic blues and scrappy fuzz pop, the band will release its third album this summer.
6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., Revival Tent
and 9:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m., Friday, Sun Up Stage
While Southern California may be better known for churning out pop punk and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Limbeck is the rare band that consistently turns out great rock music that doesn't really need a genre or locale for reference. Telecaster guitars and from-the-heart lyrics permeate the band's graceful approach, which has developed over the course of making records at Eudora's Black Lodge Studios.
Stardeath and White Dwarfs
Noon to 12:45 p.m., Sun Down Stage
Stardeath and White Dwarfs is a glammy rock band from Norman, Okla. Lead singer Dennis Coyne is the nephew of The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, and while he shares his uncle's affection for psychedelic rock jams, he also favors prog groups like King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The group has built up anticipation for its debut full-length by touring with Deerhoof, Band of Horses, Starlight Mints and The Flaming Lips.
1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Revival Tent
One of the better overlooked groups of the grunge era, Lawrence's Paw made a name for themselves with aggressive yet melodic albums like 1993's "Dragline" and 1995's "Death to Traitors." Lackluster sales prompted A&M Records to drop the band, and for awhile they dropped off the face of the earth. Singer Mark Hennessy and guitarist Grant Fitch resurfaced in 2000 with new recruits Jesse Larson and Jason Magierowski and a new album titled "Home Is a Strange Place." Eight years later, they're reuniting once again to play songs from all three albums. This is a bona-fide, blue-ribbon chance to see a local band of historic significance pull out all the stops and go for broke (sans stagediving).
Mates of State
2:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., Sun Down Stage
Mates of State rocks with two-part pop that landed a record deal back before Jack and Meg White were all that. The Mates are best experienced live, where the ex-Lawrence duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel sing like doves and bust rhymes like rap stars. Musically, Gardner's two-handed keyboard wizardry is downright Dumbledore-like, and Hammel can hammer the drums with the best of them while singing comfortably. The lovey-dovey duo's latest LP "Re-Arrange Us" features lots of pretty piano ballads; Sonny & Cher would be totally jealous.
Built to Spill
4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sun Down Stage
Known for their psychedelic exaggerations of guitar-loaded pop songs, Built to Spill is more than capable of appeasing the jam contingent without alienating fickle hipsters. BTS's most recent release "You In Reverse" sported 10 solid tracks that proved the Boise, Idaho, band had plenty left in the proverbial tank. Doug Martsch and his now five-piece band have been showcasing new cuts lately as well as two reggae-influenced cuts that appeared on a 12" single last year. (Read our interview with Doug Martsch.)
4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m., Revival Tent
Like fellow West Coast rap acts The Pharcyde and Jurassic 5, Blackalicous is more likely to flow on "the positive tip" than degrade women or celebrate thug life. The decade-old group hooked up with ANTI Records to release its latest album, "The Craft," which displays heavy slices of Bay Area funk in the tradition of Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis. The two-man DJ/MC crew-rapper Gift of Gab and producer Chief Xcel-introspects and party rocks in equal measure, making them one of hip-hop's most universally well-liked acts.
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Revival Tent
Arrested Development's spiritually advised hip-hop crested in popularity in 1992 with the album "3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of..." and the hit singles "Mr. Wendal" and "Tennessee." The group delivered its message of unity and equality via laid-back grooves informed by rural blues, African percussion and funky live-band jams. Hip-hoppers like The Roots and Talib Kweli followed suit while lead emcee Speech pursued a solo career. He reunited Arrested Development in 2000, targeting overseas markets with ensuing comeback records and performing on the NBC television series "Hit Me Baby One More Time." Never content to rest on the laurels of past successes, Arrested Development aims to keep bringing the enlightened heat in support of its latest record, "Since the Last Time."
7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., Sun Down Stage
The signature elements of Cake are John McCrea's sing/speak baritone, infectious single-note guitar riffs, cinematic trumpet and in-the-pocket bass. The group's six albums and hits like "The Distance" and "Never There" wed infectious melodies to playful narratives, providing delicious treats for the dance crowd as well as the head-bob contingent. Covers of Barry White's "Never Gonna Give You Up" and Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" surfaced on Cake's recent "B-Sides and Rarities" LP. The band has been known to perform the latter with Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips, who is conveniently scheduled to take the stage immediately following Cake's set.
10 p.m. to midnight, Sundown Stage
How Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins made the transition from psychedelic alt-rock pioneers to hippie festival favorites is one of our generation's more perplexing happenstances. Perhaps it has something to do with the furry animal costumes, the bubble-bursting confetti, the gratuitous jumbotron boob flashes and a megaphone-wielding ringleader straight outta Barnum-and-Bailey summer camp. We prefer to think it was the music: a marvelously wrecked blend of stadium-friendly psychedelia, warped electronic pop and excess-infused classic rock. Touring drummer and Lawrence homeboy Kliph Scurlock will be on hand to kick out the jams as the Lips make their second Wakarusa appearance. Here's betting they'll outdo themselves. Watch The Lips perform at the 2006 Wak Fest: part 1 | part 2.
Chicago Afrobeat Project
Noon to 12:50 p.m., Sun Up Stage
Chicago Afrobeat Project performs its take on the genre created by the late Fela Kuti. For the uninitiated: Afro-beat music originated in the early '60s after the leader of Koola Lobitos, a popular Nigerian band, traveled to the United States and was introduced to the funky sounds of James Brown and the radical leadership of Malcolm X. The style uniquely mixes the traditions of both Nigeria and the United States. CAbP adds a little Chicago flavor to the mix as each band member brings in their own influences.
2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Revival Tent
The Gourds are a slaphappy alt-country band with a boatload of goofy covers and some even better originals. The group's fluke-hit cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" was both a blessing and curse for a veteran band with talents that reach far deeper than ironic covers of mainstream rap songs. What it did prove, however, is that The Gourds will go to extremes to entertain their audiences-an attribute that presumably scored them a second Wakarusa appearance. (Watch The Gourds at the Wak Fest, 2005.)
3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., Sun Down Stage
With a folk-rock vibe reminiscent of Mason Jennings and Ray LaMontagne, Brett Dennen is one of the more likable performers on the acoustic singer/songwriter circuit. A nimble fingerpicker with jazzy chord structures and an unflappable boyish voice, Dennen has supported Guster and John Mayer tours en route to building his own fan base. His 2006 album "So Much More" earned him a spot as one of Rolling Stone Magazine's "10 Artists To Watch."
4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Revival Tent
Austin legend Alejandro Escovedo is a master of many styles: country, rock, cowpunk, blues and beyond. His venerable career began in the '70s with San Fran punk band The Nuns and his solo career has spanned 15 years and 10 albums for insurgent country labels like Bloodshot Records. His bouts with Hepatitis C have inspired massive support from fans and peers, and the veteran songwriter continues to stare down the disease and celebrate life via music. Escovedo's forthcoming ninth solo album, "Real Animal," is a collective journey through his various musical incarnations: punk rock to string quintets.
8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Revival Tent
After a two-album solo detour, alt-country pop crooner Rhett Miller is back with his old gang, the Old 97's, and a no-worse-for-the-wear album titled "Blame It On Gravity." The train-dodging foursome has always been a favorite of the Texas twang camp, but their turn-of-the-century efforts dug in some mighty power-pop claws (most notably 2001's "Satellite Rides"). This sunset show at the Revival Tent offers an excellent opportunity to catch the band in their element with explosive new tunes and some time-tested singalongs.
10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Revival Tent
Ben Folds is the Elton John of our generation, but straighter, and balder, and more prone to covering Dr. Dre songs and singing about his nutsack. Thirteen years after Folds and his Five-er, three-valiantly rescued popular music from the dark specter of grunge, the smartass pianist is cruising right along with a new backing band and an album due in September. New tracks like "Hiroshima" and "The Bitch Went Nuts" have been surfacing in recent performances along with cuts from the BF5 trilogy; evidence that Folds is more than happy to give his fans exactly what they want.
7:45 p.m. to 8:50 p.m., Sun Up Stage
and Noon to 12:45 p.m., Saturday, Sun Down Stage
Philadelphia band Dr. Dog reincarnates golden doo-wop vibes and Top 40 radio when Dick Clark was still a fresh young face on the scene. Like city-mates Marah, the group pens scrappy, trend-oblivious tunes with guiltless Beatles, Beach Boys and Zombies shout outs. The group's catalog has largely favored lo-fi home recordings on vintage tape machines, an aesthetic that sounded perfectly executed on 2007's "We All Belong." A national tour supporting Wilco introduced Dr. Dog to new audiences; a new LP titled "Fate" is expected in July.
Yard Dog's Road Show
1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Revival Tent
and 12:30 a.m. to 1:45 a.m., Sunday (Saturday late night) Sun Up Stage
In an era when any reality-show reject can stuff his or her gut in a girdle and call it burlesque, it's refreshing to see REAL freaks like the YDRS holding down the fort. The traveling neo-vaudeville sideshow features sword swallowers, fire eaters, pasties-safe burlesque and rambling hobo poetry - all animated by the live sounds of the Cartoon Jug Band. If you're in the mood for some low-brow entertainment, the YDRS is your first-class joint.
Tea Leaf Green
2:45 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sun Down Stage
and 2:15 a.m. to 4 a.m., Sunday (Saturday late night) Sun Up Stage
Tea Leaf Green plays psychedelic southern rock a la The Allman Brothers, canvassing the festival scene and snapping up "Jammy" awards before the noodleheads can get to 'em. The group has released four albums of guitar-driven tunes and supported tours by Trey Anastasio and Gov't Mule.
David Grisman Quintet
4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m., Revival Tent
Known to his fans simply as "The Dawg," David Grisman has taken the mandolin to whole new jazz-inflected heights over the course of a 40-year career that has seen collaborations with legends like Jerry Garcia, Doc Watson, Bela Fleck and jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. Adapt at bluegrass, newgrass, fusegrass and just about any other "grass"-blazing style, Grisman is still going strong at the age of 63.
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Revival Tent
Few musicians have experienced success quite the way Emmylou Harris has-with a storied career spanning over three decades, countless musicians in all genres cite her as an influence. After studying folk music in college in the '60s, Harris relocated to New York to pursue her dream. Soon after some early success, her label folded and her marriage deteriorated. That stroke of bad luck led her to relocate back to Washington D.C.-a move that precipitated her work with country legend Gram Parsons. The ensuing decades saw Harris release a spate of well-received albums, on which she collaborated with other notable artists such as Neil Young, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and Conor Oberst, to name just a few. Harris' trademark voice and her well-honed and unflagging songwriting ability have made her a living legend-the kind of legend that, like Willie, shows no signs of slowing down.
Mickey Hart Band
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Sun Down Stage
It took five years, but the Wakarusa Festival finally snared an actual member of The Grateful Dead. Drummer and percussionist Mickey Hart has been the busiest of the post-Dead crew, winning a Grammy for his "Planet Drum" album and collaborating with Phish bassist Mike Gordon in The Rhythm Devils. His current band features Steve Kimock on guitar, George Porter Jr. on bass, Jen Durkin on vocals, and talking drum master Sikiru Adepoju. Tonight's performance is expected to feature Rhythm Devils songs as well as Grateful Dead staples such as "New Speedway Boogie" and "Fire on The Mountain."
The Avett Brothers
8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Revival Tent
The Avett Brothers sing harmony-laden folk songs backed by rootsy arrangements of acoustic guitar, banjo, piano, harmonica and upright bass. With a songwriting sensibility more comparable to Lennon/McCartney than Doc Watson, the North Carolina trio whoops up a lot of whoopie with minimal instrumentation and boisterous voices. A misty-eyed romanticism informs The Avett Brothers' 2007 release "Emotionalism," which earned high marks in publications like Paste, Harp and Magnet. (Watch he Avett Brothers at Wak Fest 2006.)
Zappa Plays Zappa
9 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sun Down Stage
In shouldering the responsibility for carrying forth his father's legacy, Dweezil Zappa initiated himself into the most difficult cover band on earth. The result -Zappa Plays Zappa-is the closest our generation will get to the epic performances and marvelously twisted vision of the late Frank Zappa. The visionary composer rewrote the book on what bands are capable of, imbuing his 50-plus records with virtuoso skill and bizarre humor. Zappa Plays Zappa covers a wide spectrum of Frank's rock-oriented compositions from the '60s through the '80s. Along for the current tour is guitarist and singer Frank White, a member of the elder Zappa's touring band.
Split Lip Rayfield
10 p.m. to 11 p.m., Revival Tent
In a year that started with the loss of their friend and bandmate Kirk Rundstrom to cancer, Split Lip Rayfield was hardly thinking about music during much of 2007. But when they inevitably came back around to it, they came to a resounding conclusion: Kirk would've wanted Split Lip to live on. An emotional return to the Winfield stage marked the beginning of Split Lip's next chapter-one marked by sadness but also by the celebration of Kirk's legacy and the ever-growing tribe that coalesces 'round every SLR hootenanny. New songs and a new album are in the works. (Watch the Tribute to Split Lip, SLR on The Turnpike, 2006, and SLR on The Turnpike, 2003.)