Wakarusa 2013 was the most extreme and intense camping experience I ever had. Typically I would find this type of unpredictable stormy atmosphere exciting on a camping trip but at this magnitude of extreme weather at a music festival it was difficult not to be disappointed.
From the very beginning of the festival the weather was very rainy and festival goers were very concerned about some of their favorite acts being cancelled. This ended up being the case for multiple bands, however fans did get lucky as some last-minute schedule changes were made for certain artist’s with sets right in the middle of some of the serious storms. Rumors of the stage collapsing and STS9 being called off early during their Thursday performance really enraged fans especially when the extreme storm didn’t really hit until Friday night, apparently there were between 11 and 13 tornado touchdowns in the area and on the mountaintop staying dry and hidden from the vicious lightning was difficult and discouraging but it did not stay in anyone’s way.
If I was not trying to keep my feet elevated to save m some horrible blisters or stay sheltered from the multiple extreme storms, I found myself struggling to walk even the shortest distance. The mud from cars, rain, runoff, and constant people traffic all compiled into one giant pool of waka mud that caused many festival goers to give up on wearing shoes, and a small few even left the festival early. Coming from the Northeast, my ride and I had every intention of riding out the storm but we also did not expect just how serious things would get.
Wakarusa 2013 truly tested the dedication of music lovers and just how much a fan is willing to endure to see the music they love, and like every other Waka festival good vibes were overly abundant despite much of the plight. If anything from my experience at other festivals and one year of Waka, I noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of care, love, and community. People started to realize just how bad things got and how they were going to get and everyone was more than willing to lend a helping hand. Despite the risks of being sucked into the vicious mud, attendees were constantly helping others push their cars out of the mud, demonstrating everyone’s value for their community. The fans that stuck around until the end of the festival, (the majority) really showed how important a community can be in times of trouble and also how tight and passionate a community can be when it is built around the love of music.
Strangers, neighbors, and new friends were all willing to help keep one another dry and safe from the storm. Socks and other necessities were shared amongst fellow attendees and people were constantly risking completely falling in mud just to help by pushing other fans cars out of the mud. There was truly a sense of community.
Wakarusa 2013 was the ten-year anniversary of the festival and was the biggest Wakarusa to date. A lot of the security and volunteers found themselves scrambling to do their jobs in the terrible weather. Camping locations started to become a free for all as people moved and relocated from camp ground to camp ground in search of a dryer more suitable camping area.
Avalanches of mud caused cars parked on hills to slide and anyone parked on a muddy hill without four-wheel drive needed a tow, there was a constant flow of tow trucks coming into my campsite having to tow vehicles without their owners even being aware. The mud made most campgrounds a serious cluster mess.
A walk just about anywhere in the festival aside from the few paths almost guaranteed you to be stuck in the Waka sludge. I lost two of my only pairs of shoes at that festival, robbed by the vicious 2 foot high mud which made the walk to different performances excruciatingly painful after about a day or so. It seemed like Mother Nature would not give us a break but it also seemed like a test, a test of just how loving one can be at an event built upon music and love. Without a doubt I think Waka passed that test.
Walking to main stage was a struggle in itself as the constant in and out traffic caused for more and more mud. Some music goers completely embraced the mud, covering themselves in it and diving, others did so as well but without choice, instead like quicksand people were sucked in or slipping.
A performance that really stood out to me at Wakarusa was Umphrey’s McGee on the main stage May 31st. The setlist was completely fire and the band was on point with everything they did. I felt that Brendan Bayliss, (guitar and vocals) had really improved on his singing skills and that was a pleasant surprise. The jams Umphrey’s broke out were explosive and strategically placed to ensure an incredible show. A highlight of their set from their first performance on the main stage was “Cemetery walk”. I have only heard “Cemetery Walk part two” last year at Waka and I was very excited to hear this song live as well. The Set opened up with a song the band debuted it was an original known as “Le Blitz”. Being the first time that the band ever performed this song I was extremely curious as to how it would turn out and why they would choose to open their set with a never performed original, as always Umphrey’s executed the song perfectly and refused to disappoint only leaving the crowd begging for more. The Second song “Jajunk” confused me because they played most of the song but it was actually unfinished, I love the song and would not have minded hearing it in its entirety. The band ended their set with a “Bulls on Parade” tease jam that was dropped in the song “Pay the Snucka.” A few other songs performed during this immaculate set were “Partyin Peeps”, “Who Knows”, “Walletsworth”, “Divisions”, “Miami Virtue”, and “Imminence Front”. The band even performed Jake Cinninger’s song “Glory” which got me extremely excited because I always enjoyed hearing it however I wanted to hear it full throttle with the entire Umphrey’s band jamming along. Not surprisingly, it was more than a success. As always Umphrey’s brought the heat.
Over all throughout the festival when I wasn’t dancing my wet pants off enjoying the music, I tried to stay as positive as possible but it was difficult knowing that I missed some of the acts that I came such a distance to see, whether it was because they were canceled or because I had no shoes and vicious blisters that appeared to be getting infected.
Wakarusa 2013 truly expressed how important live music is to people. The lengths people will go, and extremities fans are willing to endure just to ensure that they can share in the groove have completely surpassed any of my expectations after this Waka. I have never seen such an extreme cluster F*** in my life, and the beauty of it was people were completely aware of how bad things were but they still maintained a positive attitude with an open helping hand willing to assistance anyone that crosses their path in need of anything. The community aspect was the strongest I have personally seen at any festival and I have been to my fair share. People had a genuine concern for their neighbor’s safety and well-being. Without this selfless mentality the numerous storms would have crushed Wakarusa. It’s all about community!