Editor’s note: This is the second of four stories in the “Seven to See” (72C) series highlighting the musical acts appearing at the 2012 Wakarusa Music Festival (May 31-June 3). Go here for a complete overview of this year’s festival. Click here for the first story in the series.
commentary by Michelle Parks, special to The City Wire
Get regular festival updates and photos by following Michelle Parks on Twitter: @CityWireWaka and on The City Wire’s Facebook page.
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 Friday (June 1) :
• Monophonics (Kum & Go Outpost – 1 to 2 p.m.)
Start the day at the Kum & Go Outpost with Monophonics, a fabulous soul and funk group from San Francisco. They recently added keyboardist Kelly Finnigan, who also pumps out some powerful soul vocals. Earlier this year, they signed on with a booking agency; this month, they released a new album, In Your Brain, which pays tribute to “psychedelic” originators such as Sly Stone and George Clinton. This show should keep the crowd grooving.
• Cordovas (George’s Majestic Backwoods – 3 to 4 p.m.)
Head to the Backwoods stage and settle down to hear the Cordovas. This band, formed around the trio of Joe Firstman, Jon Loyd and Toby Weaver, started in 2011 when they also released their self-titled debut album. Their lyrics are storytelling, their harmonies are soaring and rich, their instrumentation is intricately layered — sounding a bit like the Allman Brothers or The Eagles. These elements will lead to some great afternoon jams.
• Split Lip Rayfield (Revival Tent – 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.)
Make your way around to the Revival Tent to catch Split Lip Rayfield, a sort of bluegrass/alternative country band from Wichita, Kan. The band is Wayne Gottstine on mandolin, Eric Mardis on banjo and Jeff Eaton on upright bass — and, they all sing. Particularly entertaining is Eaton's homemade one-string bass, built from the gas tank of a 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis. These guys will put on an energetic, rollicking show.
• The Delta Saints (George’s Majestic Backwoods – 6:15 to 7:15 p.m.)
Return to the Backwoods stage to find The Delta Saints, a five-man band from Nashville that blends blues, soul and rock to create a sound that is raw and intense. Lead singer Ben Ringel offers powerful, soulful vocals. Their driving, tight instrumentation features Ringel on dobro and Greg Hommert, who ignites tunes with his harmonica. Come get swept away in what is sure to be a raucous good time.
• Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros (Main Stage – 8:15 to 9:45 p.m.)
Grab yourself some dinner, then get over to the Main Stage for Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. Alex Ebert is lead singer, and Edward Sharpe isn’t in the band. (Sharpe is a messianic figure that Ebert was once writing a book about.) The band is hard to miss — there are 10 of them. They combine to offer a free-spirited, hopeful sound that’s perfect for this festival. Their 2009 debut album, Up from Below, featured “Home,” which starts out with whistling and the lyrics, “Alabama, Arkansas, I sure love my ma and pa.” Their second album, Here, was released this week. (As Alexander, Ebert also released a lovely love song, “A Million Years.” Here’s hoping they play that one too.)
• The Avett Brothers (Main Stage – 10:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.)
Just stay put for the next band, a musical treat all the way from their native North Carolina. The Avett Brothers, a progressive bluegrass band, will put on a two-hour show that promises to be the best of the day. Their lyrics are potent and meaning-laden; their sound is clean and authentic. And the harmony generated by brothers Scott and Seth Avett is distinctive and smooth. Scott plays banjo, Seth plays guitar, and Bob Crawford plays upright bass. On tour, they also bring Joe Kwon on cello and Jacob Edwards on drums.
They have many albums to pull material from, including their 2009 album, I and Love and You, produced by Rick Rubin. A few of their best tunes: “I and Love and You,” “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” “The Ballad of Love and Hate” and a sweet, sweet tune, “Murder in the City.” They capture the complicated nature of relationships — between family, lovers and friends. This show should be lively and rowdy, and they’ll likely play something from their next album, expected out this spring.
• Umphrey’s McGee (Revival Tent – 12:15 to 2 a.m.)
Wind down the evening with Umphrey’s McGee in the Revival Tent. This jam band formed in the 1997 at the University of Notre Dame, and is influenced by bands such as Pink Floyd and early Genesis. The current lineup numbers six, including original members Brendan Bayliss (on guitar/vocals), Joel Cummins (on keyboards/vocals) and Ryan Stasik (on bass guitar). This will be a mellow way to end this big, big day of music.