As Monday rolled around and festival goers who weren't hopelessly stranded in mud slowly made their way out and back to reality, Wakarusa 2013 officially came to a close. The weekend could be described as mildly chaotic: with two days of tornadic weather, a resident bear in the camp sites sneaking off with picnic baskets, a water shortage that disabled the showers halfway through the festival, all the while being orchestrated by a rushing and raging management trying their best to keep things going.
The festival as a whole was prefaced with a barrage of gale-force winds and lightning storms that went off and on from early Thursday morning until the late afternoon. The 45,000 worried attendants were forced to stay in their cold, soaking tents where they all drowned themselves in drug cocktails to coax their anxieties and keep their minds occupied until the festival grounds were finally opened.
Those who could make it through the mud lakes to the main stage were able to see the flashback act of the festival, the Black Crowes. With the exception of one or two classics where front man Chris Robinson's vocals didn't exactly hold up, the Crowes' performance sounded solid and was a fun sight to experience among the hippies, wookies and the rest. While it was a pleasure to hear their medley of hits, the performance was highlighted by an absolutely classic cover of "Jumping Jack Flash" that had many in the crowd with their jaws dropped. The guitar solos by Rich Robinson gave a slick touch to an old favorite. Things were beginning to look up as the Crowes finished their set and the wait for STS9 was on.
Things were finally starting to function around the grounds as the mini-society saw its first nightfall. Shakedown Street had opened up and quickly became a vagabond economy with vending booths and starving artists who were trading, buying, and busking to make their living. the scene evoked a genuine Oriental marketplace where everything is for sale and anything you're looking for is available. The slow motion highway of rug-wearing counter-cultaralists and Deadheads with deadlocks shuffled their way down as they exchanged conversation in passing, asked for a drug of choice, or made a pitch of their own product. This channel of trade is surrounded by an eclectic collection of art, from paintings to dream catchers, from glass pipes to t-shirts, all for sale for the right price or the right item to barter. This homegrown economy marked an essential piece of the Wakarusa puzzle, providing many with the money they need to survive, others the buzz they need to live, and an indescribable vibe that truly reminds you that you're not in Kansas anymore.
Just as things were beginning to really get rolling and the five stages began playing their scheduled acts, widespread rumors of another batch of storms more intense than the last gradually turned into reality as the thunder began to catch up to the lightning flashing away in the southwestern skies. Finally, a state of emergency was declared and the festival grounds were evacuated. People were forced to hunker down in their tents and hold out once again for the next golly washer, this one said to be producing hail and tornadoes. With temperatures and spirits dropping, the masses endured another night of uncertainty as they drank furiously in order to keep warm and fend off hypothermia.
Thankfully, the severe weather went around Mulberry Mountain, but a steady rain kept up all night. Makeshift streets in the camping areas turned into hopeless mud pits that swallowed cars up to their bumpers and sent people spinning down hills as they sprayed mud onto unsuspecting tents and parked vehicles. Road conditions became so harsh that the call was made to turn away people entering the festival. No one could enter, no one could leave. The fun and free spirited event quickly turned into a survival situation, and the question was whether or not the show could go on if this kept up. With acts such as Snoop Lion, Amon Tobin, Widespread Panic and a slew of other incredible artists hanging in the balance, the rest of the festival was in jeopardy and only time would tell how things would go.
Photos below by Mike Gualdoni. Follow all of KDHX's Wakarusa 2013 coverage.