The first day of this year’s Wakarusa Music Festival set the bar high for what is sure to be a weekend overflowing with stellar performances. Bay Area rapper Lyrics Born took the stage early in the evening to lay down his poetry—accompanied by a drummer and keyboardist—as well as wife Joyo Velarde providing soulful backup vocals. At the Outpost Stage, Cincinnati rockers Heartless Bastards pummeled their audience with a perfect blend of garage, blues and country tones. Frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom appeared lost in emotion as she belted her songs a her powerful voice. The group was joined on several songs by singer/songwriter Dana Falconberry, lending harmony vocals that gave listeners an added treat to what ended up being one of the best shows of the day.
Rubblebucket was another contender with a set that was certainly the most outright fun. The eight-piece group got the crowd dancing with their catchy and melodic indie-pop and enormous energy. When she wasn’t rocking her baritone sax, singer Kalmia Traver was all over the stage, even descending into the crowd to get down with fans and pass around a generous amount of high fives. Backup dancers dressed as silver, pink and purple blobs, adding a strange-but-weirdly-wonderful bonus.
As the sun set on Arkansas’s Mulberry Mountain, the folk harmonies of Weir, Robinson and Greene put the day one of the festival to bed. The acoustic trio—made up of a founding member of Grateful Dead, The Black Crowes’ frontman and a legendary singer/songwriter—commanded their audience with straightforward, compelling arrangements as the festival geared up for the after-dark shows. Electro wizard Pretty Lights was the headliner for the night, which was reflected by the crowd size at the main stage. The DJ performed from behind a table covered with blinding lights, and the backdrop resembled an electric metropolis of vibrant glowing skyscrapers. Festivalgoers danced the night away to Pretty Lights’ glitchy electronic beats and hip-hop-soul samples, followed with sets from acts like Tea Leaf Green and Dirtfoot.