Words by Nathan Rodriguez & Brian Heisler

All Images by Pamela Martinez

2006 Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival :: 06.8 - 06.11.06
Clinton Lake State Park :: Lawrence, KS

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Wakarusa 2006
Depending on your Dickensian perspective, the 3rd annual Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival was either an extended weekend filled with stellar music or it was one of the more poignant examples of over-zealous law enforcement in recent memory. For many, it was an amalgam of the two: enough moments of musical greatness to justify the lengthy drive, but an equal number of eyewitness accounts and hearsay to make concertgoers think about what will be different for Waka '07.

The first hint of change from past Wakarusas was an abrupt surprise for many, as the Kansas State Highway Patrol established checkpoints near the Lawrence exit along I-70, stopping and searching a sizable number of vehicles entering the city. All told, eight law enforcement agencies made their presence felt on the festival grounds throughout the weekend: The Douglas County Sheriff's Department, the Kansas State Highway Patrol, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, DEA, ATF, Homeland Security Officials, and the friendly Clinton Lake State Park Rangers. This is according to Waka Action, a website devoted solely to reporting individual rights violations at Wakarusa. According to The Lawrence Journal- World, a total of 144 people were arrested by authorities during the festival weekend.

Despite the police presence felt throughout the weekend, the festival's music was inspired, with shows ranging from good to unforgettable. Without further ado, onto the music...

Thursday, June 8

Tim Reynolds :: Wakarusa 2006
Strolling into the Tim Reynolds set, concertgoers were greeted by a clattering of effects reminiscent of an old church organ. These layers were gradually stripped away as Reynolds ventured out for a brief solo before sliding nicely into "Shake." The set was exactly what many have come to expect from the sultan of the six-string: extraordinary technical prowess with a variety of ideas and themes running throughout the hour-long performance. At times an Eastern sound, much like a sitar, would provide a boost, while at other times Reynolds would revert back to digital looping and effects to provide a broader sound. He even ventured into traditional Spanish territory, furiously picking and strumming along while blending in perfectly with the DiMeola, McLaughlin & DeLucia acoustic masterpiece, "Friday Night in San Francisco". And at just the moment when the music threatened to become stale, Reynolds would throw a lifeline to the audience with a choice cover like James Brown's "Sex Machine," which drew a warm response. Overall, it was a very satisfying set that provided further proof that Tim Reynolds remains at the top of his game as one of the premier guitarists today.

Bobby Easton :: Delta Nove :: Wakarusa 2006
In one of the great breakthrough performances of the weekend, Groovatron welcomed campers to the Campground Stage, packing every square inch and forcing fans to swell around the outside of the tent. As if signifying a change of attitude, guitarist Nick Ferrer noted, "It's night time!" It was dark outside but bright and lively in the tent. Tony McCullough's saxophone cut through the otherwise serene night. Climbing all over the neck of the bass like a spider, Tony Qualls let loose the band's powerful sound, and his uncontrollable head bobble was indicative of the vibe in the air. From "Erotic" to "Mr. Charlie" to "Gilara," the Chicago funk-rock sextet was hitting on all cylinders in what may have been a leaping point to greater recognition.

"We were going to save the collaborations until tomorrow night, but couldn't wait." With that introduction, the Pnuma Trio invited Ryan Burnett from Signal Path to join the festivities. The quartet moved smoothly and quickly as a unit, setting a rollicking pace as the standard for their ventures into instrumental electronica. Powerful drumming, executed with elegant precision, provided a strong backbone for the band and allowed the members to experiment with various effects and distortion while creating a unique blend of hypnotic and engaging trance fusion. The set clocked in at 75 minutes, and the band captured the ears of every Phish fan in attendance with a minute-long tease of "Maze." The Pnuma Trio has started to develop a bit of a reputation and added to the legend by turning in one of the better sets of the festival.

Marc Brownstein :: Disco Biscuits :: Wakarusa 2006
All day the buzz on the festival grounds was about the headliner of the night, the Disco Biscuits. It was maybe the only time at the festival that everyone seemed to be in agreement on where to be. Hordes of balloons and beach balls bounced freely through the throbbing crowd as the tent turned into an all-out trance fusion free-for-all. The Biscuits returned to the delight of their fans for a "Confrontation" encore with the audience singing just as loudly, opening the flood gates to the hours of music that would invade Clinton Sate Park the next three days.

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