Cross Canadian Ragweed
Wakarusa 2006
Cross Canadian Ragweed provided a fix for those wanting a straight-ahead blue-collar rock & roll band. No frills, no tricks, and no self-indulgent jamming would be on the agenda, and this came as a welcome change of pace for many. For those unfamiliar with the band, a cover of Neil Young & Crazy Horse's "My My, Hey Hey" seemed the most apt and obvious selection. The band did the song justice, with a nice, boot-stomping attitude that carried the song. The world-weary vocals complemented the music rather nicely as the sun set on Wakarusa for the evening. They may not bowl you over with innovative musicianship, but to do so seems at odds with their bare-bones approach of delivering music.

New Monsoon has created a bit of a stir over the past couple years, and it is easy to see why. This septet plays a sliding funk with affable grooves and gels together remarkably well. In some moments, they display a few The String Cheese Incident tendencies, but they retain far more of a "meat & potatoes" rock edge. Most importantly, this is a band that clearly enjoys the process of creating music. Perhaps even more admirable is that they don't attempt to goad the audience into fake applause. Simply put, they were more interested in finding great moments of musicality than investing themselves in contrived stage antics. To wit, they blazed through the first three songs without a moment's pause and allowed the audience about five seconds to catch their breath before launching into the next tune. A highlight of the set was a rousing rendition of The Who's "Eminence Front." This is a band to keep close tabs on, as they certainly have the chops and passion to cultivate a large following.

Robert Randolph :: Wakarusa 2006
As New Monsoon kept the Voodoo Stage full with sound, Robert Randolph took his pedal steel guitar to the Sun Down Stage with female backup singers and a lot of new material. The massive crowd was very responsive to Randolph's electric magic, which has become a festival tradition. "I Need More Love" had everyone singing and jumping, segueing smoothly into Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough." The women vocalists definitely added a new twist to the Family Band, creating a much larger and gospel-inflected sound.

Saturday, June 10

Daniel Sproul :: Wakarusa 2006
As Rose Hill Drive made their way onstage, a battle between the sun and clouds was developing. The band didn't seem to particularly care, as they launched into the gritty, fist-pumping rock that attracted a much larger crowd than last year. Beyond the usual small talk, bassist Jake Sproul complained about the heat so frequently, one was inclined to wonder if he was going to collapse from heat stroke. Maybe it's because the guys are rockin' jeans and long-sleeve shirts in the middle of a heat wave. At any rate, it didn't take too long for a crowd to flock to the stage to see what the racket was all about. The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne watched the ruckus from the side of the stage. Much has been said about the prowess of the Sproul brothers, and many are prone to hyperbole in attempting to describe their sound. While certainly deserving of such praise, the most remarkable aspect was how much drummer Nate Barnes has improved. After seeing RHD several times, it was truly remarkable to witness just how much he has stepped up his game. He is slowly developing into one of the more underrated rock drummers today.

Buckethead :: Wakarusa 2006
Buckethead. Half-man, half-amazing. In a characteristically surreal fashion, he lept from one musical idea to the next, creating a pop culture medley that left little doubt about his virtuosity. Of course, there was bizarre, inexplicable banter screamed from the stage; in this case, they decided to shout "Jean Luc Ponty!" repeatedly, an apparent homage to the jazz legend. The thing about Buckethead is, if you don’t like what he's playing, just wait about two minutes. A couple trifectas, each less than ten minutes long, typified the set: Hendrix's "Machine Gun" > Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" > Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme song; and the "Top Gun Anthem" > "Stormtroopers Theme" from Star Wars > "It's Your Birthday," by 50 Cent. A final pairing of the "Star Spangled Banner" with "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad" rounded out the set. After a certain point, some in the audience audibly wished for "one full song." Assuming they waited around, their patience would be rewarded.

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