WALKIN' THE LINE AT WAKARUSA 2006


Karl Denson :: Wakarusa 2006
Greyboy AllStars have earned a reputation as one of the top live acts in the nation. Expectations were naturally high for the group heading into Wakarusa, and while they did not disappoint, they may have fallen a tad short of completely blowing away newcomers. Concert staples like "West Coast Boogaloo" offered Karl Denson and Robert Walter ample opportunities to stretch out a bit. Candidly, as far as Greyboy shows go, this one was a snoozer. The musicianship was good, but not necessarily spectacular. One was more likely to hear "that was cool" following the show as opposed to the string of superlatives and excited, fluent swearing that GBA tends to induce. Indeed, they were one of the better acts at the festival, but this was not the fist-pumping, booty-shakin' funkdown that many had come to expect from the Allstars.


The Dirty Dozen Brass Band :: Wakarusa 2006
Anywhere the The Dirty Dozen Brass Band shows up is always a unique experience with a special taste of New Orleans. Despite the tragedies of the past year along the Gulf Coast, the Bayou music is some of the most happy and uplifting music. During the NOLA staple "When the Saints Go Marching In," dancers paraded around the stage in Mardi Gras style, some on stilts and others with enormous caricature heads. Despite the hard times the band has endured, they kept the mood light and celebratory. Another classic, "I'll Fly Away," featured the crowd handling vocal duties as the band played on. DDBB's time on stage was one of the best connections with the crowd of the entire festival, as the appreciation for the Gulf community's perseverance over the past year was very clear. Front man Effrem Towns finished off the set playing both a trumpet and flugelhorn at the same time, much to his own exhaustion.


Keller Williams :: Wakarusa 2006
The rare occasion of Keller Williams performing with a group is a special treat. Since the release of his Grass album, a collaboration with Larry and Jenny Keel, Williams has performed with the couple several times. The set was filled with nearly every track from the album and more - one long, segueing jam saw "Breathe" ease effortlessly into Green Day's "Longview" into Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" back into "Breathe" before culminating into "Freaker By the Speaker," followed by Keller whistling the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show. The performance finished with a medley of "Mary Jane's Last Breakdown" into Huey Lewis' "I Want a New Drug" into Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance." The trio returned for an encore of the new fan favorite "Goofballs," leading Larry Keel to exclaim, "Damn, that's hot as shit!"


Les Claypool :: Wakarusa 2006
Astonishingly, nearly every band at Wakarusa started and finished their sets on time. Les Claypool & Co. (aka "Les Claypool's Fancy Bucket of Bernie Baldi") bucked the trend and started about 15 minutes later than scheduled. Concerns about the start time quickly evaporated as he slapped the bass to life and led the band into an energetic rendition of "Up on the Roof." The balance of the band was extraordinary. Certainly Claypool held up his end as expected, and the infusion of Gabby La La, Skerik, Mike Dillon, and Paulo Baldi allowed the band a certain malleability in jams that enabled the song to advance in any direction they desired. It was impossible to predict where the next burst of energy would come from. A drawn-out drum roll marked one of the few breaks, as Claypool strode to the side of the stage and retrieved his stand-up bass to add into the mix.


Bernie Worrell :: Wakarusa 2006
An even bigger surprise was in store, however, as Buckethead and Bernie Worrell of Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains project joined the group for a rousing rendition of "Big Eyeball in the Sky." For the encore, Claypool busted out the bassjo and sang a nice version of "Iowan Gal," which he introduced by commenting, "We debuted this song last night for the first time, and I fucked it up – let's hope this goes a little better." It did, and the title track of the bassist's new album, Of Whales and Woe, followed. The band ended with "Lust Stings" and "D's Diner," bidding the crowd farewell as the throngs headed in great anticipation to see Oklahoma City's sons of psychedelia, The Flaming Lips.


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