Neither audio recordings nor words will ever do The Flaming Lips justice. You just have to see the band live to really appreciate them. The festivities began with Wayne Coyne crowd-surfing in what can only be described as a large hamster ball. His return to the stage was triumphant, punctuated with about a dozen four-foot orange balloons, explosions of confetti, and streamers which clung to the top of the stage lights for the rest of the night. He was greeted by two groups of dancers that flanked the stage for the entire performance: on the left - aliens, on the right - Santa Clauses. The band kicked things off with "Race for the Prize," and it was immediately evident that Coyne had nearly lost his voice. It seemed as though the red carpet had been rolled out for the Lips' arrival, only to see them trip over it.

Wayne Coyne :: Wakarusa 2006
Not to worry, however, as the crowd was won over with the band's second selection, "Bohemian Rhapsody." Coyne invited the audience to sing along as the lyrics were projected on a screen behind the band. To hear thousands of people simultaneously singing along to Queen’s anthemic rocker – and have everyone gleefully jump on board for the moment – was something that everyone in attendance will remember about the weekend. "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" saw many in attendance share vocals with the band, while simultaneously scratching another song off of many people's "I hope they play..." lists. The seminal "She Don't Use Jelly" was prefaced with vintage video footage of a young Jon Stewart introducing the band and the song to an MTV audience. The set-closing "Do You Realize" was three and a half minutes long but could not have provided a more fitting end to the experience. In leaving the concert grounds, fans were treated to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," which suited the band's message perfectly - be happy, be enthusiastic, be yourself. The performance felt like a movie and concert rolled into one. Add in strobe lights, balloons, confetti, streamers, and dancing aliens and Santa Clauses and you have an unforgettable adventure of a show. This was not the best music of the weekend, but in terms of an overall experience, no other band came close to delivering what The Flaming Lips bequeathed a few thousand lucky fans at Wakarusa.

Sunday, June 11

Tim Carbone :: Railroad Earth
Wakarusa 2006

As things were beginning to wind down on Sunday, the weather could not have been more hospitable. Temperatures hovered in the 70s as a slight breeze cooled things off under cloud-covered skies. Many noticed the bluegrass- infused triumvirate of Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and tossed some lawn chairs down to stake out their territory in anticipation of some world-class picking.

Railroad Earth is not a bluegrass band, but rather a band that happens to play bluegrass. The sound is well- rounded – with drums – but crafty musicianship and excellent vocals are what carry the band's sound to the next level. The music was full without being crowded. "Seven Story Mountain" offered a few notable moments, but it was the crazed picking on "Peace on Earth" from their Bird in a House album that brought many to their feet. This is a band that has a certain "front porch" appeal, which translates exceptionally well for those listening intently from their lawn chairs strewn about the Kansas prairie.

Jeff Austin :: YMSB
Wakarusa 2006
Yonder Mountain String Band, the high-octane bluegrass quartet from Nederland, Colorado, was up next. Opening with "Sideshow Blues," the band quickly coalesced and executed the next slew of songs with pinpoint accuracy. A short time later, Bela Fleck decided to join in on the festivities. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this collaboration is that it wasn't the best of the set! Indeed, as the band introduced Jeff Coffin on sax, it was evident that Coffin could add a layer of texture to the band's sound. Coffin chose his moments wisely and added the perfect flavor to songs like "Holdin'." For the encore, they went with the upbeat "Death Trip Baby," which packed a little more of a punch than a number of other songs in the band's repertoire. From start to finish, there were a number of peaks and valleys in the set, but the addition of Bela and Jeff made it a memorable occasion.

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