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Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival 2007

Band unites Mayan mysticism, loud guitars

Kan'Nal formed in Guatemala and plays "shamanic rock."

Kan'Nal formed in Guatemala and plays "shamanic rock."

June 8, 2007

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Kan'al

Where: Homegrown StageWhen: Saturday, June 9 at 2 a.m.

Past Event
Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival 2007

featuring Widespread Panic, Medeski Martin & Wood, Yonder Mountain String Band, and more TBA

  • When: Friday, June 8, 2007, time TBA
  • Where: Clinton State Park, Clinton Lake, Lawrence
  • Cost: $119 - $435
  • More on this event....
Plans in place if severe weather strikes festival

As rain clouds moved into the area, so did thousands of campers for this weekend's fourth annual Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival. Enlarge video

Wakarusa 2007, Thursday

The first day of the fourth annual Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival. Enlarge video

Mel Gibson missed a golden opportunity to hire the perfect band to play the wrap party for his latest cinematic epic, "Apocalypto." If only he had stumbled upon Kan'Nal.

Formed over the course of several years by a collection of Americans backpacking through Guatemala, Kan'Nal offers a mix of primal rhythms and modern technology. Draped in Mayan mysticism and psychedelic spectacle, the seven-piece group delivers what it calls "shamanic rock."

"We've always been into putting on a production," says songwriter-vocalist and founder Tzol (pronounced Soul). "It's definitely more than just music. We like to do visual stimulation and oral stimulation - sometimes we'll come off the stage and give people grapes.

"Some people love it and get it 100 percent. Other people are afraid of us and think that we're scary. We're just out to make great art and great music."

Although the members of Kan'Nal are constantly touring, Tzol claims to have never met another stateside band whose roots began in Guatemala.

"We each kind of found each other when we were traveling," he says.

"Our lead guitar player and I played a long time down there. We went (to America) and made a record, then went back down there and met our bass player and drummer. Then we stayed down there and played some more. But you can only go so far in Guatemala, I guess."

Now based in Denver, the band's ongoing connection to the Central American nation offered Kan'Nal the chance to do something that no group of musicians has ever done - or at least not done for dozens of centuries.

"Last year we were invited to play in the ruins of Tikal," he says. "It was incredible. It was challenging in some ways because it was a nonelectric show - completely acoustic - in the middle of the ruins. We had these big bonfires going. There were like 150 people who went to it. It was special."

Kan'Nal needed authorization from the Guatemalan government to make the event possible.

Tzol says, "Because we formed down there and go all the time, we just know people who know people. But they got the permission for us to do it. And it hadn't happened in 2,000 years or something. It's a major accomplishment and an incredible honor."

A pro-mother earth philosophy coupled with the communal atmosphere stressed at Kan'Nal's shows make it a big favorite with the festival/jam band crowd. But Tzol emphasizes one aspect is likely to make the group stand out from the rest of the pack at Wakarusa.

"We're definitely more of a rock band," Tzol says. "We come in and play loud, blazing, electric guitars. And we've got dancers with machetes."

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