For many bands, winter is for recording albums and hibernating close to home. South Florida’s Langerado Music Festival, held at the sprawling Markham County Park, perched literally on the edge of the Everglades, kicks off a summer season of bread-and-butter touring and musical collaborations. Last week’s fifth annual event also coincided with spring break at colleges across the country, and Charleston was well represented in the crowd. The 85-degree weather encouraged the summer-is-upon-us vibes, with nary a glum face all weekend. Here’s a rundown:
High Noon Heat
Surprisingly, acts scheduled for 1 and 2 p.m. time slots put on some of the weekend’s most impressive shows. Lotus brought their usual late-night trance to the Swamp Tent at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, still managing to work a packed crowd into a dancing frenzy. The Slip held the same time slot on Saturday, working through a melodic hard-rock setlist of songs primarily off their new release Eisenhower. “They should be headlining all three nights,” said one fan standing behind me in the crowd. George Porter Jr. and Ivan Neville’s latest project, the New Orleans Social Club, threw a French Quarter funk-fest on Sunday at 1 p.m. that made everyone forget about their hangovers and sore feet.
Forty-five minutes before Sound Tribe Sector 9 began playing Friday night in the Swamp Tent, the front-and-center real estate was well staked out. Their late night set on Thursday, at Revolution in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, wrapped up with a lengthy improv on their classic “Moonsocket” that made them the show to see on Friday. After warming up the crowd with Dr. Dre, I hadn’t felt such overwhelming anticipation in the air for a band since Phish’s post-hiatus shows in 2003. They played a heavy-hitting show, and at one point a bearded, shaggy guy in front of me turned and challenged me to a “rap-off” à la Eminem in 8 Mile. I didn’t have the quick wit or rhymes to counter, but STS9’s hippie-hop almost brought it out of me.
Jacksonville natives Mofro have appeared at every Langerado, and this year’s sunset show on Saturday was perhaps the quintessential performance of the weekend. Lead man JJ Grey sang with a passionate soul about the backwoods and swamps of the Florida he grew up in. They have their “Tuesday’s Gone” ballads, and it might not be long before Mofro busts out a “Freebird” to fully inherit the North Florida rock throne. Grey dropped to his knees near the end of an emotional, rocking set, reminding the massive crowd through his lyrics that there’s more to Florida than the I-95 and the Ft. Lauderdale strip they were seeing that weekend.
I swore off the big festivals after the first Bonnaroo, camping out with 90,000 people under cloudless July skies. Langerado brought a lineup that included Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio, moe., Matisyahu, Los Lobos, Toots & The Maytals, and Taj Mahal, but capped ticket sales at 15,000, making it possible to walk between shows without finding yourself a mile from the stage. The bands clearly enjoy it as well. “We always have to get on the road and drive the next day,” says Mofro’s JJ Grey. “This is the first time I get to walk around, hear music, and do nothing.”