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Langerado Music Festival, Sunrise, FL- 3/12&13

After months of confinement, a winter-weary mix of spring breakers, snowbirds, and music fans from all over North America converged on sunny South Florida for the Langerado Music Festival. Sunrise Florida's Markham Park served as host this year. The park's expanse of lush, green grass, trees, and water provided the perfect canvas for a weekend of great music. In it's 3rd year, Langerado has sprouted to 3 stages with 25 bands representing the best of jamband touring acts. It's an investment of time and trouble to get to shows in Florida, with over 400 miles seperating the northern tip of the state to Ft Lauderdale. Jambands don't usually travel that far down the penninsula, often stopping in Orlando, or Tampa before turning their tours around and heading back. The efforts of Ethan Schwartz' South Florida Jams and Mark Brown's Brown Coffee Productions to bring events like Langerado and Jam Cruise have been received warmly — not only by live-music-starved South Floridians — but also those northern music fans with musical cabin fever. To me — Langerado now represents the beginning of the festival season.

A word or two about infrastructure.

Langerado seems to get’ what many festivals do not. They appear to recognize the value of being brilliant at the basics. What I mean by that is that they take the basic infrastructure of the festival seriously. Being at a festival is also about the food, vendors, lines, traffic, and weather. Langerado prepared well for making those aspects of the festival equally smooth and enjoyable. After spending 48 hours in traffic waiting to get into Coventry — I was pleasantly surprised at the 20 minute delay getting in the grounds — but no delays for the remainder of the weekend. The site was constantly being cleaned by workers. I sat in the taper section. After each set, people came out and picked up debris before the next shows started. There was enough food. In the first year of Langerado, that was a huge problem. Sound was perfect. The shows started and ended on time. (Exception: Umphree’s Mc Gee ran late on Saturday..) In short — a well-executed, well-planned event.

But you’re reading this because you want to know about the music — right?

The musicians were equally prepared. Shorter sets than I’d have liked — but hey they had to stay on schedule, right?

Soulive continues to be the group not to be missed at festivals. Their Saturday set was one of the tightest I’ve ever seen. De La Soul has asses bouncing within moments of hitting the stage.

But — and here’s where I’m likely to get hate mail — Umphrey’s Mc Gee didn’t do it for me. I’ve never seen them before — and was really looking forward to it. Maybe I built them up too high — in my head.. Not sure, but I found myself heading to the vendors during their set. For all of those angry Umphree’s fans reading this.. I promise to give them another chance — at a future show.

String Cheese’s set on Saturday was excellent – but not epic. They saved that — for Sunday. And that proved to be the plans of many of the Sunday performers.

Hackensaw Boys, the Charlottesville, Virginia band that’s being showing up on the show circuit a lot lately — was a great surprise. Their energetic set greeted my cadre of tapers as we arrived for the second day. The very radio-friendly Donavon Frankenreiter was also an interesting find. It’s easy to hear the connection he has to friend Jack Johnson. Not much improvisation — but still a nice set of music to tide me over till the big guns later in the day.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s set took the day into warp drive with their attack of horns and funk. Roger Lewis’ sax playing never ceases to amaze me.

Then Keller Williams came out — and all hell broke loose. I’ve watched Keller for years now in places like Phil’s Grill and CP Shuckers, back in Virginia Beach, Virginia. How does one little hippie make so much music? Keller appeared energized by the raucous crowd and clear blue skies. Keller was the first of only two bands invited out for an encore. No surprise there.

Medeski Martin and Wood was probably the most important band I wanted to see upon arrival. John Medeski grew up in the Fort Lauderdale area and attended Pine Crest School. I always enjoy performances by artists, in their home towns. However, having to choose between them and Michael Franti was a tough one — that I hated to make. MMW’s set was more bouncy and less dissonant than I’ve caught lately. It fit the day better, I think. However, I was bummned about not hearing Franti. Happily, I did get to see him later in the day.

String Cheese Incident’s finale performance on Sunday night was, as I mentioned earlier, epic. Fresh from the studio, the band was tight and well-practiced. There were a few missed notes, here and there. But nothing worth noting further. Opening with Search, the band cooked through Sirens > Jam > and Rivertrance. Kang was more animated than usual, bouncing all over the stage as he played to the crowd. I loved the cover of Ring of Fire, too. The culmination of the evening and the festival had to be the encore of Best Feeling. Karl Denson joined them on saxophone with Keller Williams on guitar/vocals and David Veith on keyboards. Then — 20 or so phreaks in costume on stage surrounded Michael Franti as he rapped about "all the freaky people," was as exciting and as unexpected as Phish’s Miami New Years demeted bunnies and band onstage. What a finale!

It was hard to get in our cars and leave after that. We all agreed that we needed ANOTHER day of music. But alas, we did pack up, drive home and dream of the coming summer, and more chances to boogie in the sunshine.

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