Langerado Music Festival :: 03.12 & 03.13 :: Sunrise, FL
The first words Michael Franti spoke as he took the stage for his Spearhead set truly summed up the Langerado experience – "Sun is shining and the weather is sweet!" Quoting Bob Marley, Franti, the spiritual leader of our music community, even had the audience turn around to greet and thank the slowly sinking, burning orange orb in a celebration of healing, light, warmth, life, and growth.
Franti and Crowd thanking the Sun :: Langerado, Florida
Keller Williams also honed in on this vibe. Concurring in rapid-fire, staccato succession, Williams summed up Langerado by declaring (as if it was the only answer), "It's warm and sunny and breezy and nice - positive and good and happy – clean." It's hard to argue with that.
After all, we were in Sunrise, Florida in the middle of March. With the Earth's energy slowly rising in seasonal transition and the planet beginning to tilt on its axis so our hemisphere sunbathes more directly, Langerado was a perfect vehicle to kick off the coming of spring and of the festival season.
Twenty minutes inland from Ft. Lauderdale and on the eastern edge of the Everglades, gorgeous Markham Park played host to nearly 10,000 eager music fans and many of the hottest bands on today's scene. In its third year of existence, Langerado has propagated into a major draw thanks to particularly good marketing by South Florida Jams and Coffee Brown Productions and a stellar line-up consisting of a recent Grammy winner and reggae originator (Toots and the Maytals), a pioneering hip hop trio (De La Soul), and a "Who's Who" of the jamband world with a hefty sixteen 2005 Jammy nominations in tow.
Keller Williams :: Langerado 2005 :: Florida
Additionally, with a beautiful chunk of serene land, plenty of food and drink choices, a hip vending village, cool rides, and temperatures near eighty degrees both Saturday and Sunday, this festival definitely ranked in the "not to be missed" category. Honestly, with the String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Umphrey's McGee representin' strongly, Langerado couldn't miss.
The amazing weather and the positive vibrations were tangible and freely available, as was the superior musicianship. Honestly, to call any of the three Langerado stages a "main stage" would be doing a tremendous injustice to the bands playing on the others. However, the two stages that hosted the later evening sets were directly adjacent, so a "festivarian" could easily hear and nearly fully see an amazing band while waiting at the other stage to catch an overlap-free set from the next band. This wonderful planning aided in creating perhaps the greatest single highlight of the entire festival – Umphrey's McGee rocking out into the sunset on the, get this, "Sunset" stage, while SCI took the "Sawgrass" stage and tuned their instruments in a spacey jam, hitting their first true notes at the exact moment UM played their last. It's also amazing to note that De La Soul and Toots & the Maytals swapped adjacent sets immediately before Umphrey's took the baton in this Saturday evening raging, raucous, genre-bending relay. Talk about a segue of majestic proportions!
Moseley & Nershi of SCI :: Langerado 2005
The third Langerado stage ("Sunrise") was opposite the others and a mere two minute walk from either. This perfect size and scale in band, attendance, and actual physical stature birthed perhaps the biggest bang for your buck of the entire 2005 festival season – and we're just getting started! It was this third stage, however, that yielded the most "Jazz Fest Moments." You know - "Don't judge Langerado by the bands you saw, but by the bands you missed in order to see who you saw." In my opinion, the biggest moment of indecision came Sunday afternoon as MMW played on the "Sunset" stage and Michael Franti played on the "Sunrise" stage. Having caught MMW just two weeks prior (read the review here) in Albany, NY, I decided to catch the first half-hour of MMW and then to run over to catch nearly the entire Spearhead set.
John Medeski :: Langerado 2005 :: Florida
Of course, this was all preceded by a truly remarkable Keller Williams Sunday set where perhaps the single most talented musician anywhere dazzled the entire crowd and left them drooling and with hairs on end. Most appropriate was the KW original "Alligator Alley." Other highlights included cool spins on "Kidney in a Cooler," "Tribe," and a set-closing "St. Stephen." But the biggest, boldest move came when Williams tickled the ivories for a heroic "Terrapin Station." Not many bands would take on this legendary Grateful Dead tune, especially not a single musician playing his atypical instrument.
KW performing "Terrapin Station"
Returning to Michael Franti and Spearhead though, I must note that he has never failed to captivate, motivate, and orchestrate an audience in laughter, smiles, consciousness, and dance. Langerado would be no exception for the sage's "Roots Rebel Reggae Rock." Coming strong with this "4R" attack, Franti's set produced one of the more memorable collaborations as SCI's mandolin guru Michael Kang joined in for a few tunes.
Franti would return the favor just two hours later joining SCI, KW, and "all the freaky people" for a freestyle rap and "Stay Human" chorus sing-along in a giant festival-closing "Best Feeling" sandwich. Concerning that SCI set, if the axiom is true that "You're only as good as the company you keep," then the Barefoot Boulder Boys are really damn good! Earlier in the day, SCI's acoustic guitarist Billy Nershi lightheartedly joked that if he had his way, "It would be cool to get Karl and Franti and Keller on stage." Well, Billy did get his way, and we all reaped the rewards. Earlier in the SCI set, fellow frequent Cheese collaborator Karl Denson joined in on sax for a cover of "Ring of Fire" and a funked-out "Seventh Step."
Karl D with SCI :: Langerado 2005
When all was said and done, only one question remained – What does Langerado mean? Never at a loss for words, Keller Williams offered the most creative suggestion: "Langerado? It's kinda like... I don't know... a Colorado type mentality but with a langerin' type of goodness. Ask me after several cocktails."
I'll drink to that!
Check out Langerado Day One Photos by John Smrtic.
Check out Langerado Day Two Photos by George Weiss.
All Words & Images by: John Smrtic
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