Park Life 

Living it up at Langerado, South Florida's premier alt music festival.

This past weekend, the Planet tried something different with our new blog, Blurbex.com. We cruised down to the Langerado music festival at Markham Park in Sunrise, Fla., hung out with the crowds, danced to the music and attempted to bring a small piece of it back to you via the magic of the Internet. If you read along with us in "real time," consider yourself a techno-savvy citizen of the digital age. For the other 99.9 percent of you, here's a glimpse at what went down.

click to enlarge FACE OF THE FESTIVAL: The Flaming Lips' ringmaster Wayne Coyne. - PHIL BARDI
  • Phil Bardi
  • FACE OF THE FESTIVAL: The Flaming Lips' ringmaster Wayne Coyne.

In The Beginning...

Langerado kicked-off with a Friday evening soundcheck featuring sets by The Duo and Savannah, Ga.'s, Perpetual Groove. Overall, the fest was expected to draw some 15,000 music fans interested in dancing and (in some cases) camping under the South Florida sky. An eclectic mix of bands filled the festival slate: Saturday-night headliners Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals were preceded by The Disco Biscuits, fearless freaks The Flaming Lips, prog-nuts Umphrey's McGee, New Orleans' funk kings The Meters and about 16 other bands spread over four stages.

Sunday's festivities began with a "brunch hour" accompanied by the Sacred Steel gospel of The Lee Boys. The day continued with a sampling of Southern rock (festival headliners The Black Crowes, Mofro); jam (Brothers Past, Keller Williams); indie (Secret Machines, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah); alt-country (Wilco); and about a dozen other acts of even more diverse categorization, a cohesive melting pot of music that worked surprisingly well.

Life At Langerado

Once officially underway, Langerado on Saturday quickly became an exercise in stage-hopping, with five bands playing overlapping sets throughout the day. How to decide between the rocktronica vibe of Lotus, the Zeppelin-esque antics of Rose Hill Drive and the always-interesting Lake Trout, who all performed early-afternoon sets?

The answer: You didn't have to. Langerado was a well-planned fest, with stages lining one side of Markham Park, and plenty of vending and lush green fields connecting the two. Moving from stage to stage was easy. We were able to enjoy John Ginty Band's rolling take on The Who's "My Generation" at one stage, then quickly hop next door for a set by Lotus.

The four-year-old alternative festival seemed "put on by people who care more about the music and the audience than about making money," as The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne put it. Each band began its set on time; vendors of all sorts (including our own Dunedin Brewery) offered everything from sugar-coated funnel cakes to creations by Langerado's official artist (Lebo). Even the port-o-potties were abundant, easily accessible and not entirely disgusting, though sometimes lacking toilet paper.

click to enlarge The Flaming Lips' ringmaster Wayne Coyne walking (and falling) on the crowd in a giant plastic bubble. - PHIL BARDI
  • Phil Bardi
  • The Flaming Lips' ringmaster Wayne Coyne walking (and falling) on the crowd in a giant plastic bubble.

Audience participation played a large role in many of the performances. The progressive hip-hop act Michael Franti & Spearhead was responsible for one of the day's standout sets. Franti, an energetic frontman, jumped up and down, clapped his hands, and encouraged the crowd to do the same. None of the musicians, however, got the crowd as involved as The Flaming Lips.

Wayne's World

Wayne Coyne wants you. A self-anointed "fearless freak," Coyne is part carnival barker, part shaman and ringmaster of The Flaming Lips' three-ring sing-a-long circus. He's the charismatic center of the band's swirl of sound, confetti and fans dressed in plush animal costumes. At Langerado, Coyne seemed intent on raising an army of freaks.

Dominating an early afternoon press conference Saturday, Coyne held forth on festival life for artists ("If you're lucky you get to walk around and see everybody"); The Lips' purpose at Langerado ("We're just the dumb entertainment going on in the corner -- I hope"); and on where the limits of fun might lie ("If we all went too far, maybe we wouldn't have George Bush in office").

Coyne's politics spilled into the Lips' outstanding 6 p.m. show. It's hard to picture another artist at the festival being comfortable as both spokesperson and lunatic rolling atop the crowd in a giant plastic bubble. Somewhere in between the "giant Karaoke machine" of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the caterwaul funk of "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 2," Coyne found the time to shower the crowd with confetti, play animal noises off a child's toy wired for concert sound, and advocate (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) punching anyone who thought pot was a gateway drug.

click to enlarge PAIR OF ACES: The twin guitar attack of Umphrey's McGee's Jake Cinninger (left) and Brendan Bayliss. - PHIL BARDI
  • Phil Bardi
  • PAIR OF ACES: The twin guitar attack of Umphrey's McGee's Jake Cinninger (left) and Brendan Bayliss.

This man knew how to party.

Ben Harper closed the day's festivities, but Saturday also had a few low moments. Trying to find our car in near complete darkness was no fun. It wasn't totally pitch black, but the parking-area floodlights simply didn't cast enough glow. Luckily, we found the car in less than 20 minutes, plenty of time to make one of Langerado's late-night sets in nearby Ft. Lauderdale. Others weren't so lucky, and stories of Road Warrior-type behavior witnessed while leaving the festival grounds circulated throughout the late-night crowd.

Umphreaks

An Umphrey's McGee show requires plenty of stamina. Sandwiched between Michael Franti and The Flaming Lips on the festival schedule, Umphrey's played a blistering 90-minute show Saturday afternoon. Though excellent, that particular set served only as a pleasant prelude to Saturday night's exceptional two-set show at Revolution, a downtown Ft. Lauderdale venue.

click to enlarge CLAP IT UP: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah practice what they preach. - PHIL BARDI
  • Phil Bardi
  • CLAP IT UP: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah practice what they preach.

The Chicago sextet turned on the energy the moment they stepped on stage in the venue's outdoor courtyard, opening with "In the Kitchen," a catchy pop-prog number that won them Song of the Year at the 2005 Jammy Awards. From there, the intensity only continued to increase, the band feeding off the crowd's enthusiasm with its casual take on aggro-progressive rock, adding measures of jazz, funk, reggae, metal and electronica for flavor.

Communicating with a complicated set of hand signals, facial expressions and body language, guitarists Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss shredded through the set from the get-go, gently stroking the crowd midway through with a splendid cover of Stevie Ray Vaughn's fluid instrumental "Lenny," and closing with a thunderous cacophony of sound and a promise of more to come.

After some irritating between-set music (Michael Jackson's not-so-greatest hits), the band finally returned, beginning its second foray with the electronic odyssey "Nothin' Too Fancy." A few songs later, Disco Biscuits bassist Marc Brownstein replaced Umphrey's own Ryan Stasik, and joined the guys in a synth- and bass-heavy jam that turned into a fiery version of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2."

click to enlarge BIRD OF PRAY: Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson presides over "a little Sunday service." - PHIL BARDI
  • Phil Bardi
  • BIRD OF PRAY: Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson presides over "a little Sunday service."

The burn continued when Stasik returned to the stage with Biscuits guitarist Jon Gutwillig, who took over for Bayliss and proceeded to battle it string to string with Cinninger. After trading licks, Bayliss and Gutwillig wrestled for guitar domination, with Gutwillig ultimately giving in.

The raging energy continued throughout the set, with The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" emerging from the reggaefied "Resolution," and an electro-funk take on Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran." The show closed with the last notes of "Nothing Too Fancy," which had never actually finished.

After re-taking the stage to the theme from Rocky, the band encored with the thrilling, prog-metal anthem "Miss Tinkle's Overture." Day one of Langerado, which began at 11:15 a.m., was now complete. It was 3 a.m.

Second Helpings

The idea was to make it in time for a Sunday brunch with The Lee Boys, but seeing as how last night's Umphrey's set at Revolution kept us up past any reasonable bedtime, a change of plans was in order.

click to enlarge THE SIMPLE THINGS: Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy doesn't want to change the world; he just wants to rock. - PHIL BARDI
  • Phil Bardi
  • THE SIMPLE THINGS: Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy doesn't want to change the world; he just wants to rock.

We had gotten word to park near the entrance of the festival grounds (far from the actual venue entrance), so day two at Markham Park began with a long walk from the car to the gate. The day would prove to be hotter (temperature-wise) than Saturday. Maybe it was the heat, or perhaps the lingering hangover, but the crowd seemed more subdued on Sunday. Enjoying the festival's diverse talents from a comfortable spot on a blanket became the order of the day.

While the audience was laid back, the performers were ready to rock. A mid-afternoon set by newcomers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah began with technical difficulties, but ultimately found rock 'n' roll glory. The band blasted out a high-energy (the theme of the weekend) set, full of -- you guessed it -- much clapping of hands.

From there, we drifted over to and past the undulating grooves of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra to take in Robert Randolph, the most renowned exponent of the rocking gospel style known as Sacred Steel. Next decision: Go see art-country darlings Wilco or the one-man band that is Keller Williams? Why not do both?

Under a setting sun, Wilco occupied the same timeslot and stage as had The Flaming Lips' insane-athon the previous day. Perhaps in response to the antics of the Lips' Coyne, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy took a less dramatic approach, imploring the crowd to shout "Woo!," saying "it's just part of rock 'n' roll, and I'm not interested in changing it."

By the time festival closers The Black Crowes took the stage, we were pooped. The Crowes were the real deal, though. Frontman Chris Robinson did his half-Jagger/half-Plant strut, belting frenetically and blowing fiery harmonica as his band tore through its Southern rock staples.

"This is freak 'n' roll music," Robinson exclaimed to the crowd.

Which pretty much sums up the entire weekend.

For a few more words and a lot more pictures of Langerado, visit blurbex.com.

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