No one knew what to expect at the Langerado Music Festival, held twenty minutes outside Fort Lauderdale at Markham Park in Sunrise, Florida, this past weekend. Since its 2003 inception as a jammy, single-day event, Langerado has morphed into a mini-me Bonnaroo, featuring everything from indie and psychedelic rock to reggae, DJs and (of course) jam bands. The 2006 event's five stages brought forth an eclectic range of over forty artists, including Ben Harper, Wilco, the Black Crowes and the Flaming Lips. But indie acts the Secret Machines and newcomers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah straight-up delivered some of the hottest sets of the spring so far.
The weather, of course, did not hurt. A major issue in all festivals, the weather in Sunrise was perfect -- breezy and in the high seventies all weekend long. People were pulling up on jet skis on the intercoastal waterways surrounding the grounds as the festival's audience -- 12,000 strong each day, and a mixture of music-loving spring breakers, burned-out tripping hippies and die-hard fans -- pulled up.
Kicking off Saturday's lineup were up-and-coming acts like Boulder, Colorado-bred metal outfit Rose Hill Drive and Mexican dance-funk quintet Kinky. Audience members lounged on the grass listening to Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers deliver a mellow set with their signature guitar twang. The seductive world beat of the Brazilian Girls won over random passerbys -- thanks to boa-wrapped Sabina Sciubba. During the Girls' rendition of "Pussy," with its refrain "Pussy pussy marijuana," the frontwoman grabbed a pipe and lighter from the crowd and passed it around onstage.
The Flaming Lips' set featured the band's usual shenanigans with fuzzy animals -- this time around featuring members of Drive-By Truckers, Lake Trout and Rose Hill Drive -- confetti and the charismatic Wayne Coyne taking his signature walk across the crowd in a giant bubble. The festival marked the first live performance of their politically charged song, "The W.A.N.D.," from the Oklahoma outfit's forthcoming At War With the Mystics -- as well as the party number "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and "Free Radicals." The set also incuded the Lips classics "Do You Realize?," "She Don't Use Jelly" and "Yoshimi Part 2," alongside sing-a-long covers of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Also flexing a handful of new tunes, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals closed out the night. Fresh numbers included the piano-heavy "Please Don't Talk About Murder While I'm Eating," reminiscent of the Allman Brothers, and the funked-up "Black Rain," to which a guitar-less Harper danced around the stage. The opening percussion of "Burn One Down" brought huge cheers from the crowd: Lighters were soon flickering, and clouds of smoke rose up into the warm night. This was the most laidback a festival could possibly get.
On Day Two, the crowd booed when Brooklyn newbies Clap Your Hands Say Yeah announced they were ready for their last song -- leading the band to actually change their mind. "We may have two songs left!" frontman Alec Ounsworth called out. All-out enthusiasm also met Dallas indie rockers the Secret Machines' dramatic, psychedelic production. Lights pulsated on cue with every beat from Josh Garza's drums and threw the Curtis brothers into silhouette throughout their moving vocal harmonies.
Americana-tinged rockers Wilco and the Black Crowes closed out the festival. Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy sang a poignant rendition of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," with his arm stretched out into the audience. After the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot song "Jesus, Etc.," Tweedy thanked the crowd for their accompaniment: "Very nice vocalizing!" And the Black Crowes' set found frontman Chris Robinson dancing circles around the mike stand, delivering Janis Joplin-like preaching as the band rolled out their rock hits "She Talks to Angles" and "Remedy."
Although the festival wasn't without its fair share of kinks -- no signs were posted leading to the venue, causing many to become lost on their way in (including the Brazilian Girls), and concertgoers waited up to three hours to leave the parking lot -- the otherwise laidback atmosphere of Langerado left no one with any real worries. If anything, the audience left ready for next year.