Musical Refuge in the Everglades – Langerado 2008

the-national_290.jpgThis year the location of the Langerado Festival was the Seminole Indian Reservation all the way out in the middle of the Everglades off of Alligator Alley. It was quite a trek into the middle of the swamp but like the Langerado Festivals before music fans from Florida and beyond made the journey enthusiastically.

Here they could set up tents and camp out during the four day festival. Little communities sprang up with a relaxed and free spirited vibe exuded by the tens of thousands in attendance. Hippy culture was well represented as many were attracted by acts like Phil Lesh and Ani DiFranco. In all, there were nearly 100 bands performing on three large stages and several other smaller ones setup across the enormous green space.

The biggest names at the festival included REM, Beasties Boys, 311, and Matisyahu. There was a fairly large representation of electronica with bands like Dan Deacon playing sets into the early morning. The Beastie Boys played Friday night and showed that they still had the skills that helped secure their spot in hip-hop history. Remaining relevant even into their forties they were confident and exuded the swagger and bravado you have come to expect from the legendary trio. They careened through their energetic set retooling old songs with new beats and improvisational lyrical flows. As the verbal alley oops bounced from rapper to rapper, these guys showed they still had that signature dynamism and kinetic energy. “Pass The Mic” showed the electricity of the band and highlighted the group’s strong chemistry. There were a lot of instrumentals like those funky, organ-laced joints that pepper virtually all the Beastie’s albums. They displayed their musicianship by crafting these funk masterpieces with live instruments. They played a wide gamut of their material from their newest tracks to the early 80s stuff including the obscure and dusty “Egg Raid on Mojo”, an artifact from their punk beginnings.

A smaller stage called the Chickee Hut was host to several indie rock bands of note including: Minus the Bear, Of Montreal, and The National. Minus the Bear is a no frills indie rocks band that merges electronic bleeps and sonic taps with driving guitars and pounding drums to form a beautiful soundscape; it is a collusion of aggressive rock and atmospheric electronics. The cloudy Sunday afternoon served as a fitting backdrop for this moody Seattle band. Understated and professional, their stage presence was subdued and they let their music do the talking. They were cohesive and tight — a solid performance from on of the finer Northwest indie outfits.

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Of Montreal followed with a very different approach. Led by eccentric singer, songwriter and indie star extraordinaire Kevin Barnes; they brought in all the theatrics with props and costumes including masked and spandex clad improvisational dancers. It was a lot of big theatrics for such a small show — Barnes is known for putting on outrageous performances. These dramatics complimented the indie pop weirdness that that the band exudes and goes well with their ambient otherworldly sound. For the last song “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” Barnes was wheeled out in an open coffin-like structure buried in about a foot of shaving cream. He emerges amongst ethereal instrumentals and goes onto sing the epic twelve-minute song with cream falling off him in clumps as if he was melting. It was very weird and very cool.

Night descended when The National took the stage and with the black sky as their backdrop they played their somber and melancholic set with their taut musicianship pulling at our heartstrings. The warm, moody sound blanketed the crowd and we were all pulled into lead singer Matt Berninger private anguish. It was like watching a breakdown; he conjured up the emotional torment that is no doubt the inspiration for his music. He paced the stage looking distraught, with his hand over his face; his deadpan baritone voice sang world-weary and soul baring lyrics. He had started out sober but as he humorously indicated at the start of the performance he had taken vitamin V (Vodka) and he gradually sank into drunkenness. Surprisingly this didn’t affect his performance but his staggering dangerously close to the high stage’s edge made all in the photo pit quite aware of the possibility of having to break his fall. Fortunately the only fall was that of the crowd’s hearts when The National concluded their set.

Words: Shaun Flagg
Photos: Joni Sansone

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