10,000 Barefoot Children Outside
Langerado 2005: "Tell everyone not to tell anyone."
'Cuz if word gets out about how absolutely perfect this weekend was, the festival organizers are gonna have to sell 25,000 tickets next year. Langerado had it all -- perfect weather, perfect lot scene, perfect crowd, perfect bands. I woulda done the perfect cheer if I had the uniform and the intestinal fortitude. I can't say enough about the beauty of this laid-back festival. This was the Anti-Coventry.
A special thanks goes out to EB, whose Floridian hospitality was second-to-none. He hooked up a free place to stay, a handy little green bag and a crew of party girls that switched off entertaining me and annoying the fuck out of me. So we rolled into the lot about 10 deep in three cars, hung out all day in the sun and passed around whatever needed to be passed. Once inside we watched band after band come out, kick ass and take names, I met up with some old friends, made some new ones, randomly bumped into others I knew would be down there. I felt like Yakov Smirnoff all weekend long: What a country!
In total we saw 12 bands, and we caught four hours of String Cheese Incident, who headlined both nights of the festival. I've written about SCI before, but this is the new era of Cheese, I think. They added a percussionist, they're tighter than ever, they're jamming in ways I've never heard -- it's as if they woke up and said, "It's time to take the Phish crowd." There are plenty of Cheese-haters on the scene, and that's cool, but I've never been more impressed with them before. They encored with Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough to close out the first night of this fest, and that's a must listen, folks...funny stuff, but more importantly, great jam. As far as covers go, the odd version of Ring of Fire they did with Karl Denson was fantastic as well.
I'm a notoriously good grader, but I wouldn't give a single band we saw this weekend less than an A-minus. Well, maybe I'll give Karl Denson's Tiny Universe a B+ because Denson just refuses to play the saxomaphone these days -- he's one of the greatest sax players around, yet he'd rather sing and play the flute or cowbell while dancing to his awesome band. C'mon, Karl, yer better than that.
And I'd give A-pluses to Toots and the Maytals, Keller Williams, MMW and the Benevento/Russo Duo. The rest get solid A's or A-minuses (New Monsoon, Robert Walter's 20th Congress, Particle, De La Sol, Umphrey's McGee (most potential award) and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band). Not even Steve Sanders can legacy key his way into my files and change these grades.
My personal highlight of the weekend: EB and I watched the first-night SCI set with an old camp counselor of mine (the twin brother of a guy I saw SCI with on 12/29/04 ) and his friend from college. After the show ended we stumbled back to the lot, where we said our goodbyes, hugs and fist-bumps all around. EB and I went one way, they went another. Then we heard the hissssssss. So obviously the two of us made our way to the nitrous tank and walked away with two blue gas-filled balloons each. We walked about 15 feet from the tank and saw two characters coming our way, each with two orange gas-filled balloons from another tank.
As we approached, it was clear that our goodbyes were premature. Clearly, fate had brought the four of us together to get nitrousilly as the group we were inside. Classic. We sat there for about a half-hour doing balloons, making more runs to the source and frying our brains right in front of a live drummer in the lot, who was simply amazing. That drummer was key: Aside from being a fantastic backdrop to our activities, he even served as a landmark to help us find the car on night one, and he brought me to run into a random friend I hadn't seen yet after the second night. Go drummer, it's your birfday.
By the way...If you've never seen the full-on frenzy around a nitrous tank, you're missing out on bearing witness to the ugliest part of the human character. Picture the line on Black Friday at 6 am when the mechanical doors open at the Wal-Mart in a blue-collar town...now imagine those charged up customers are coming down from a host of various Schedule I narcotics, have no place to go for the next hour or two and view the merchandise as essential for future sustenance.
Unwashed elbows are flying like a Best of Macho Man Randy Savage video montage, price are gouged at August '04 East Coast Blackout levels, the timeless art of line-cutting (including but not limited to Chinese cut-sies) is being attempted by everyone on queue...general unrest ensues. It's a free-for-all: a throng of hippie-crack addicts fighting their way through a mob of rowdy gas-lovers to lay their hard-earned money down, all for the fleeting joy of the greatest minute-long high ever recorded. It's utter madness.
In my later years I've become one of the least aggressive people on Earth, almost to a fault. But place a hissing tank of the glorious gas in a sun- or moon-lit field and watch your fucking back, brah. On several occasions this weekend I went from the back of the horde to a fistful of balloons in less than a minute. One time the operators had to move the tank about 10 feet and I surreptitiously positioned myself right in front of the tank's new home, much to the chagrin of a handful of yelling dudes in front of me. I was even grandfathered in at $5 per as the gougers raised the prices to one-for-$10 and three-for-$20. If my father could see me now...the Bronx, street-smart son he always wanted me to be, slickly maneuvering his way through the crowd to claim what was rightfully his. I'm Ace, and I'm a hippie-crack addict.
But Langerado 2005 will forever be known as the festival that everyone I know missed out on...so go ahead and reserve some time around this weekend next year, because we're all going to this thing in 2006. No security and no police (none whatsoever), but also no misbehaving and no horseplay, no roughhousing and no tomfoolery. Langerado was all fun, all games, all chill, just perfect.
Just fucking perfect. Tell everyone not to tell anyone.