Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Langerado Day 1: The Arrival and the Battle of the Fire Ants

By Pauly
New York City

I had been in Florida since Tuesday and the Joker since Wednesday. We stayed in a hotel just outside of Ft. Lauderdale and woke up early on Thursday for breakfast and a quick run to the store for last minute supplies like sunscreen and cold medicine. We headed to Langerado a couple hours earlier than expected, which ended up being a great decision.

When I saw Phish at Big Cypress for the millennium show, I got caught up in traffic for about 7-8 hours. We were stuck on I-75 for the about half of that... and we arrived early too. Some other friends were in line for 16 hours. The Langerado crowd was estimated at about 25K people versus 80-90K plus at Phish's New Year's Even blowout. I expected some traffic at Langerado, but not as much.

We turned onto Snake Road without any problem. It was a winding 12 mile single lane road through the Everglades into the Seminole Reservation. The U.S. government banished them to a piece of land that no one wanted in the middle of nowhere. The Seminoles considered it sacred ground.

It took us 2.5 hours as we inched along the road. Luckily we were prepared with some great tunes and party favors. A few people hiked in with their gear, while others wandered up and down Snake Road in search of an extra ticket.

The Joker noticed that a lot of wookies looked fat.

"This is the first festival of the year," I said. "It's like their spring training. They'll shed all that winter fat and be skinny by the time Bonnaroo rolls around."

We eventually entered the reservation and we had officially left America. Big Cypress was making a push to have the Langerado music festival there permanently. They have the large space to accommodate the crowd and it's really in the middle of nowhere.

The Joker did not have a ticket. He called up friends from Boulder who worked for the event organizers. They hooked him up with a media pass which meant that he had free entry. We had to wait from them at the front gate. A couple of the security guards were tearing through a few cars. They made one group of twenty-something kids empty out all of their shit. Security confiscated a ton of booze. There was a "no glass" rule.

I wasn't worried when it was my time to go through security. I had no booze, nor glass, and anything of questionable contraband was well hidden.

An older gentleman in an Event Staff shirt said, "I have three things that I need to know. Do you have any weapons? Any glass? Any drugs?"

I answered no to all three and he let us in without searching the vehicle. Then again, we didn't look as sketchy as some of the other people trying to get inside. Sometimes, it's better to look normal when dealing with law enforcement types, instead of flying your freak flag high. That includes not driving "probable cause" vehicles like VW buses, anything painted too outrageous (like any hippie flowery shit that might scream - "We have drugs in our car!"), or something that was peppered in lots of Dead and Phish stickers. When cops see that, you're asking for trouble. Lucky for me, I look much more clean cut these days than when I used to follow Phish back in the day. No wonder that I used to get searched so much more than these days.

The Joker and I entered the festival in our rental car. Otis, GRob and the wives drove the RV down from South Carolina. Uncle Ted would be arriving on Friday. The RV crew were somewhere near Jacksonville when we got in line. Their original ETA was 5 or 6pm, but I knew they would not even be close. With the long line to get in, we bumped it back to 9pm.

We didn't bring camping equipment since we were going to camp out in the RV for four nights. We pulled into the closest camping site next to the RV sites and hoped that we'd be no more than a ten minute hike to the RV. Everyone around us set up camp and I sorted through my stuff in the trunk. I felt a few stinging sensations on my ankle, sort of like a mosquito bite. I looked down and my left foot had toppled a massive ant hole. The fuckers were angry and swarmed all over my hiking boot. They advanced an attack on my sock. A few crawled up my calf and I went berserk. I ran around the car a few times and thats when you started to hear other campers shouting and screaming. No one was prepared for the fire ants. I felt bad for some kids who set up their tents on a hole.

I stripped of my sock and boot. It took about fifteen minutes to get all of the ants off my boot. The damage was done. I had several bites and the festival had not begun.

The kids to our left were from North Carolina. The kids from our right were from Alabama. He was in a band in Auburn and within fifteen minutes at the festival, he and his girlfriend got into a heated argument.

"They're not going to last the weekend," said The Joker.

Somehow, the girlfriend forgot that they'd be camping out for four nights and failed to bring proper attire like extra warm clothing and rain gear.

At previous festivals that I attended, you got a map and schedule as soon as you passed through security. We did not get anything. I assumed that they were reprinting new schedules at the last minute since several acts had canceled such as Vampire Weekend, Balkan Beatbox, and Robert Randolph.

As I rubbed some cream on my ankle, a custy kid stopped by our vehicle and asked us if we needed any molly. He told us his lot name, Izzy and that he sold the good shit, not like the crap some others were selling. We weren't even there twenty minutes, and we had walk up service.

The shirtless kid like he was in his early twenties. He wore camouflage pants and had a few tatoos over his arms and back. A dark blue Steal Your Face tattoo on his chest stood out.

"Nice tat," I said.

"I have never seen them," Izzy said.

Um, no duh, I thought. You were 10 when Jerry died.

"But the Dead started everything I believe in," Izzy said.

The Joker and I stood in silence and looked at each other as we awaited for him to elaborate on his statement. Instead, he wandered off into the maze of tents and cars hawking his goods to the next available customer. We wondered if we would ever see him again, and really wanted to know if the fucker sold us bunk shit.

The Joker and I decided that we needed lot names. We used to be Joker and Doc, but picked new ones... Gumbo and Emilio.

We scouted out the scene and walked towards the festival grounds. We had no idea where exactly they were, but we saw a ferris wheel and walked in that direction. On our way, we found another kid slinging pharmies. He had Xanax right out of the bubble pack. That was necessary to sleep after a long night of partying. I wish that I bought more.

We found an info booth and picked up got schedules. We also saw a mountie riding a donkey. I thought that her horse looked a bit small. The mounties were there for crowd control and to make sure there we no open fires. A couple of cops would roll through on ATVs, but you didn't see too much police.

We walked inside the showgrounds since they didn't have the gate up yet. We grabbed a quick bite and it began to rain. We grabbed shelter in the general store. When the rain broke, we made a run for our car. At 5:30pm, we put on our rain gear and headed inside.

We grabbed a drink from the beer stand. They had finished setting up an an old guy was asking for a tip. I always thought that was uncouth to ask fro a tip. Besides, our beers took forever to pour and had a ton of head on it. We don't tip for below average service. Learn how to pour a beer, otherwise, seek out a more suitable profession.

The skies opened up as it rained down. Hard. Fast. Big drops. We found shelter in another tent. The Joker has footage of the rain pissing down on us. That was at 5:30pm. All I could think about was the last Phish shows in Coventry. I wondered if the first day of the festival would get rained out. The first bands were supposed to start at 6pm and the fairgrounds were empty.

The rains stopped at 6pm. We walked over to see Ben Jelen. They weren't even on stage and the Chickee stage was flooded. I reamed it the Chickee Swamp.

We caught a band called The Palominos. They won a contest where the winner got a slot to play at Langerado. Their drummer was a fat hippie guy with man boobs. But he was really the best musician out of the mix.

We headed back to the car to change clothes since we were soaked. That's when I got attacked a second time by the fire ants. I forgot about the hole and stepped in it a second time. Although I wasn't swarmed like before, I managed to get more bites. A few got on my thighs and behind my knee. A couple bit me on my hands and arm as I tried to brush them off. Nasty fuckers. I was happy that we had the RV. But where the fuck was it?

Otis called and said that he was in Sunrise. That's where were started out from. I knew he had a good three hours ahead of him. It was closer to 7pm and we figured he'd arrive at 10pm, just before Dark Star Orchestra.

With some clean clothes and a quick session, we made our way back inside for more beer and Les Claypool's 8pm set. I respect Claypool as a musician. I really appreciated his work with Primus, but sometimes his solo act is hit or miss. The guy is a talented freak for sure, but I wasn't into the first 15 minutes of his set. He had some decent moments, but I was let down. The Joker suggested that we see That 1 Guy.

That 1 Guy is actually Mike Silverman, a classically trained musician. He invented The Magic Pipe, which he plays at his show. It's made out of steel pipes with a bass string welded from top to bottom. It also has an Appalachian handsaw and a cowboy boot. Sometimes, it shoots out smoke. It's quite the contraption.

We headed back to Les Claypool. The rest of his set was much better than the first bit that I caught. At 10pm, we headed over to The New Deal. Otis texted us and said that he was still waiting in line to get in. We awaited his call.

We caught about 45 minutes of New Deal in the Chickee swamp. The New Deal is a Canadian trio that plays electronica. I first heard them in 2000. That was just around the same time that the jamband scene had an influx of bands that replicated the sounds and grooves of a DJ. Livetronica. The hippies love that stuff when they are spun night. It's appropriate late night music. Anyway, the excited crowd at The New Deal was filled with abundant energy. They stepped up and played a fun set.

We left a few minutes early to get more beer and a good spot for Dark Star Orchestra. They are my favorite Grateful Dead cover band and usually play shows with the same exact setlist from a previous Grateful Dead concert. Since they were at Langerado, I expected them to play a "greatest hits" set instead of a specific Dead show since they only had a three hour slot.

Dark Star Orchestra - Langerado Setlist

Dark Star Orchestra sounded crisp and busted out a fatty Shakedown to kick off their set. They played tight and Rob Barraco on keys was a perfect fit. Sometimes I didn't like Rob's sound with Phil and Friends because he played too loudly. They mixed him in much better with DSO. His piano/keys are not as loud and his vocals are more audible. Kick ass job all around.

Around Midnight, the gang officially got inside. We left DSO in the middle of Fire on the Mountain and somehow managed to find everyone. We rushed back to DSO and partied it up for the rest of their set including a rare Alligator and a smoking Terrapin. They cheesed out with Liberty to start the encore but closed with The Weight, which made me happy.

We made the long and arduous journey back to the RV. It was dark and chilly. The ground was wet. And we really didn't know where we were going. We slowly followed the mass of people down the main drag to the RV campsite, which was located about a mile away or a twenty minute walk.

The campgrounds were almost full and by 2am, a bevy of wasted souls cluttered the main street leading out of the showgrounds, which had quickly became Shakedown Street were kids were slinging products left and right, with whispers of pharmies, headies, molly, and doses could be heard from all angles.

Mrs. Otis experienced her first festival with a heavy drug scene. Kids randomly wandered up to her.

"Why does everyone think my name is 'Molly'? And who is this 'Doses' guy anyway?"

I had to explain to her the ways of the hippies.

"The spun out kids don't think your name is Molly, rather they wanted to know if you are looking to buy any MDNA which they nicknamed 'molly'. And doses? Well that's doses of LSD."

Speaking of doses, I had not seen that much acid before in a very long time... like over a decade at least during the last Dead tour. I guess liquid sunshine is making a big comeback.

We eventually found our way back to the RV section and stumbled around in the dark until we found the spot. We drank beers and partied it up for a bit before everyone crashed. The RV gang was exhausted after their 17 hour trip. Besides, we needed to conserve energy for the next three days.

I eventually woke up on Friday at 8:30am and started partying. I didn't sleep until 45 hours later.

Check out my Langerado photo gallery.

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