Thursday, March 13, 2008

Langerado Day 2 & 3: The 45 Hour Bender

By Pauly
New York City

It had been a while since I embarked on a bender of epic proportions. My future music schedule looks bleak because I have to work in Las Vegas for two months this summer, which means I miss out on all of the festival goodness this season. With that in mind, I was on a mission to rage as hard as I could at Langerado. Since I had to drive last year to attend Langerado, we didn't get as crazy as we could have in past years.

I never intended on staying up for two days. It just happened. I was on a natural high as well as a manufactured one. The combination fueled me for Day 2 and 3 of Langerado.

Friday began when I woke up in the RV. Our group was almost complete, minus Uncle Ted who was scheduled to arrive in the early afternoon. Like a post-modern MacGuyver, Otis rumbled through various cabinets and storage spaces in the RV gathering the necessary items to cook breakfast. While he fired up the stove, I wandered over to my rental car which was parked a five minute walk away. On my way there, I heard someone shouting my name. It was Wilkins, an old friend from college who lived in South Carolina. He had camped out in the row next to mine and spotted me wandering by. I actually had gotten lost and walked down the wrong row. It was easy to do stuff like that at Langerado. Not too many landmarks, and after a night of heavy partying, every camp spot looked the same.

I caught up with Wilkins for a bit and he told me that some dude came through the camp site that morning with industrial insecticide and blasted several of the fire ant hills. I wondered if a group of spun out wookies jumped the exterminator and stole his chemicals to spray on their bud for some super duper insecticide headies.

I gathered up a bunch of stuff from the car and decided to leave the majority of my gear in there because space was limited in the RV. I forgot that I bought a cheap plastic bong from a head shop in Pompano Beach and brought that with me. As soon as I got back to the RV, my breakfast was patiently waiting for me to devour it. Otis whipped up a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit for everyone. Delicious.

We sat out in front of the RV and enjoyed being outside while sipping drinks and cocktails. We studied the schedule and plotted a strategy for the day. Pablo texted me. He arrived the night before and wanted to meet up inside the showgrounds.

Wilkins and his crew left the campsite early to check out School of Rock All Stars, which was kids that were musical prodigies. I was interested, but couldn't get motivated. Our crew finally took the twenty plus minute walk from the RV to the security check point in the showgrounds. We bumped into Pablo, who was waiting in line to get in. My primary mission for the day was complete. Pablo has been found. All we were waiting for was... Uncle Ted... who had called to say that he arrived in Ft. Lauderdale.

We caught a bit of Indigenous, a blues band from North Dakota with a tight sound. Pablo and I had a tough decision between Ozomatli and Sam Bush. That's always the hardest aspect about seeing festivals with multiple stages. At some point, you will have to skip a band that you really like in favor of a band that you have never seen before or rarely get to see.

We went with Sam Bush because Otis really wanted to see him. I had seen Ozomatli almost a dozen times, but only caught Sam Bush once or twice before. Bush was known as the King of Newgrass and a founding member of the New Grass Revival, before they broke up. Bush a played both the fiddle and mandolin, depending on the tune. Otis had a photo pass and was able to get in the photographers pit. He published several high quality pictures of Sam Bush over at his Flickr page.

Sam Bush courtesy of Otis

I heard a Santana tease in one of the first songs and the crowd dug it. During the third or fourth song, one of BTreotch's friends found the Joker. BTroetch was in Antarctica on a work assignment and was unable to attend. The Joker and I were one group of friends that he had and there was another group of his friends from Tampa who were at the show that we had never met before. That group included a cute bubbly girl with red hair. Uncle Ted later nicknamed her... Strawberry Shortcake. It stuck.

Strawberry Shortcake had read all about our previous exploits on the Phish and music blog. In short, she was a fan and super excited to finally meet us and hang out. I met tons of fans through my poker scribblings. It happens so much now (even outside of Las Vegas) that it's become an inside joke among my friends. However, those moments rarely happen outside of poker, so I was excited to get recognition for some of my music writing.

When Sam Bush ended, Strawberry Shortcake left and headed to see The Wailers. We caught some of The Heavy Pets, a folksy-blues-reggae band based out of Ft. Lauderdale. We didn't stay because we were headed to the New Mastersounds, who were filling in for Vampire Weekend.

I was curious about Vampire Weekend. BTroetch turned me onto them. Some of their stuff annoyed me, while a few other tracks hooked me in. Vampire Weekend is the indie-band-celeb-du-jour and is on the iPod of every hipster from Park Slope to Silver Lake. They were supposed to be playing on Friday afternoon, but backed out at the last minute and "big timed" Langerado. A rare chance play Saturday Night Live came their way and the band (or most likely their management team) chose that precious gig instead of playing at Langerado. I really can't blame them... SNL is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The good thing about Vampire Weekend's absence was that New Mastersounds stepped in and played in their spot (in addition to their normally scheduled Saturday slot). They were one of my new favorite bands which I had never seen before. I was eager to check out the British funk quartet.

New Mastersounds

New Mastersounds played at the Chickee Swamp. The ground was still squishy even though they attempted to spread hay all over the place. Since the schedules still had Vampire Weekend on the bill, not too many people knew that New Mastersounds were playing instead. The result? A small and intimate crowd. I started up in the front row and slowly moved back a bit. I had a great spot and wondered how many people in the crowd thought that the band was Vampire Weekend?

I recognized a few songs and they played some new stuff. The groovy sounds of New Mastersounds reminded me of Galactic circa 1999. The New Mastersounds also don't jam out as much as Galactic, since their songs are between four and seven minutes in length. They were one of the bands I was excited to see and they did not disappoint.

Strawberry Shortcake got bored with The Wailers and found us at New Mastersounds. When that ended, we headed over to G. Love. He played a few classics like Cold Beverages and teased the theme from Sanford and Son.

At that point Strawberry Shortcake asked, "What's a wookie?"

The Joker clued her in. "A wookie is a long haired, or dreadlocked, unkempt hippie that resemble Chewbacca from Star Wars."

"A female version of a Wookie, is a Wookette. She usually with armpits hairier than mine," I added.

I told her Strawberry Shortcake that I used to be a hippie with wookie tendencies when I lived in Seattle.

We caught a bit of 311 before we left the showgrounds and headed back to the RV. When we returned, Uncle Ted had arrived and was cooking up Bratwursts for dinner. He originally intended on taking the Langerado shuttle from the airport, but ended up renting a car with a couple that he met at the airport. That got him into Langerado quicker and I have no idea how he found our spot in the RV lot.

After some partying at the RV, we went back inside for The Roots. We picked them over The Mickey Hart Band. Aside from Bob Weir, Mickey Hart is my least favorite member of The Dead. I've seen him enough times that it was an easy decision to skip his set.

The Roots played a eerie rendition of Bob Dylan's Masters of War. GRob and Mrs GRob saw them perform it at Bonnaroo last year.

Strawberry Shortcake found us before the Beastie Boys set and we didn't go up too close. We had a nice area with lots of room to dance. Plus it was within fifteen feet of a beer stand. That made Otis happy.

The Beastie Boys played a sensational set. They were among the highlights at Langerado. I've been listening to them since I was in the 9th grade almost twenty years ago. They still have bundles of energy and can work a crowd into a frenzy.

I had been working up a solid buzz all afternoon courtesy of the mushrooms. When the Beasties began, I was soaring. Very high. Like four feet off the ground. And I was in for a treat because I kept going up and up and up...

I noticed how overloaded my senses were during Sure Shot. At one point during the second verse, I found myself dancing like a maniac in between Mrs. Otis and two hippie chicks wearing butterfly wings.

My favorite part of the set was Root Down and Rhymin' and Stealin'. The crowd was receptive and soaking up all of the positive vibes that the Beasties emitted. They closed the set with a frantic Body Movin' and a bong rattling So What'cha Want. They took a short break and played a three song encore of Intergalactic, Ch-Check It Out, and Sabotage.

During the set, one spun out hippie kid asked Mrs. Otis if he could have a kiss. She pointed to his friend and said, "Why don't you kiss him?" They were so wasted that they almost starting making out. In my notebook, I scribbled down a note that said, "Mrs. Otis has a future in directing porn."

At Midnight, some of the crew headed back to the RV. The Joker, Strawberry Shortcake and I headed to the ferris wheel to meet up with Joseph Broseph, another one of BTreotch's friends. He brought a sign with him that said, "Greetings Palmer Station Antarctica." That's where BTreotch was stationed.

We had a choice of three bands for Friday late night. Unfortunately, Umphrey McGee's lost the battle and we skipped them in favor of splitting time between Phix and STS9.

Phix is one of the best Phish cover bands that I have ever seen. They were not playing anymore, any only reunited especially for Langerado, since Phish had played at the same spot for their Millennium concert.

We caught almost ninety minutes of Phix. They opened with PYITE > Moma Dance and I was digging the sound. It's not Phish. If Phish is heroin, then Trey Band is Methadone. And Phix is like generic Oxycontin.

I kept getting flashbacks from the millennium show. So were a lot of other phans in the crowd. We missed Phish, but they are never coming back.

Phix pulled Destiny Unbound out of nowhere and it was a kick ass version. Never saw that coming.

We headed over to STS9 and awaited for the mothership to blast off. I can recognize different STS9 songs, but I couldn't tell you the name of most of them. Their set was solid. Uncle Ted managed to find us by the soundboard. He had been road weary after traveling from Boston earlier that day. He wanted to bail and mentioned something about a storm that was coming. I left with him and we managed to get a taxi back to the RV set up. I filmed a lot of stuff from the back of the golf cart, but it was too dark and did not come out.

Uncle Ted crashed and I went to take a dump. The RV had a "No #2 policy" which meant I could pee inside but had to shit elsewhere. Nothing is harder than taking a dump in a port-o-pttie when you are tripping. I managed to squeeze one out, despite the obvious obstacles and auditory hallucinations. When I returned to the RV, The Joker was passed out. I was wide awake and headed to the rental car. I called Nicky and told her about the Beasties.

Then it started to rain. Badly. A downpour quickly developed and the kids next to us ran out of their tents and sought refuge in their cars. The wind was so intense that it blew a few tents right over. I was trapped in my vehicle for three hours between 3:30 and 6:30 as a mini-hurricane trashed the area.

During that time, I uploaded photos from my camera to my laptop, smoked up, ate a couple of Cliff bars, and listened to a Dead bootleg. I tried to sleep, but got freaked out because I could not figure out how to turn off the interior lights. I was afraid it would drain the battery. All of that anxiety kept me up. When I figured out how to turn it off, the rain had stopped and the sun slowly broke out.

At 6:30, a young hippie girl named Dahlia saw that I had the windows open and wandered by.

"Do you know how to break into a car?" she asked.

"Besides smashing the window?"

"Yeah, besides that," she said. "I locked myself in."

I walked back to her car. A young wookie in training with only two baby dreads growing, frantically wiggled a hangar back and forth to open up the door. He gave up and smoked a bowl, while I took a crack. I got close a couple of times, but couldn't get a good grip. We must have tried to get in for almost ninety minutes before we gave up. I told her to look for the Mounties who could tell her what to do. She didn't want to have to pay $50 for someone to jimmy her door, but had no choice.

Around 8:30am, I headed back to the RV. Everyone was up and Otis was making breakfast biscuits. Deja vu.

We spent a lot of time in and around the RV on Saturday morning. We drank as the Joker played DJ. We studied the schedule and made decisions on who to see. We split up into two groups. Otis and Mrs. Otis headed to Railroad Earth, while the rest of us checked out The Bad Plus, a jazz-pop trio. 2/3 of them were from Minnesota and they formed in NYC. The Bad Plus consisted of a drummer, bassist, and a piano player. They are each excellent musicians and they won me over very quickly when they covered Rush's Tom Sawyer and put their unique angle to it.

Everyone was reunited for The Wood Brothers and they did not disappoint. They covered both Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles and played a lot of their original material. Next up was another delicious set from New Mastersounds. We left early to catch the end of The Avett Brothers set, but they had canceled at the las minute. With nothing of interest to see, we headed back to the RV and partied.

That's when we saw the fight. A woman was screaming at the top of her lungs. Across the way, she and her boyfriend where pushing each other. We couldn't make out when she was screaming. She bitch-slapped him once, and followed that up with rapid punches to his face. We were stunned. It appeared as though he was going to unleash a flurry of punches on her. Instead, the guy had some remarkable restraint. Instead of hitting her, he smashed himself in the head three times extremely hard with a water bottle. I thought it was a drug deal gone bad. Mrs. Otis said it had to do with affairs of the heart.

"He must have slipped and dipped his doodle in some other girl," suggested Mrs. Otis. "You only get that angry if someone cheats on you."

The couple made up as fast as they had their joust. Just like that , it was over. Hippies in love once again.

It was time to put on the tuxedo jackets. Otis discovered them online. The Joker and I wanted to see Thievery Corporation, alas, the others were not into them. We agreed to meet up for MSMW at 8pm.

With out tuxes on, we flagged a taxi who drove us into the show. We got tons of odd looks. Some people had no idea what to make of it, while others thought it was the coolest thing ever. We definitely caught the eyes of several cute hippie chicks who could not stop commenting on how swanky we looked. We even stopped a took photos with people who asked.

We caught the end of Antibalas' set. Good stuff. I was impressed with Thievery Corporation and we saw almost the entire set before we met up with Pablo, Strawberry Shortcake, and the rest of the gang.

Medeski, Martin, and Wood collaborates with guitar player John Scofield in a lineup called MSMW. I'm a big fan of that mix and had high expectations of their set. It was one of the acts that I was dying to see. They opened up with a smooth Little Walter Rides Again. But the rest of the set was just above average. If I went in with lower expectations, i would have not been disappointed. As is, I was.

So when Uncle Ted said, "Hey let's leave early to get a good spot for REM!" Well, no one objected. Not even me.

It was a horrible idea. The REM stage area was empty and it was wet and cold and freezing. The tuxes looked nice, but they were not warm. We sat around for fifteen minutes wishing that we were back over at MSMW.

"Uncle Ted and his fuckin' crappy 1980s bands," I kept screaming.

REM came on ten minutes late. Fuckers. They opened up with a lukewarm What's the Frequency Kenneth. They played a lot of new material off their new album Accelerate and I was not into the show. The band sounded great, but they did not get any chance to open up a song or solo. What we got were short slow morose songs with lots of Michael Stipe banter in between singing them.

"I'm too happy to listen to this depressing music," said Mrs. GRob.

GRob and the misses was not into the set. He left to take a piss and they never came back! I didn't blame them. Michael Stipe was whining and preaching and annoying and condescending to the crowd. The hippies were on his side of the fence, but he had no clue. They were freaks too and understood the inner pain and emotional turmoil that plagued Stipe for three decades. They overlooked all of that bullshit and just want to dance to the music. Instead, an aging pop star from the 1980s and an overrated MTV-dubbed music video genius of the 1990s preached to the soused choir instead of singing with them. Alas, Stipe shot himself in the foot whenever he opened up his mouth.

I was tired. I was wet. I was cold. The drugs had worn off. I was bored. I was starving for music. Real music. None of that pseudo-pop bullshit that Stipe was force feeding the spun out and half-baked audience. I made a command decision. I left REM and headed back to the RV to get warmer clothing, and to save my sanity. I was worried that all of the crazed acid freaks and spun out wookies were going to charge the stage and pummel Stipe like a fish's first night in prison, then afterwards they'd burn Stipe at the stake chanting, "This is the end of the world as we know it. And I feel fine!"

I was running for my life, I thought, and sprinted out of the showgrounds. I slowed down my pace when I got outside, but was quickly swarmed by dealers on Shakedown Street. When you wear funny colored glasses and a white tuxedo right out of 1977, you get a lot of attention. I was giving off that vibe... "I like drugs. I'll snort anything." Because everyone who had anything in Langerado had stopped me. I was cold and didn't have time to shop around.

One big black guy who looked like Refrigerator Perry nearly tackled me and offered me yay-yo.

"Do I look like someone who needs coke?" I said trying to brush him off.

"How about opium? Or heroin?"

"No thanks," I said. "I'm high on Jesus."

And a fist full of other intoxicants.

I took my time and got a warm jacket. I returned to REM just in time for the encore. I missed a lot of Stipe's bullshit and he managed to avoid getting tossed into the Everglades and left for alligator food. REM was the lowlight of Langerado.

Midnight. We had a choice... keep on partying with the Disco Biscuits or back to the RV. Bisco was playing until 4am so we figured that we could go back to the RV and party for an hour, put on warmer clothes, then catch the last three hours or so of Bisco. That was the plan until we heard Michael Jackson'svoice.

"Keep on with the force. Don't stop. Don't stop til you get enough!" echoed from a tent which blasted the music.

We wandered inside and it was a mini-dance party. We were perfectly dressed for the occasion. Some of the people in the tent thought that we were part of the entertainment. We managed to get a spot right up in front and danced for a few songs. The tuxedos were a chick magnet. The Joker was freaked by one chick who liked to point when she danced.

The only Asian woman in the entire festival with fake books managed to hone right in on Uncle Ted. She threw her leg up on his shoulder and started using him as a stripper pole. I wish I was a little faster with the camera and caught that bizarre moment.

That's when Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot rushed in and screamed, "Thank you for coming to my wedding reception! I love you all!"

As Otis wrote, we were the party. The tent was rocking before we arrived, but we managed to raise the roof off the fucker. That was my favorite part of Langerado. Well, one of them. There were so many, but that special moment will always keep me warm on cold depressing nights.

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Check out my Langerado pictures.

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