The 2008 festival season will be kicking off in less than two months with what was once known as “Junior Bonnaroo” or “Bonnaroo Light”. These derogatory swipes lost their meaning this year because the Langerado Music Festival has arrived on the scene as a premier festival. They have changed locations from Markham Park, a small but comfy venue, to the expansive Big Cypress Reserve, famous for its Phish Millennium concert.
With their facilities expanded and upgraded, they introduced an impressive lineup that easily could rival the Bonnaroo’s and Coachella’s of the world. Headliners included REM, Beastie Boys, Phil Lesh & Friends, 311, The Roots, Ben Folds, G. Love, Matisyahu, and many others. When the dust cleared Langerado has forced other festivals to scramble to conjure up a remarkable group of bands.
Other than the marquee headliners, here are five bands that are worth making the trip out of the tent for early sets…
Blitzen Trapper (http://www.blitzentrapper.net/)
Hailing from Portland, Oregon this band will hit the stage on Saturday. Their musical sound varies on each track demonstrating the band’s taste for multiple inclinations. One song will be straight “ass” kicking rock and roll, another layered with guitars and electronic beats and sound effects, and yet a third will hit you with a “twangy” feel of southern rock/country. Already beginning to receive critical acclaim from multiple publications, this band is one not to miss.
Vampire Weekend (http://www.vampireweekend.com/)
Langerado outdid themselves by stealing this band from every other festival’s wish list. Everyone from Spin to MTV to Rolling Stone has lauded this quartet from New York City (the most praise since The Strokes). With a mix of punk, reggae, and calypso, this band’s sound is incomparable. Their first album drops on January 29th and you can catch them Friday.
Brett Dennen (http://www.brettdennen.net/)
Brett Dennen, also appearing on Friday’s bill, has an iconic soothing voice that cuts deep into your soul with accompanying acoustic folk guitar riffs and laid-back beats. After releasing his LP, “So Much More”, in 2006, he toured incessantly building a blossoming fan base and garnished one of Rolling Stone’s “10 artists to watch in 2008”. Unlike most artists that labels have signed attempting to emulate John Mayer and Jack Johnson, Dennen has the capacity to attain that next level (sorry for the cliché).
The National (http://www.americanmary.com/)
As soon as the first notes of their song “Fake Empire”, off their newest album Boxer, hit your ear, followed 19 seconds later by Matt Beringer’s baritone voice, contemplative thoughts easily come to mind. Beringer’s deep sonance draws quick comparisons to Morrissey, but the band separates themselves from the majority of associations that other Indie bands continue to fall into. In this period of musical talent being diluted by prepackaging corporations, lagging album sales, and exponentially growing mediums to access it, The National affords listeners a fresh approach equaled by few. Your chance to catch musical genius is on Sunday.
Josh Ritter (http://www.joshritter.com/)
If you have to pick one of the five artists I have mentioned, this man is your pick hands down. If Ritter were producing his music in the 1960’s, the man would be an icon with the likes of Bob Dylan and other folk rockers. Each song Ritter writes bestows a story that makes listening to his poignant lyrics “hip” again. After reviewing his past two albums, The Historical Conquests and The Animal Years, I find myself refusing to listen to individual tracks, but instead experiencing the whole musical journey of his album (the way it was meant to be). Upbeat songs and chances for sing alongs, plus seeing an artist before they completely blow up is worth catching this artist on Sunday (Personally, I will skip Gov’t Mule, Ani DiFranco, Phil Lesh, and any other artist just to be up front to catch this band).
If there were 5 more bands I could choose…
This post was written by Drew Gerlach. He’s either hitting Langerado for a few days or diverting all of his attention to the Bonnaroo Music Festival. He can’t decide yet.