I'm not queen of music festivals by a long shot, but I've been to my fair few: a Memphis in May here, a Lilith Fair there, a Fleadh over there.
The 2008 Langerado music festival at Big Cypress (the Seminole Indian Res. in the Everglades) is, by far, the best music festival I've ever been to.
More than that: it's the best music festival I can imagine. It is everything that you wish a festival would be, but which they never quite are. It's wide-open, never crowded. The stages are far enough away from each other that there's little-to-no sound competition. The whole thing is set up with the comfort of the festival-goers, not the benefit of the vendors, in mind. There is a overall sense of "art" -- the place is set up with sculptures (even the lighting is sculpture-y) and is (did I mention this?) really open. The vendors tended toward vegetarian, and the beers tended toward micro-brew. The organizers hired a company to dig through every scrap of garbage and make sure everything that can be recycled is. In short, it was a big hippie paradise.
We went to see three bands in particular, and see them we did: Ozomatli, the Spam Allstars, and the Beastie Boys. Along the way we also heard the Roots, the Wailers, and a few other jam bands that I didn't catch the names of. It was all just musical and melodious and marvelous.
If you go see Ozomatli at a festival in the next few years, I don't imagine you'll be able to get as up close as we did: this is a band that is going to be massively popular soon, but they're not quite yet. At least, they're not quite yet in Florida. We first heard them in California, where they're from, and where they're bigger. So this was sort of like getting in near to the ground floor. Their music is totally danceable high-energy fusion rock-rap-pop-Mexican traditional. They are crazy onstage, dancing and drumming and just madness. They had Matisyahu as a guest rapper. And they don't seem to be able to resist jumping down to the crowd. One or two of them would jump down during various songs (highlights: After Party, Magnolia Soul, Gallina!!!*). When the concert was over and about half the crowd or more had cleared out, they came back for an encore of some of their older songs, then to Ozomatli ya se fue! they all came down into the crowd with drums and horns and we did a big half drumming circle half conga line, singing everything from ole ole ole to the hokey pokey before they walked their conga line back to the edge of the stage and said goodbye. That's the best show I've ever seen. As far as I'm concerned, Ozomatli rocked Langerado like no other.
But the show wasn't over: after we took a nap to recover (we're old, okay?) we headed over to where the Spam Allstars were playing. The Spam Allstars are a local band, the ultimate local Florida band, if you ask me (and I AM Florida, so you probably should): a total fusion of Caribbean, African, South American, and US music. They are the ultimate dance band. As the Fatboy's song once said: if this don't make your booty move, your booty must be dead.
Lastly, we saw the Beastie Boys. We probably could have gotten up close on this one, but we're old and we were tired, so we decided to set back a bit. The crowd for the Beasties was endless, as you can imagine, and as far back as we were, it was more of a big dance party than anything else. The Beastie Boys' approach to concert giving, seems to me, to be about like this: start off with an hour or two of punk rock, jazz, and your OLDest songs, and whoever's still around after all that gets to hear your hits. This works, I think, because we were able to advance about 100 feet on the stage because so many people left in the middle of a garage-punk song. Yay! It was a great show.
Most of the concert-goers were campers, we were just day-trippers. In a way I envied those (mostly younger) folks who danced til dawn, kipped out in the tent, and then came back for more today, but we got home last night at 1am, and took the most blissful showers of our lives, and never has my bed felt so soft and welcoming -- so maybe not. :-P
Long Live Langerado 08!
*PS: if you speak Spanish, please tell me what Gallina is about. As far as I can tell it has something to do with choking a chicken -- or worse. ;-)