Swamp thing: tents, tunes and a good time

Florida’s reputation as a state for retirees and botched elections is becoming a stereotype of the past. In recent years, the Sunshine State has reigned supreme as one of the top music festival capitals of the United States. The anticipated festival season is about to kick off with Langerado. Once known as “the little festival that could,” Langerado is all grown up. Now in its sixth year, the music-lover’s utopia has become the creme de la creme of south Florida music festivals.

The festival takes place from March 6-9 at the Big Cypress Indian Reservation. Luckily for USF students, it falls at the start of spring break. So forget the tired beaches, booze and debauchery of places like Daytona and Panama City. This break, round up some friends, camping gear and your dancing shoes (or no shoes at all) and head to the Everglades for one of the best vacations Florida has to offer. With more than 80 local and nationally acclaimed acts, this year’s festival is appealing to fans of various genres from indie-rock to reggae to rap. Mega-headliners like REM, Beastie Boys, 311 and Phil Lesh & Friends place this year’s Langerado in a new realm. The “little festival that could” has turned into a serious competitor against mega-music festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.

Headliners aside, Langerado showcases dozens of talented bands from all around the country. The Avett Brothers, Les Claypool, Raq, Blitzen Trapper and Minus the Bear are just a handful of the talented acts on this year’s bill.

With five stages on the grounds, the toughest decision of the weekend will be choosing which shows to see, as many sets overlap throughout the day.

The popular American musician and busker known as That 1 Guy is among the artists on the Langerado bill. Described as a one-man jam-band out of the pages of Dr. Seuss, That 1 Guy (Mike Silverman) puts on one of the most eclectic shows around.

“Music festivals are so much fun to play,” Silverman said. “They just have a fantastic vibe about them, and the crowds are always so pleasant. The great thing about festivals is playing for so many new faces, with so many bands on the bill someone might wander over to a show they’ve never heard of before and find their new favorite artist; it’s a truly great thing.”

Vermont-based jam-band and Langerado performers Raq are also big advocates of the festival.

“Langerado is like the melting pot of the music industry,” Raq drummer Greg Stukie said. “It is a nice break from the norm of playing indoor venues. Winter in Vermont can be rough, we can’t wait to get down to Florida and enjoy the sunny weather and great bands.”

Music festivals have long been associated with patchouli-wearing hippies and tie-dyed T-shirts. However, in recent years they have morphed into a weekend getaway among college students looking for a novel spin on the college road trip.

USF junior and music enthusiast Justin Klein is heading down to the swamp for the festival.

“It is the best vacation ever,” said Klein. “The music, the people and the atmosphere is the perfect break from the stress of school.”

The Langerado folks have made some big changes this year. Not only did they move the fest to a new venue, but they also made a promise to keep the festival as green and eco-friendly as possible. The Big Cypress Indian Reservation will host bio-diesel generators, an extensive recycling program and even eco-friendly awareness seminars.

The festival began as an idea of Mark Brown and Ethan Schwartz as a way to bring the explosive jam-band circuit to south Florida. Six years later, Langerado has become a reckoning force on the festival circuit.

Tickets to the festival are still up for grabs at Langerado.com or at several distributors here in Tampa including Hot Wax Records, Vinyl Fever and Mojo Books and Music. The price maxes out at $225 at the gate, which includes a camping pass for all four nights. When considering the cost of trips such as cruises or beach weeks, Langerado is well worth every cent.

The vibe at a festival is different: People are genuine and for a weekend, attendees put aside deadlines, homework and the stress of life to unite their love of music. So forget the beer bongs and partying that comes with typical spring break trips and try out something different this year.

If you are among those students that just realized spring break is next week and you still have no plans, consider heading down to the swamp for some great tunes, friends and fun in the sun. Get more information, tickets and a full line-up at Langerado.com.