Langerado Turns 6

Langerado Music Festival is back and bigger than ever. If you thought last year's version of South Florida's biggest outdoor music event was impressive, wait till you get a look at Langerado as a 6-year-old.

There are lots of cool changes, plenty of improvements, and a few megastars on the Langerado bill that blew everyone away when the lineup was announced a few months ago, including R.E.M., the Beastie Boys, Ani DiFranco, and the Roots. You can't help but wonder how Langerado was able to grow so much so fast.

The biggest change this year, though, is location. Although the festival started out small at the festival grounds of the Fort Lauderdale Stadium and had a meager one-off in downtown Hollywood a year later, for the past three years, Langerado had a home in Sunrise at Markham Park. But this year, the festival is headed 30 miles west on Alligator Alley to Big Cypress Indian Reservation, where there's more land, less congestion, and an environment that should make Langerado one of the most memorable concerts of the year.

"Basically, we ran out of room," says Ethan Schwartz, the festival's co-organizer. "The capacity at Markham was only 15,000... We told them we needed bigger capacity, but they couldn't provide it."

It's hard to believe Markham Park holds only 15,000 people, but there are traffic concerns if crowds increase beyond that size. Schwartz said officials from the City of Sunrise tried to keep Langerado in Broward County, but the festival expects 25,000 fans this year from all over the country, a considerable jump from last year's turnout. Heading out to Big Cypress was in Langerado's best interests.

"We needed to grow," Schwartz says. "There's no way we'd be able to get R.E.M. and the Beasties Boys if we were still at our smaller size. It just wouldn't work."

While South Florida still has a great festival, it's no longer in the tricounty area that most people associate with SoFla. That's something that may hurt the area economically this weekend, since Langerado fans usually spend money. Clubs like the Culture Room and Revolution get the carryover, and hotels certainly don't mind the extra business. But this year, Langerado is in the middle of the Everglades. The closest town that could even try to soak up some of these travel dollars is Clewiston, about 30 minutes away.

Schwartz, who lives in Broward County, says that they sought other venues in the local area but that none met their criteria. "Not many options in South Florida for an event of this magnitude," he says. "We looked at Bicentennial Park in Miami. It's a great place, but hotels are expensive down there. West Palm Beach was another consideration, but then you're starting to move out of South Florida... This opportunity presented itself, the Indian reservation at Big Cypress is a beautiful piece of land, and we jumped on it."

Meantime, Langerado is on its way to becoming the Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza of South Florida. The festival already has sponsorships from Spirit Airlines, Spin magazine, MySpace, Facebook, and a host of other corporate giants. That it's outgrown a city park in Sunrise is good. What still makes that a little sticky, though, is that now you're in the middle of nowhere. There's no point in driving in and out every day. You're gonna have to pitch a tent and stay through the weekend.

The price helps. For $170, the earliest listing price, and $200, the walk-up price, you'll get four days of music on five stages. That's about 40 bucks a day. You can't get into a club nowadays and listen to a DJ for less than $20, and you typically can't see bands like R.E.M. or the Beastie Boys for less than $50. This year, you've got more than 80 bands at Langerado on 45 acres. If you call yourself a music lover and you can't dig that, shame on ya.

 
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