In just two short weeks from today the Langerado Music Festival kicks off at Big Cypress in the Florida Everglades. I’ve attended the last two Langerado festivals, but this year’s lineup takes things to a new level. As someone who doesn’t get to many festivals, I think the best part of going is the enjoyment I get from checking out artists I haven’t seen before. So for the next two edition of The B List, I’ll look at the five bands I’m excited to see for the first time at Langerado:
1. Ben Folds – Ben Folds arrived on the scene in 1995 with his trio: Ben Folds Five. You couldn’t walk around the campus of my alma-mater, Skidmore College, without hearing Folds’ refreshing sound that combines elements of jazz and arena-rock with typical singer-songwriter fare. The Ben Folds Five continued to release great albums over the next few years including 1999′s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, a record which hasn’t left my iPod in over two years. Read on for more about Ben Folds and four other bands you gotta catch at Langerado…
Folds’ ditched the Five back in 2000, and went on to put out the incredible solo album Rockin’ The Suburbs the next year. Since then Ben has spent much of his time on the road, perfecting his energetic live show. Ben Folds makes his Langerado debut at the Sunset Stage on Saturday around 5:30 PM. Here’s the video for Army, one of the best tunes from The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner:
2. Brett Dennen – Speaking of singer/songwriters, another guy I’m totally amped to see is California’s Brett Dennen. Dennen’s been making quite a name for himself over the past few years, thanks to his unique vocal delivery that kinda sounds like a mix of Tracy Chapman and Jack Johnson. Brett’s songs are very accessible, which may explain his popularity among a wide variety of music fans. There aren’t many artists who get booked to both Langerado and Coachella in the same year. Brett’s due for a big year, thanks to those festival bookings and Rolling Stone recently naming him as one of their 10 artists to watch in 2008.
Brett’s released a few good albums, but he’s better known as for his intense live shows. John Mayer was so impressed the first time he saw Dennen play, that he asked the red-haired moptopper to open a few of his shows. Brett Dennen takes the Sunset Stage on Friday at 1:30 PM. You can check out a taste of Brett’s music over at his YouTube channel, including this video for the gorgeous Ain’t No Reason:
3. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend may have only released their debut album a month ago, but they’ve already been through the full life cycle of a buzz band. You know the story: one blog calls them the greatest, 200 other blogs follow in line; one blogger asks why are they the flavor of the month?, 200 other blogs follow in line. Both the Village Voice and Bob Lefsetz were particularly cruel to the NYC-based quartet. All the hype aside, all that matters is the music they produce. And I fucking love Vampire Weekend’s self-proclaimed Upper West Side Soweto music.
Listen to Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, and tell me that tune isn’t catchy as hell? Sure they name-drop Peter Gabriel and Benetton in the same song, but Ezra Koenig’s vocal range is unbelievable. And some of the guitar figures he comes up with are breathtakingly beautiful in their simplicity. VW does the best job combining pop and African music I’ve seen since the days of Paul Simon’s Graceland. I’ve read mixed reviews of their live shows, so I’m excited to form my own opinion down at Langerado. Vampire Weekend play the Chickee Hut at 5 PM on Friday afternoon, see ya there. For now check out this video of the boys performing A-Punk on Letterman:
4. The Bad Plus – About four years ago a friend of mine sent over a track of The Bad Plus covering Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, and I was immediately drawn in by their sound. I went out and purchased These Are The Vistas, the band’s debut album on the Columbia label. Turns out the Nirvana cover is one of the worst tracks on that album. The Bad Plus plays a unique brand of avant-garde jazz that’s heavy on both rock and pop. These guys have released four albums since These Are The Vistas, with each one being better than the last.
In concert The Bad Plus mostly plays originals, but once in a while they’ll drop one of their jaw-dropping covers ranging from Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World to Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. All three members of the band have a hand in writing their originals. Bassist Reid Anderson writes the more melodic stuff, pianist Ethan Iverson comes up with the intellectual and complex material, while drummer David King focuses on more rhythmic and surreal compositions. The Bad Plus hits the Swamp Stage on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 PM. Check out this gorgeous live clip of my favorite Bad Plus original, Anthem For the Earnest, for an example of what separates these guys from the pack:
5. The Heavy Pets – Many bands want to distance themselves as far from the jamband genre as possible, but The Heavy Pets are one band that graciously accepts the label. These guys aren’t afraid to drop a ten-minute psychedelic jam in the middle of one of their catchy tunes. But whereas many bands can’t you keep you interested through a long freak-out, The Heavy Pets’ know how to keep an audience on their toes.
Langerado marks a homecoming for the Fort Lauderdale-based Pets. The group made their first appearance at Langerado in 2007, by virtue of winning the Sonicbids contest. After opening some eyes at last year’s festival, the boys were offered a slot this year without having to compete. You can catch them at the Greening Stage at 4:30 PM on Friday. Let’s take a look at The Heavy Pets performing Madagascar at last year’s Ashe Fest:
That’s it for this week, but check back next Thursday for five more bands I can’t wait to see for the first time at Langerado. Who are you most excited to see down in the swamp? Let us know by leaving a comment below…