Scott Bernstein: Where did the idea and name of Langerado come from?
Ethan Schwartz: I’d been promoting shows in South Florida for about two years when someone with the City of Ft. Lauderdale contacted me about helping them with their annual blues fest. They had said they were interested in bringing in acts like Robert Randolph and North Mississippi Allstars to help expose their event to a different crowd, which I believed was a great idea, and I would absolutely like to be involved.
Apparently one of the music writers for one of the local newsweeklies thought this was a terrible idea, and that bringing in jambands would ruin the idea of the blues fest. I wrote a letter to the editor and asked him why he thought exposing a whole new crowd of people to the blues msuic he loved so much could possibly be a bad thing. His response was that if I wanted a jamband festival in South Florida, I should throw one myself.
I’d met Mark Brown about a year prior, and knew he had plenty of experience putting on events like that. Previously the biggest event I had put on was a moe. show at Tobacco Road in Miami for about 1,000 people. So I contacted Mark and asked him if he’d be interested in throwing a jamband festival in South Florida, and he agreed the timing and the location were perfect. The name was just something that popped up one day as we had been throwing different ideas around.
SB: Running a festival is obviously a full-time, year-long activity. Can you give us an idea of the preparation timeline for Langerado, from the end of this past year’s event to the first day of the 2007 festival?
ES: From the moment the last band plays, we are working on the next year’s event. In fact, for the 2007 Langerado we’d begun planning for it back in September of 2005, while we were working on the 2006 event. So much goes into putting on two-three days of live music. It’s really amazing the hard work and dedication our team has.
SB: Recently High Sierra, Summercamp, and Wakarusa were marred by a heavy police presence and problems with the local governments. Markham Park is a terrific venue — how is your relationship with the town of Sunrise and the local police? And do you see Langerado returning to Markham Park after 2007?
ES: Obviously those events are much different than Langerado. We have very limited on-site camping. We are much more akin to an Austin City Limits or Lollapalooza type of event. We meet each year with the police and develop a strategy that will keep their profile as low as possible so as not to really be a part of the festival. They are there obviously for safety’s sake first. Anytime you gather 15,000 people in one place you need to make sure the safety of those people is the first priority. After our first event at Markham Park, the head officer from the City of Sunrise actually wrote us a letter saying in his 25 years of being a police officer, it was the best crowd he’s ever dealt with. Mark and I both love Markham Park, and are working with the City of Sunrise and Broward County to make sure that we can continue to host the event there.
South Florida has been so over-developed, there are very few places you can put on an event of this size — Markham is easily the most beautiful place to do so. It’s a shame the hurricane caused so much damage two years ago, but we’ve seen what the county plans to do as far as replanting the site with native trees and other improvements that will make visitors’ experiences at the park even better in the years to come.
SB: There has been some chatter on the message boards that Langerado may sell out before New Year’s. Is 15,000 tickets a firm number?
ES: Absolutely. The City of Sunrise has strict rules governing the capacity of the park. Because of the limited entrances, they believe that anything over that amount of people will cause traffic patterns in the neighboring community. We have been working with them to try and get the capacity increased, but it will be a year or more of going in front of planning boards before we are able to get the laws changed.
Obviously the lineup for the 2007 event is much bigger than ever before — 15,000 people sounds like a lot, but with the size of the park and the layout of the stages, it will never feel crowded. You will always be able to have a great view of any stage in the park. That’s one of the things that separates us from some of the bigger events. It’s a 30,000 person lineup for 15,000 people. So, yes, I do believe the event will sell out way in advance this year.
SB: More and more festivals have crowded the calendar as the years go by. How does Langerado try to differentiate itself from the other music festivals out there? Is it location, quality or what?
ES: I think our location speaks for itself. South Florida in March is about as good as it gets. The weather is perfect, clear blue skies and mid-70’s weather. For someone from the Northeast, it’s a chance to get out of the cold for a few days and spend it watching the bands they know and love, and also discovering new ones.
The lineup has truly gotten bigger and better each year. Last year there were complaints that we strayed too far from our original roots, which I found kind of disheartening. Mark and I are music fans first and foremost. There is so much great music out there that to pigeonhole the event to one style would really handcuff its growth. That’s why last year a band like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, to me, felt like the perfect addition. Sure, they might not be a “jamband,” but they put on a great live show. Same with some of the DJ’s we’ve brought in. I think the Bonnaroo model speaks for itself. They have continously stretched the imagination of what a festival lineup can include. I love going to different music festivals and discovering bands I’ve never heard before.
This summer I went to Lollapalooza to see Wilco, Ween and the Flaming Lips and got turned onto so much other stuff. Hot Chip were amazing. Peeping Tom — I’m a huge Mike Patton fan — and seeing him up there with his new project was awesome. Then I walk down the street and see the Disco Biscuits or The Duo. So much kickass music out there nowadays, we as music fans are really truly blessed to be able to see so many different styles of music in one place.
SB: What band that has never played Langerado before would you most like to see perform at the festival?
ES: Obviously one of the bands Mark and I have been trying for years to get is Ween. They just kick so many levels of ass everytime I see them. We really wanted Beck this year. If you’re talking big bands, if we were able to get to that point, Pearl Jam would be my number one. Just an amazing live show everytime I’ve seen them. Thievery Corporation, TV on the Radio, Phil Lesh, Broken Social Scene. Franz Ferdinand.
I think the criteria me and Mark look for is how is the live show. I think, and I say this with 100% honesty, I would love to get Justin Timberlake or Christina Aguilera. I know half the crowd would want to hang me from the rafters, but the other half would be open and into it. And what I’ve always said to those people who say “Why would you even consider that?” There’s always another stage going on with different music. If you don’t like one thing, mosey on down to the next stage and try that on for size.
SB: One of the few complaints you hear often about Langerado is the distance between Markham Park and downtown Ft. Lauderdale where the late nights are held. Will there be any shuttle buses or an easy way for people camping at Markham Park to get to and from the late night venues, or are they left to fend for themselves?
ES: We’re working on the shuttle situation. It’s definitely a top priority along with exiting the park after the show ends. There was no reason for the traffic that happened last year, and that is our number one priority in 2007. It’s difficult sometimes to please everyone. We try and put on the best event we can, and there are always going to be some stumbling blocks, but I think each year it gets better and better. At the end of the day, the most important thing to us is we want to make sure that everyone who walks through that gate, who pays money for a ticket, leaves Sunday night thinking to themsleves, “How many days until next year?”
Thanks to Ethan for the interview. We’d wish him tons of luck, but with that lineup he doesn’t need it. Glide and Hidden Track will be covering Langerado extensively, and look for more features in the 99 days left until the festival begins…
Previously on Slack LaLane: 10,000 Barefoot Children Outside