[lane11]They say some kids don’t make it back to their tents at all the first night. I was almost a part of that statistic. The only way – and I mean the only way – to navigate back to my tent was to apply my high school geometry knowledge to my surroundings. If I conjured a misshapen triangle from the beaming Ferris wheel marking the entrance of the festival area, an angry pirate flag and a particular colony of portable toilets, I could almost single out my tent from the others. Even this was asking too much for my carefree spirit, which didn’t mind wandering through the assembled hoovervilles in hopes of a free beer or even a simple “Hello!” from my festival neighbors. Friendly faces, a diverse menu of drugs and hair mashed into dreadlocks made up the majority of Langerado Music Festival, my 2008 spring break destination. It was rock, bluegrass, reggae and one big slumber party. Four days of spontaneity were pounding on my tent flap while I was personally getting to know the grounds of Big Cypress Indian Reservation in Florida, the home of this chaotic party.
We were lucky to arrive early Thursday before Mother Nature really let the campers have it. I don’t know what I would have preferred: sweating my body’s near 60 percent water content into the tent as we put it together, or trying to contain the whipping flaps later in the day as nature’s ferocity poured in. Either way, the campground was perfect for mud-wrestling. Having constructed our tent earlier in the heat of the day, I separated from Josh and Eugene, the two boys I went with, with a Coors Light in each hand, off to meet a friend at the Ferris wheel who then showed me a completely different area of the campground. We passed drunk and stumbling campers and police on horseback who didn’t hinder the hippies from selling and consuming drugs (I later learned all the horses’ names – Eeyore was my favorite). Drum circles were beginning to form that pounded into my heart and vibrated the “town” of the campground, which was a hodgepodge of tiny boutiques and food shops, plus an overpriced general store and a first-aid tent. [puppet]
We arrived at my friend David’s tent as plans were being discussed. There were at least eight people in his tent waiting for the rain to stop smearing the mud outside when I realized it wouldn’t stop raining, and I would have to walk back nonetheless. Good thing I was wearing my little bikini top. I bid farewell to my friends who were soon to be tripping, and stepped into the cool rain. I love walking in the rain, especially through my fellow campers’ backyards. You meet so many interesting people. Unsuspecting guys would walk by and chirp, “Headies, I got your doses. Who wants molly?” and I would politely decline. My drug vocabulary grew substantially as the festival caroused on.
I sought the pirate flag, but, due to the declining sun, it was a bit hard to locate. I wandered for at least an hour before I made it back to the site. I wandered up and down the make-shift aisles, between tents, under tent lines and over lazily perched coolers, squishing in mud, horse manure and probably many other unnamed liquids. Josh and Eugene had made a dent in the beer, and I joined in as we prepped for a night of dancing.
Around 9 p.m., the music began. The camping grounds were adjacent to the festival ground, and our tent was only a seven-minute walk to the gates. Red wine in hand, we traversed the tent-dotted field, letting the beginning jams of the night puppet our limbs. The guards at the gate patted me down and I was let into the magical world of Langerado. The Ferris wheel looked spectacular in the night ablaze with red, orange and yellow lights and illuminated the creation of the park designers. Big walls of interchanging faces morphed in the middle of the festival ground, a fenced pit with a sign advertising gator fights occupied the north region, a small village of Dr. Seuss-esque huts bordered the exit. It was as if they expected kids to get lost in this story world.
[lane12]Jam lovers were stationing at the Everglade stage for Les Claypool and I was running around going crazy with Josh. Les was one funky cat with his innovative finger tapping and a bass line that rattled my brain, which kept drifting to That 1 Guy, a concurrent band playing at a nearby stage. At the time, the name That 1 Guy was the most hilarious thing; linked arm in arm, Josh and I kept asking each other who we were listening to only to chortle and snicker, “That one guy!” This musician created his own instrument – a double helix of pipes that most resembled a harp, which he tapped and caressed in hillbilly fashion, producing the best backyard grab-your-neighbor-and-twirl kind of music. Between these two bands we galloped, letting the emotion of the area fuse into our skin, listening to other campers hoot and holler. I danced my toes off when Dark Star Orchestra came on; it was as if Jerry Garcia was reincarnated in front of us. The light show was incredible: rainbows of patterns and shadows rayed over the band, sweet flashes of purple, orange and fuchsia fed my eyes like nectar. “Here Comes Sunshine” flowed through me lucidly and guided my hips, feet and swaying arms in rhythmic movement. Sunset Stage never saw a better performer. [party]
Finding our way back to the festival entrance was like being a rat running through a maze; people were shuffling everywhere as I continued to dance my way back to the tent. We met up with Eugene at the gates. “Whatever they say about hippies being all about love, peace and happiness is complete bullshit!” he said. “No one would help me; no one would give me a flashlight, they would only shine one in my eyes and run away laughing.” He was lost in the tents the entire time Josh and I jammed. Poor boy. I reminded him there is nothing better than a good laugh, even at his expense. Thus began the real tent search and the attack of the red fire ants. It was dark, the land unfamiliar because it was the first night, and the ants were biting. Hard. My feet were covered in red bites the next morning, yet I traversed the campgrounds without shoes on as if I was invincible.
If I hadn’t had the two boys with me, I would have nestled in the grass somewhere and become part of the statistic. A kid I met, Matt, didn’t find his tent until 2:00 p.m. the next day. Some people passed out at random people’s cars. [lane13]
None of us could make out the pirate flag from the dark blanket of night that covered Big Cypress Indian Reservation and we strolled through tents until 4:00 a.m., but, finally, we found our tent. I clambered into the tent after Josh and Eugene only to find my side doused in rain. Perfect kicker for my first night. Oh well, I thought, and plopped between the two to fall instantly asleep after a few giggles. I dreamed of bagels and cream cheese, Umphrey’s Mcgee and Matisyahu’s serenading voice all to come the next day. Outside our tent the festival was still going on; drunk campers were shuffling past on their own journeys, people were blaring music from their car stereos, even a few fireworks were crackling somewhere behind us. In the distance the pounding of a gang of hippie hands could be heard on drums, metal orange barrels and pots. It didn’t matter – I was out like Jamie Lynn’s protruding bump.