Feast for the Ears

The catchall term for this stuff is "jam band" music, but that cliché hardly describes the tuneful smorgasbord offered at this weekend's Langerado Music Festival. For the third straight year, Langerado brings the nation's top touring bands to Broward County. And the festival has grown: The lineup (25 bands total) is twice as large as last year and unfolds over two full days in the vast, verdant expanse of Sunrise's Markham Park. Festival organizer Ethan Schwartz expects close to 10,000 music lovers to descend on Langerado's three stages in a sound-drunk feeding frenzy.

From acoustic jazz to Afrobeat to bluegrass to boogaloo, the stylistic diversity at Langerado is huge. If there's one thing these bands have in common, it's their penchant for improvisation, known affectionately to some as "noodling." New Times offers the following menu: eleven Langerado groups and their culinary corollaries.

The dish: Karl Denson's Tiny Universe

The ingredients: San Diego's hardest-swinging six-piece.

The flavor: Formerly of the Greyboy Allstars and Lenny Kravitz's touring band, sax machine Karl D slays crowds with a relentless, sophisticated funk attack. In the spirit of Maceo Parker, Denson is a consummate showman who'd play till tomorrow if the cops let him.

Noodle factor: Bow ties and marinara. Denson's horn of plenty keeps it smooth and rich.

The dish: Medeski, Martin, and Wood

The ingredients: Three virtuoso players radiating downtown Manhattan slickness.

The flavor: This peerless nujazz trio can move your ass with exceptionally soulful organ funk, or turn your head with abstract improvisation. The fun is in finding out where their set's going.

Noodle factor: Pasta primavera. Fresh, colorful, and playful, MMW offers a little bit of everything.

The dish: Toots & the Maytals

The ingredients: The man who invented the word reggae back in '66 is a true Jamaican soul rebel.

The flavor: One of the most upbeat, smile-inducing performers around, Frederick "Toots" Hibbert is more animated and in-tune at 60 years old than dudes half his age. Backed by a horn-heavy band twisting up vintage gospel, soul, and funk into a sunny sonic spliff, these guys will definitely take you higher.

Noodle factor: Rasta pasta.

The dish: The New Deal

The ingredients: Toronto band does house and breakbeat like a DJ.

The flavor: Close your eyes while this future-funking trio is playing and you'll swear it's a master mixer spinning records onstage. Metronomic drums, lush layers of keyboards, and bottomless bass lines come together in slinky, uninterrupted dance floor ear candy. Silly, soulful, and hard to resist.

Noodle factor: Like one long strand of fusilli, spiraling ecstatically into infinity.

The dish: De La Soul

The ingredients: Long Island's long-standing forefathers of conscious hip-hop.

The flavor: Known for their wildly inconsistent stage show, Posdnuos, Mace, and Dave can be brilliantly witty and charismatic -- or condescending and curt.

Noodle factor: Linguine with clam sauce. When they're on, they're really on. When they're off, you won't feel so good when it's all over.

The dish: Soulive

The ingredients: New York's best-dressed three piece smacks some hip-hop swagger across soul-jazz's luscious booty.

The flavor: Brothers Alan (drums) and Neal (keyboards) Evans collide in a locomotive rhythm section, while guitarist supreme Eric Krasno channels the righteous spirit of Green Grant. Potentially the most soulful band at Langerado, the name says it all.

Noodle factor: That short and chunky stuff called orzo. Punchy and brash, Soulive is tightly packed and no-frills.

The dish: Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

The ingredients: Multi-culti fifteen-piece wrecking ball from Brooklyn.

The flavor: Following in the footsteps of Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti, Antibalas rains down heavy horns, blistering percussion, syncopated guitar, and thundering bass lines over politically charged vocal chants.

Noodle factor: La-la-lasagna. Antibalas stacks up thick and steamy layers of big band polyrhythm.

The dish: Michael Franti & Spearhead

The ingredients: Socially conscious, buoyant R&B with a dash of hip-hop fire.

The flavor: In the tradition of Bob Marley and Curtis Mayfield, Franti is a powerful performer, possessing a booming voice and a staunchly humanistic outlook. He's definitely magnetic, but his four-piece band's effortless soul will grab your attention too.

Noodle factor: Vegan ravioli. The perennially barefoot Franti stuffs deeply personal insight and sharp political awareness inside shiny, happy grooves.

The dish: The String Cheese Incident

The ingredients: Five former ski bums who busted out of the tiny mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado.

The flavor: SCI is the band that split the jam scene. Either you go gooey for their nu-blue-fusion-grass, light-in-the-Birkenstocks funk, and well-chosen covers, or you wanna hang the band and their fans with a hula hoop for a noose.

Noodle factor: A no-brainer -- macaroni and cheese (and plenty of it).

The dish: Keller Williams

The ingredients: Loopy one-man Colorado mountain-man band.

The flavor: A staple on the festival circuit and jam scene, Williams loops his own guitar, beatbox, and didjeridoo to a rabid following of some of the headiest dreadies around. The music might be flighty, but Williams is a terrific songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist, and a truly engaging performer. Case in point: his solo version of "Don't Stop Til' You Get Enough."

Noodle Factor: If Williams had a penne for each of his Grateful Dead covers, he'd be knee-deep in semolina.

The dish: Mofro

The ingredients: Florida's own front porch soul outfit.

The flavor: Steeped in salt water, sunshine, and whiskey, lead Mofro men JJ Gray (vocals, harmonica) and Daryl Hance (slide guitar, lap steel) churn out Jacksonville-style backwater blues with straightforward honesty and lots of heart.

Noodle factor: There ain't no noodles in the swamp, son!

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Jonathan Zwickel

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