The view of the Gulf from a perch above this year’s Hangout Music Festival could not have been any more different than the view from the same vantage point a little over a year prior. Aside from the obvious difference of there being approximately 25,000 additional patrons in attendance, there was a cheer in the air, no oil impending and weather that could not have been more perfect…even if it got a little hot at times.Â
Perhaps Michael Franti said it best when on Sunday after a scorching round of ping-pong, he said “last year it was raining, there was oil all over the water, no one came down [and] this whole community was suffering economically. This year, [Hangout Festival] is sold out in advance, 35,000 people in the sunshine.”
As the world of live music gravitates towards having as many summer music festivals as there are days in the week, there are certain ones that stand out as giants among men. There are the large niche festivals: Telluride Bluegrass, All Good, Wanee, Gathering of the Vibes and Wakarusa. There are the fence straddling types: Bonnaroo and Outside Lands. Then there are those that primarily gear themselves towards either mainstream music or those on the cusp thereof:Â Lollapalooza, Coachella and Austin City Limits. And in only its sophomore year, The Hangout Beach Music and Art Festival has officially been called up from the minors and now has a slot on the starting lineup in the big leagues that previously only knew the aforementioned.
While the jury still seems to be out on some of the logistical hiccups, on most every level, Hangout boasted and delivered on virtually everything one could hope for in an event of its magnitude.
As the Flaming Lips front man, Wayne Coyne, said to me on Saturday [following a mutually inspired dissertation on the vagina and vaginal art], “I think this is great. I think that this sort of thing is what festivals are all about. I think if we focus too much on if the groups are great, it is kind of missing the point. The ocean is great. A group is never going to be greater than the ocean.” And so it was the ocean in its infinite beauty that served as a backdrop to the weekend as it played Mother Nature’s music as tides came in and rolled out.
In only its second year, the lineup was as diverse and pleasure ribbed as one could possibly hope for and it did not feel forced. From My Morning Jacket to Widespread Panic to Foo Fighters, Primus, Pretty Lights, Primus and Railroad Earth, it could not have been any more genre and palate spanning. Â There was literally something for everyone…even baby boomers felt at home when, yes, Paul Simon took the stage to close things out on Sunday night.
Only at Hangout:
1) Grace Potter joining in with Warren Haynes Band for a cover of Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women.” To say that the sit in was stunning would be like saying that Grace is pretty and can sing…totally understated. Sure, it has happened in the past with Gov’t Mule, but Grace’s vocal prowess — backed by Warren’s new all star cast and the soul that Potter inherently possesses — only added to the stirring blend of the sax play from Ron Holloway in the subdued rendition of the classic. Grace shook and jived so hard that the Kentucky Derby-worthy hat that adorned her head was shortly sacrificed to the beach air.
2) My Morning Jacket’s Jim James proclaiming that Hangout was “like a spring break dream come true” as he peered out at the scantily clad beautiful people whilst proving that not only do the new tracks from Circuital play well live, they sound far less produced and perhaps even better in the live setting.
3) Warren Haynes sitting in with Widespread Panic for “Ride me High,” turning an otherwise lackluster Panic set into one that will remain in the mind for quite some time.
4) Matisyahu‘s 20 foot leap from the stage during a slamming set from start to finish. Matis does love to stage dive. Later in the day, he described his affinity for stage diving as “being like a drug,” meaning that he feels as though he has to make further and further leaps to get the rush. Well, by his estimation, the Hangout dive was the longest to date…any further and he may have broken something…a leg, foot, possibly a head.
5) After proclaiming “Forget you Cee-Lo, we are going to give you some Foo Fighters,” the Foo Fighters broke into a set of covers including Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out” and later, Prince’s “Darling Nikki” which brought out the fashionably late Cee-Lo, who will probably not see his name on another festival bill for a very long time. Later, during the actual Foo set, front man Dave Grohl declared that “this is the most fun I’ve had at a festival in 20 fucking years.” He meant it. The next day he came back to simply hangout at The Hangout, all collectively proving that these guys not only know how to rock, but they are team players, and dare I say, rock superstars that are just good dudes?
6) Dean Ween telling a crew on a sailboat who were enjoying the show from the ocean “Fuck You.”
1) The shuttle situation, though much improved from 2010, still became quiteÂ troublesome at closing time on Saturday night.
2) The mis or uninformed staff who, on opening day, didn’t know where the first aid tent was, let alone a water filling station.They must have been briefed because on day two, they seemed to know it all…down to which vendor had the best food.
3) Gulf Shores still doesn’t have key pieces of infrastructure to handle certain aspects and impacts of a mass influx of 35,000 festival goers; most notably, cell phone towers.Obviously this is not the festival’s fault. Many festivals have zero cell coverage, but when needing to find rides each night, it can be a hassle. Here’s to Verizon investing in a little Gulf Shores real estate.
Word to the Wise:Â
If you can afford VIP at Hangout, take advantage of it. There are so many reasons, but let’s keep it simple: listening to and watching Paul Simon from a pool that is less than 100 yards from the stage and free drinks of all types throughout. Sold!
Hangout was a smashing success. Sure they have a couple of logistical details to sort out and when that happens, it will be the hands-down best festival of its caliber. It is a second year festival that packed in 35,000 people. They get a pass on some things, particularly on things as miniscule as the ones that they hiccupped on.
On a weekend that saw everything from Paul Simon playing “Diamonds on the Soles” and “Sound of Silence” to Ween’s completely redeeming set that was well played, well sung, and included some intense gems from their catalogue, the music was ultimately where the brass tacks must be examined. Each and every artist played well…or as well as they could (take that Cee-lo).
The setting simply brought out the best in people. Referring back to our dear comrade, Mr. Franti, Hangout truly was the “Sound of Sunshine” and it came down beautifully all weekend long.
Surrounded by the ocean and one of the most stacked lineups of this festival season, Hangout delivered, and it is safe to say that it will be back in 2012 even further improved than it was between its first and second years.Â Cheers to Hangout 2012!
Click the thumbnail to view more photos From Hangout 2011 by Ian Rawn