Hangout Music Fest | 05.16-18.14

hangout smJack Johnson has seemed an inevitable part of Hangout Fest since it started, and seeing him in a pre-headlining spot at dusk was the perfect fit.

 

 

hangout black-keys

Gulf Shores, Ala.

Beautiful beaches with perfect temperatures. Blue skies and ocean breezes. Great music, delicious food, and time spent with friends. These things have always been synonymous with summer. Now they are synonymous with the Hangout Music Festival, which itself has become a summer staple. The thousands of people that flocked to this year’s festival were rewarded with a beautiful weekend and a unique festival experience. Hangout offers so many unique perks that you might even be tempted to forget about the great music. That was especially true at this year’s event, which also offered new perks like beach access within the festival itself. When you add great music acts such as Outkast, The Black Keys, The Killers, and Jack Johnson, it becomes one of the year’s best festivals, and the perfect party to kick off the summer.

 

Friday 05.16

hangout ferris-wheelOne of the summer’s best music lineups started early Friday morning. The music kicked off with enthusiastic sets by Ozomatli and Black Lips. Allen Stone’s early set featured lots of new music, and ended with a soulful cover of Chaka Khan’s “Have a Good Time.” RAC (Remix Artist Collective) played their first live festival show ever, and put on a great performance. Their live remix party pumped new life into hits that you’ve almost gotten tired of and showed love to under-appreciated songs by artists like Lana Del Ray, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foster the People, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Their entire set was a remixed sing-along.

The rest of the day saw great sets from Ingrid Michaelson (who was bubbly, funny, and full of personality), Dawes (who were great, as always), and The 1975. Choosing between Gary Clark Jr. (who was great at Hangout two years ago) and Childish Gambino was tough. However, Childish Gambino’s tent-packing, high-energy set was a blast and felt like the right decision. He poured through tracks from his newest CD, “Because the Internet,” before ending his set with “Freaks and Geeks,” which seemed like it was recited word-for-word by the entire crowd. The Queens of the Stone Age set was perfectly slated in the schedule, and may have won the weekend’s award for “Best Time Slot.” Their music meshed terrifically against a backdrop of ocean and dusk, the time of day that feels most like summer. Their 13-song set included hits “No One Knows” and, appropriately, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” as well as “I Sat by the Ocean.” The evening’s headliners, The Black Keys, had taken four months off before playing Hangout. With a newly-released album, it would not have been a surprise to see a show that was made up of almost entirely new material, but The Black Keys played a set full of songs from multiple albums. The band only played five songs from its newest CD, including the latest single “Fever” and “Gotta Get Away,” which they played live for the first time ever. They ended their set with four songs, including “Little Black Submarines” and an energetic version of “I Got Mine” as fireworks went off to close the night.

 

Saturday 05.17

hangout amos-leeSaturday’s shows started just as early, but were even more “can’t miss.” Seeing up-and-coming band Desert Noises on a small stage felt like we were seeing a band that won’t be playing for small crowds much longer. Their newest CD begins with the sound of waves crashing on the ocean (which is ironic since they are from Utah), so it was fitting that the same thing could faintly be heard between songs. The crowd grew larger as their music pulled in passersby and saw fans rush to make it to their set. It was an early set, but it was one of the day’s best. But the best set of the day, and maybe the best set of the weekend, belonged to another band that played early in the day: Diarrhea Planet. It’s probably understandable that most people would write off a band with a name like “Diarrhea Planet” without listening to them, but it’s a shame. Anyone who made that choice when looking over the Hangout schedule made a mistake. This set had everything, from fans reciting “Intro” from their 2011 album Loose Jewels as the band walked onto the stage (which prompted lead singer Jordan Smith to say, “You guys are gonna make me tear up”), to crowd surfing, to inflatable doughnut inner tubes, to members of the band playing their instruments in the crowd. There was beach-inspired banter: “We wrote this song about surfing, but there’s no water where we are from, so it’s about crowd surfing.” The entire show was packed with perfect renditions of their songs, witty banter, and enough personality and talent to even overcome a crappy name like Diarrhea Planet. Their set was great, and it may have been the best of the weekend.

Sets from Needtobreathe, Tegan and Sara, and Amos Lee were a great change of pace before another of the most energetic sets of the day, and another contender for “Show of the Weekend” came with Moon Taxi’s one-time-only performance covering Rage Against the Machine favorites under the name People of the Sun. Looking back, I’m glad I left Amos Lee early and got to this set before it started. Their set was so packed that they started having to turn people away from the small stage that was located inside the courtyard of The Hangout restaurant. Those of us who were lucky enough to make it in saw Moon Taxi show off their versatility as they ripped through nine Rage classics (“Sleep Now in the Fire,” “Bulls on Parade,” “Rodeo,” “Bombtrack,” “Know Your Enemy,” “Guerrilla Radio,” “This Is For You,” “Wake Up,” and “Killing in the Name”) before fittingly covering themselves and ending with their song, “All the Rage.” The evening drew to a close with sets from Modest Mouse (one of the biggest crowds of the entire weekend), The Bloody Beetroots, Fitz and the Tantrums, and The Flaming Lips.

hangout viewIt was fitting that The Killers would headline a day filled with some of the best sets of the weekend, as their set ended up being one of the best itself. When The Killers were announced as a headliner a lot of people voiced their reservations. It’s true that the band’s last two albums weren’t as good as their first two. It’s true that there was no talk of a new album or new music to perform. It’s true that the band had even recently announced a hiatus. But none of that mattered as soon as The Killers hit the stage and put on one of the most entertaining sets of the festival. Their set list drew heavily from their two best albums and handpicked the best songs off of their two newest albums. They even played two surprising covers, the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Bad Moon Rising” and Alphaville’s “Forever Young.” As the fireworks went off behind the stage to end the night, everyone walked away satisfied, having seen the best that an underrated band had to offer.

 

Sunday 05.18

Starting early on Friday and Saturday finally caught up with us, and we didn’t make it out in time to see two of my most anticipated sets of the weekend, Tom Odell (who ended up playing a solo piano show when his band didn’t make it in time) and Reignwolf. We walked into the festival just in time to hear Bastille’s catchy hit, “Pompeii” float across the beach. Everyone we passed as we walked toward their show, even those people who were walking away, sang the chorus as they went. Many of the people we passed were making their way across the beach to Capital Cities, and after the last note of “Pompeii” rang out we hurried to catch up with them. Capital Cities’ set ended up being one big party. They played to a huge crowd on Hangout’s main stage, a long way from when they were playing Bonnaroo’s smallest stage last summer. They too showed off their versatility, mixing covers by The Bee Gees, Weezer, and even Sinead O’Connor with their own songs, like set opener “Kangaroo Court” and the Will-Andre-3000-come-out “Farrah Fawcett Hair.” (He didn’t.) The show closed with their song “Safe and Sound” going into Madonna’s “Holiday,” and then back again as dozens of beach balls were dumped onto the crowd.

Having just seen Portugal. The Man at last weekend’s Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta, I decided to see southern California legends Los Lobos. Most of the Hangout crowd, which skews younger, didn’t take the time to join me. It was a rare treat to get to see such a legendary group with such a small crowd. Even though the crowd was filled with mostly older hippies, it also featured some of the weekend’s best dancing, as a lot of the older guys employed a “dance like no one’s watching” philosophy. The next band, the Avett Brothers, have grown a lot lately. This is true both musically and numerically. The live band, which is officially made up of four people, has grown to seven members. Their sound had to grow as the size of the venues they played grew. Now, almost headlining, their sound has grown to its largest size, and their live show now includes a full-time drummer, violin player, and keys. Their 16-song set contained a good mix of new and old songs. It was nice to hear older songs like the fast-paced “Talk on Indolence,” the passionate “Pretty Girl from Chile,” and the fitting “At the Beach.” They closed with a crowd sing-a-long of “I and Love and You.”

hangout jack-johnson

Across the beach, Jack Johnson closed the second main stage with a show that felt like it could have easily been a headlining spot. He poured through 23 songs, including covers of songs by Steve Miller Band (“The Joker”), Buddy Holly (“Not Fade Away”), and most fittingly, Jimmy Buffett (“A Pirate Looks at Forty”). His music, the subjects of his songs, and his personality fit perfectly with the atmosphere of the beach, and felt perfect for one of the weekend’s last shows. Johnson has seemed an inevitable part of Hangout Fest since it started, and seeing him in a pre-headlining spot at dusk was the perfect fit.

The weekend’s final show, and possibly the biggest “get” for the entire weekend, was the recently re-formed Outkast. The set list, and even the banter between songs, was almost identical to what we saw a couple of weeks ago at CounterPoint. But it didn’t matter. This reunion was never about breaking new ground; it is about nostalgia, celebrating the past, and seeing a group most of us thought we would never see live again. Each show doesn’t have to be unique to still be special. This is especially true with each show that Outkast plays in the South. You may not need to go to every stop on this tour, but you need to go to at least one Outkast show this year. Outkast brought out Killer Mike to close with “The Whole World” with fireworks going off in the background.

As we all filed out of the festival and headed to our car, beach, or condo, all we could think about was how we were already ready for next year. Hangout Fest is a party and a vacation disguised as a music festival, and for us, it’s now a staple of the summer. | Matt Wallin

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