Hangout Music Festival
Gulf Shores, Alabama
All photos by Dan DeSlover – ConcertCapture.com
The sunny Gulf Shores of Alabama were treated to the 2012 Hangout Festival on Friday through Sunday, May 18-20. Four stages–Main, Chevrolet, XBOX, and Letting Go–and an expansive beachfront ensured that those who attended would be entertained. Attendees agreed, purchasing the 35,000 allocated festival tickets within weeks of a 2012 lineup announcement that featured Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Matthews Band as headliners over the three day event.
Gates opened at 11 a.m. and parking logistic nightmares were assuaged by a shuttle system that efficiently transported concert-goers from west, east and northward distances to the Hangout entrance gates. Though there were some minor congestion issues that delayed travel early on Friday afternoon, the problems were resolved quickly by designating a lane of traffic exclusively for bus travel near the gates. Outside of staying within a few blocks of the festival grounds, the shuttle was easily the best method of transportation.
The Main and Chevrolet stages flanked the beachfront, while opposing one another with music rotating between the stages throughout the day. Fans who wished to arrive early and camp out on the sand all day for each day’s headliner were treated to shady conditions, the massive Main stage on the westward side of the beach blocked the sun by early afternoon. A large tented sculpture residing between the two stages provided additional shaded relief. XBOX sponsored a covered stage inland from the Chevrolet stage that hosted electronic and hip-hop artists. The Letting Go stage, inland from the Main stage and west of the XBOX stage provided a third rock stage.
These stages provided the cornerstones to the festival. Within their confines were plenty of food choices. Options included a number of food trucks that comprised vegan and healthy alternatives to the ubiquitous pizza and hamburgers. Food stalls also provided local, Southern specialties such as Creole and seafood. Liquid refreshments were never more than a short walk away. There were also enough restroom facilities and ATMs that a few minute wait in line was more of a rarity than the norm.
In terms of music experiences, the Hangout Festival location on a sunny beach was close to paradise. Those who opted to pay extra for VIP perks had a number of options, including perhaps the nicest VIP package available at any festival. The ‘Super VIP’ experience granted exclusive access to meal choices and unlimited beverages, but the highlight was access to a veritable oasis near the Main stage. The half of the Main stage closest to the beach was open to all attendees, but the inland side was limited to Super VIP patrons. The pit in front of the stage was standing room only, but just beyond that area (further left from the stage) were a pair of pools a mere 50-60 feet from the performers. Just beyond the pools was a shaded veranda with several hot tubs, bars and cushioned lounge chairs. Plush would be an understatement.
One of the greatest benefits of a solid music festival is exposure to new music. This can be in the form of an up-and-coming artist, a newly reunited band or a musical genre that might typically fall outside a general listening range. Hangout offered jam bands, world-class DJs, gypsy punk, hip-hop, reggae, straight-up rock and roll and a touch of gospel. There’s a strong chance that most attendees walked away with a broadened musical palate.
Friday’s lineup was solid from the start, with the 12:15 p.m. lineup yielding a choice between San Diego based Switchfoot and alternative rockers Sleeper Agent. One of the day’s surprises was Alabama Shakes, a local band featuring soulful Southern rock fronted by Britanny Howard. YelaWolf mixed it up at midday with a mashup of speed rap and word flow that inspired body to move. Those that weren’t inclined to YelaWolf’s rhythmic pace could chill their afternoon away with the likes of Dawes and Wilco.
The Main stage was closed out on Friday by a pair of artists that have a great deal in common. Chris Cornell and Jack White have independently reshaped the rock and roll landscape, Cornell’s vocals and White’s fretwork are unique unto themselves. Both artists have fronted a handful of genre-defining bands: Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave for Cornell; The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather for White. Each performed under their own solo moniker on Friday night. Both Cornell and White reached deep into their arsenal, performing hits and deeper cuts that transcended all their previous associations.
Cornell’s set was akin to his solo Acoustic Songbook tour, performing alone with his acoustic guitar. His was a relaxed show that included requests catcalled from the crowd. A fan shouted out “Sunflower” after the second song and Cornell acknowledged the request, after giving a brief intro into the inspiration behind the song. Cornell’s voice was beyond words, guttural yet angelic. Cornell meandered through his archives, covering an equal share of Soundgarden, Temple, and Audioslave, the entire set was a highlight reel. He closed with Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Jack White’s eccentric personality shows through his music. His obsession with red, white and black while fronting the White Stripes seems to have turned blue for his solo career. A soft blue light enveloped the stage, casting an eerie glow that spread out from the stage; even the plastic Solo beverage cups on stage were blue. He performs with two bands, one female (The Peacocks) the other male (The Buzzards), and notifies them on the day of the show which will be performing. Friday’s performance started with the male entourage and finished with the female. It’s hard to argue with a set that began with “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and finished with “Seven Nation Army.” However, Rome’s “Two Against One,” and a couple deeper cuts “We’re Going to be Friends” and The Raconteurs “Carolina Drama” were other highlights in the 19-song setlist.
The XBOX stage was the place to be for those needing a jump-start on Saturday. Mac Miller, the Pittsburgh rapping sensation, got the day started with his quirky raps that generally referred to sex, drugs, alcohol and the occasional mention of Donald Trump. Those needing a bit more of a charge had to wait just a little longer before Skrillex took the stage. His pounding beats reverberated across he festival grounds while a haze of smoke, swirling lights and fog engulfed a swarm of dancing bodies below. Skrillex easily had the highest crowd density at the festival, and it was the only time a noticeable security force was present.
Gogol Bordello, a conglomeration of global musicians based in New York city, gave the crowd a taste of gypsy punk. The energetic frontman Eugene Hütz is pure entertainment while their music is a potpourri of styles that change direction on a dime. An Old World fusion of accordion and percussion would suddenly become rap with accompanying dance. The perfect way to follow their set was to head over and witness Flogging Molly perform their punk-influenced Celtic music that enlightened the crowd with stories of politics, love, history and drunken debauchery.
Recently reunited Dispatch, the Boston based jam band from the 90s were the perfect tonic to decompress after a number of supercharged sets. They ended their seven-year hiatus last summer and have that they will release new music in August of this year. Though Dispatch have always been about charitable and humane causes, the beachside vibe and chill coffeehouse jams with a reggae beat during sunset induced one of the better mood altering performances of the weekend.
Whether it was a relaxed state of mind due to Dispatch or the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers hit the stage with a vengeance, Saturday night ended with an exclamation. Touring on I’m With You after a seemingly lengthy break between albums, RHCP are in the midst of an extensive world tour. They are one of few bands that were born during the 80s Los Angeles music explosion to remain active, Van Halen’s semi-reunion recently fell flat with their 2012 tour postponement/cancellation. They were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.
RHCP’s trademark blend of funk rock would not be complete without Flea’s signature bass lines. Frontman Anthony Kiedis pranced the stage while belting out a 20-song setlist. They opened with “Monarchy of Roses” and continued with a bevy of hits including “Scar Tissue,” “Suck My Kiss,” Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” “Under the Bridge” and “Californication;” while saving “Around the World,” “Soul to Squeeze” and “Give it Away” for their encore. Easily the most dynamic and best sounding performance of the weekend (though Dave Matthews jam session to close out the weekend was a close second).
Those who wished to continue rocking on Sunday could look forward to Cage the Elephant’s energetic set. A sea of bodies floated above the crowd during most of their performance, including a couple trips from frontman Matthew Shultz. At one point he said, “If you drop me like you just dropped that guy, and I’m knocked unconscious, just continue passing me around for the rest of the day. Maybe put some sunscreen on my chest though.”
Aside from Cage’s performance, Sunday provided a change of pace to the previous days heavier theme. Michael Franti and Spearhead jammed hip-hop with a reggae vibe that made attendees fully appreciate the beach theme. He spoke highly of those who have helped the Gulf coast after the BP oil catastrophe. He was also presented with a key to the city by the Mayor later that afternoon.
The Flaming Lips take psychedelia to a new level. Though their performance of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety was a perfect complement to Sunday’s artists, the daylight performance slightly detracted from Wayne Coyne’s quirky stage presence. They performed a handful of The Flaming Lips classics, including “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “Do You Realize??” before cutting into “Dark Side.”
The Dave Matthews Band closed out the weekend with a lengthy three-hour set in typical DMB fashion, squeezing less than 20 tracks into the time slot with plenty of improvised jams. The haze emanating from the crowd matched the smoke from the stage and definitely ended the festival on a high note. DMB gave the crowd a mixture of deeper tracks that should have satisfied the true fans who patiently waited a dozen hours for their set to begin.
Even the artists were impressed with Hangout. Both Chris Cornell and G. Love tweeted positive impressions about Hangout. Cornell tweeted that he was impressed and provided a photo of a sign that adorned his dressing lounge, while G. Love wrote, “Are you serious!? This place is crazy Niiice.” Dispatch also claimed they were busy being fans and had to hurry back to the stage to perform.
The 2012 Hangout Festival was an emphatic success. The first day was outstanding and each successive day were just additional reasons to be happy. If I was forced to choose the most frustrating aspect of the festival, it was having to decide which artists to check out in a given time slot. The latter problem was solved by catching portions of different sets, though sometimes just chilling with the music and sunshine prevailed. The Hangout Music Festival should be a bucket-list event for any Coachella, Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza regular.