Recap: Hangout Music Festival 2014
One of my favorite things about the summer music festival scene here in America is the staggering diversity of type of festival. Each one is known for having it’s own distinct vibe and target audience even though there tends to be a massive overlap is musical acts. Take, for example, one of the newest fests on the market – the Hangout Music Festival. Founded only in 2010, Hangout has become quite the event. Centered on The Hangout – a gracious open-air restaurant situated on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama – the festival draws fans from all over the southern side of the country with the promise of sun, sand, and the sounds of their spectacular lineups. With previous lineups boasting artists such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paul Simon, and Kings of Leon, this year’s set did not disappoint, and with six stages to choose from, there was always something to check out. This being Joyce and my first time at the Alabama festival (and Joyce’s first music fest in general), we didn’t really know what to expect from the three day beach adventure, but we were definitely not disappointed.
After somewhat of a trek from where we parked to the actual entrance to the fenced off section of roads, shops, and beachfront that served as the venue for the weekend, we immediately hopped over to the Chevrolet Stage – one of the two main stages actually on the sand – to catch the second half of Ingrid Michelson’s engaging set. Though most people know her for her mellower hit, “The Way I Am,” Michelson’s other songs were all high-energy and audience approved – especially her polka-style rendition of “You and I” that served as her unexpected second finale since she was unaware of how long she actual had on stage. From there, Joyce and I had some time before the next set we were desperately anticipating (The 1975) so we decided to grab some water and check out the lay of the land. Thankfully, one of the best things about festivals, in my opinion, caused us to never be without some kind of background music. Since there’s always at least one artist jamming, we scoped out the food vendors and such as sounds from Dawes’ set on the main stage kept us entertained. While I wouldn’t say I “saw their set,” I can say it sounded like quite the party. From there we bopped along with the best of them at the 1975’s set, who it seems were quite playful themselves that weekend by their attitude on stage, Joyce ran to catch some of Childish Gambino’s set while I popped over to hear a bit of Gary Clark Jr. before we both caught the first half of Queens of the Stone Age and finally, the headliner of the night – The Black Keys. That Friday night being the first full set The Black Keys had played since the release of their album, Turn Blue, earlier that week, the crowd and band alike were buzzing with high energy, especially during hits like “Tighten Up,” “Lonely Boy,” and their newest single “Fever.” The excitement from the crowd as well as the chemistry on stage between the two who make up The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, made for a fantastic end to the evening.
The rest of the weekend passed in much the same way. Saturday, Joyce and I got to hear a bit of the Black Cadillacs’ set on the Red Bull Sound Select Stage from our table in The Hangout where we interviewed some up and comers. Amos Lee provided the soundtrack for my reunion with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years who happened to be in attendance as well – the sheer number of people, which leads to opportunities such as this, is just another wonderful aspect to the sprawling variety at music festivals – and from there Joyce and I split to cover more of the festival. I stuck with my friend to catch Matt and Kim’s set, which was brilliant and Kim is a manic in the best way, then on to Modest Mouse and a campout to secure decent spots for the headliner of the evening, The Killers. Joyce, on the other hand, made sure to check out Modest Mouse and the ever outlandish Flaming Lips before finding my friend’s crew and me in the crowd as we awaited the beginning of The Killers set.
As a huge fan of The Killers, this was the set I had been waiting for all day, and they most certainly did not let me down. They came out, guns blazing, to start the set off with the ever beloved “Spaceman” and never let the energy down. Managing to hit all the major moments of all of their previous albums – “Somebody Told Me,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” and even “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” from their ’04 debut album, Hot Fuss; “When You Were Young,” “Bling (Confession of a King),” “For Reasons Unknown,” and “Read My Mind” all from 2006’s Sam’s Town; Day & Age’s massive hit “Human” as well as “A Dustland Fairytale”; “Runaways,” “The Way It Was,” “From Here on Out,” from their most recent release Battle Born as well as a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover and a cover of “Forever Young” – they kept everyone in the crowd rowdy and engaged. The far and away highlights of the night, however, were the performances of their two most beloved songs – “All These Things That I Have Done” and “Mr. Brightside.” Even now, ten years after the release of Hot Fuss, “All These Things That I Have Done” gives me chills and hearing it live, as well as singing along with tens of thousands of others proclaiming “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier,” simply amplified the effect, and the set-ending “Mr. Brightside” was the perfect way to cap off our spectacular second day in Gulf Shores.
Day Three was the busiest yet. To start off, I caught the set of one of the up-and-comers we’d interview the previous day, Wrestlers, as Joyce set off to see Tom Odell. From there we ended up catching Bastille’s Chevrolet Stage performance to a crowded beach, and although they had to take breaks to re-apply their sunscreen, their set was on point. Playing all the hits such as the opening “Bad Blood,” and their encore of “Of the Night” into their massive hit “Pompeii, as well as songs off their recently released extended album, All This Bad Blood, and even a new tune titles “Blame,” the four British lads that comprise Bastille had the whole beach bouncing along with them for the entire hour and fifteen minutes they graced the stage.
From there, we raced across the sand to catch Capital Cities – one of my favorite live acts in general. Though they’re only really known for their radio hit “Safe and Sound,” they boys of Capital Cities know how to get their crowd going. Starting off the set with a lively rendition of “Kangaroo Court,” lead singers Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant then proceeded to lead the crowd in the “Capital Cities Shuffle” as well as dance moves to accompany just about every song they performed – including their cover of the BeeGee’s “Stayin’ Alive” – while Spencer Ludwig on the trumpet pretty much stole the show every time he rocked out. And while anyone who has attempted will know, dancing on sand is actually rather difficult but that didn’t stop the crowd from jumping and dancing along to the entire hour and fifteen minute set.
After Capital Cities it was off to Portugal. the Man for Joyce while I recovered from my participation in both the Bastille and Capital Cities dance parties before we reunited for The Avett Brothers’ set on the main stage. Looking right at home in front of the Southern crowd on the beach of Alabama, the brothers and company rocked out on guitar, banjo, violin, and even stand up bass with all their hits, including an incredible rendition of “Laundry Room.”
After Avett, it was off to possibly the most fitting set of the entire weekend – Jack Johnson. As one of the wonderful women next to me commented at as we waited for his appearance – Is there a better artist to enjoy as the sun is setting on a weekend in the sand than Mister Jack Johnson himself? To make the situation even better, it was Jack’s 39th birthday last Sunday, which caused multiple crowd renditions of “Happy Birthday” to be sung as well as an original song of sorts by the birthday boy himself about halfway through his set as he acknowledged two others in his crew who happened to be celebrating as well. Jack pleased the crowds with everything from “Taylor” to “Do You Remember” to “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” and many more as he looked right at home on his stage by the sea.
The moment all 40,000 ticket holders had been waiting for, however, came about half an hour after Jack Johnson’s set was over. With no other acts to choose from, the full force of the Hangout Music Festival crowd descended on the main stage in order to experience the finale of the weekend – Outkast. I tried to take a picture from my perch above the crowd and even though it was a little too dark for me to catch the entire sea of people, you can tell the beach was packed tight.
It was an incredible sight to behold. From the moment Big Boi and Andre 3000 busted out of their cube on stage, everyone was going nuts. They started off with a bang with “Bombs Over Baghdad” and continued to roll out hit after hit. Highlights for not only me but I’m sure everyone else in attendance as well had to be the intro to (“Do we got any baby’s mamas? Any baby’s mama’s mamas?) and the performance of “Miss Jackson,” the calling up of girls from the crowd to assist Andre 3000 in “remembering the dance moves” to their possibly most massive hit “Hey Ya” and finally, my all time favorite Outkast song, “Roses.” All in all, I’d say Outkast with out a doubt stole the weekend. And as their set ended, fireworks shot into the sky, and Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama” came blasting through the PA system to a joyously appreciative crowd, I took a moment to appreciate the success that was Hangout Fest 2014.