Hangout Festival: 9 Must-See-Bands

By: Dennis Cook, JamBase Associate Editor

The first Hangout Beach Music & Arts Festival begins tomorrow night and runs through Sunday, May 16, at 101 East Beach Boulevard, Gulf Shores, Alabama (The Southern End of AL-Hwy 59). While the world watches the devastating effects of the Horizon offshore oil rig disaster, the producers of the Hangout Festival have assured attendees that their beach is clear and the show will go on. All profits from the festival will go towards Coastal Conservation and Restoration as the event has turned into an environmental benefit concert.

For those heading down south tomorrow, we turn our attention towards the music. While most folks headed to Hangout already have headlining sets from The Black Crowes on Friday night, The Roots on Saturday, and Trey on Sunday evening etched in stone on their dance card, we wanted to offer a few pointers towards the other talent lined up at this new festival. We'll have a full wrap-up of this inaugural weekend on Monday, so check back then for photos and other highlights. In the meantime, here's some recommendations for those diggin' their toes into the sand in Alabama.

Be sure to also tune in to our real-time Twitter updates page at throughout the weekend.

Friday, May 14

1. Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam :: 12:30-1:30 pm :: Verizon Stage
With a name derived from a Robert Cray tune and a sound and temperament that harks back to fiery English blues-rock pioneers like Cream and early Fleetwood Mac – not to mention American counterparts Paul Butterfield Blues Band and the Allman Brothers – Back Door Slam is just plain exciting every time they get onstage. Knowles is one of the tastiest young guitarists going and the whole enterprise oozes muscle and guts. Hard to imagine a better nooner than these guys!

2. Papa Mali & Friends :: 6:00-7:15 pm :: JamBase Stage
There's many compelling, hard to pin down aspects to Papa Mali. He's a swamp roamer and a mojo hand maker, not to mention one of the few guys who've ever captured some of Sly Stone's impenetrably deep funk, but he can also be honestly teary-eyed and downright tender. Of late, he's been exploring the Grateful Dead catalog and a pile of new Robert Hunter tunes with buddy Bill Kreutzmann. But, the real lure of any Papa set is NOT knowing what he's got up his sleeve and just letting him have his way with you. And he has some pretty stellar "friends" so happy surprises are likely at this set.

3. Zac Brown Band :: 8:45-11:00 pm :: The Hangout Stage
Even though Brown is the opening day headliner, he's likely an unknown quantity to many JamBase readers besides his rep as a fast-rising star in the contemporary country scene. His hit "Chicken Fried" is good fun, and he and his band are blue-collar sweethearts who play their bloody hearts out. No less an authority on a good time than Jimmy Buffett has taken a big shine to Brown, and if one goes in with an open mind and a yen to dance they're likely to discover a real treat in this band.

Continue reading for Saturday's suggestions...

Saturday, May 15

1. AA Bondy :: 12:30-1:30 pm :: PlayStation Stage
Often drawing comparisons to Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs, Bondy is the full package folkie, exuding both a '60s Greenwich Village vibe as well as something more cynically, cleverly and darkly modern. His songwriting is both exposed and obtuse, but always capable of drawing one in with a whisper of acoustic guitar strings and a voice that eases into the bloodstream like a shot of the good stuff.

2. Toubab Krewe :: 2:30-3:30 pm :: PlayStation Stage
A true original in a sea of copyists, Toubab Krewe is carving out a potent new sound that is all their own. While touched by African and rock echoes, their music and whole approach to music making comes from a highly personal yet winningly universal place. This is the national sound of a country with no name where all are welcome to dance and think and imagine, presented with a bouncing, intense demeanor. If you're still groggy after your first night revels, Toubab will set you right on Saturday as the sun rises high above the sand.

3. The Whigs :: 4:45-6:00 pm :: PlayStation Stage
Via his Twitter page, The Roots' Questlove wrote after their April 27 appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, "The Whigs mean business. 3 of em sound like an army son!" Too right. These Athens, GA boys produce a glorious, red meat kinda rock noise with more hooks than a fly 'n' tackle shop. And their live shows tend to be boisterous and highly motivated to get everyone off, right back to the dude at the back of the field resisting the hip lubricant pouring off the stage.

Continue reading for Sunday's suggestions...

Sunday, May 16

1. ALO :: 12:30-1:30 pm :: PlayStation Stage
San Francisco's Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) are thoughtful sunshine, pop rock given real nuance and resonant heart. Their tunes are so catchy that you may swear a song has been a favorite for years after hearing it for the first time. That's the kind of fundamental rightness they exude; a perfect rock four-piece that resides closely on the spectrum with enduring contemporaries like The Mother Hips, Robyn Hitchcock and The National.

2. OK Go :: 4:45-6:00 pm :: PlayStation Stage
Forget the treadmills and Rube Goldberg devices, OK Go are one of the last torchbearers for classic power pop in the mainstream, the descendents of Big Star, Badfinger and other crazy infectious, singles-minded groups that begin with "B" and other letters. They sweat and strut and sing sweet harmonies, and their guitars go to "11." By Sunday you'll need a boost and OK Go will surely deliver it.

3. Ray LaMontagne :: 7:15-8:45 pm :: Verizon Stage
While many have some passing familiarity with LaMontagne's work, especially his omnipresent, almost universally adored debut Trouble (2004), there's a burnished depth to his music that only seems to intensify as the years pile up. Live, he is the essence of subtle, naked folk-soul, and his empathetic band and smartly constructed setlists have the potential to be a real experience and not just another performance. Before Trey and TAB burn it down to close the inaugural Hangout Fest, let LaMontagne carry you to a quieter but equally powerful place.

Check back with JamBase on Monday for scads of photos and other highlights from the first Hangout Beach Music & Arts Festival, and be sure to also tune in to our real-time Twitter updates page at throughout the weekend.

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