Hangout Festival | 05.14-05.16 | Alabama

Words by: Alex Borsody | Images by: Dave Vann

Hangout Beach & Music Festival :: 05.14.10-05.16.10 :: Gulf Shores, AL

Hangout Beach & Music Festival
The inaugural Hangout Beach & Music Festival was an eclectic crossroads of Southern culture and the progressive festival scene. The promoters put incredible thought into the lineup to appeal to just about everyone. The wide range of fans and artists combined with the recent events of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, made for an interesting dynamic – ripe seeds of the green movement. Swimming in the 8-foot waves was unforgettable, but on the last day a gas station attendant showed me a tar ball that had washed up on the shore as the spill finally started to make its way to land.

Town-visitor relations could not have been better and the Southern hospitality was warm. Things ran smoothly and peacefully with the community on the white sandy beaches. The promoters pledged to donate their proceeds to the oil cleanup, a generous promise, and the political organization HeadCount was on-site leading a letter writing campaign on the issue.

As the festival went on, the crowd changed from those nearby who just came to check out the scene to more veteran live music lovers. The fans waited out an epic storm and tornado warning on Sunday and prayed for better weather. The grounds closed for a few hours and some performances were canceled, including Matisyahu, who played later that night at a free after party to the first 500 lucky fans. The sky cleared and with some schedule changes, the organizers managed to fit in some of the bigger acts on the bill in the limited time allowed. In the same pithy fashion, here are some of the highlights of the weekend.

Alison Krauss :: Hangout
Best Song Tease:
The first day of the festival featured a high percentage of the local population, with a generous 5000 tickets given out to the local community. Many were unfamiliar with the majority of acts, however, Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas appealed to a variety of different people. After a few songs, Krauss stepped off stage leaving Douglas, arguably the world’s best dobro player, to go at it solo. He coasted through a tease of the Duane Allman penned “Little Martha,” while across the beach, Girl Talk played a mash-up of the Grateful Dead’ s “Casey Jones,” creating an unplanned homage to two pioneers of the modern music experience, one from the Deep South and one from freaky San Francisco.

Best collaboration:
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band played a funky New Orleans inspired set that included the sensual charisma of Grace Potter and the superb guitar playing of Warren Haynes. They played an amazing cover of the 1929 Albert E. Brumley bluegrass standard “I’ll Fly Away” and threw Dixie Cup ice cream into the crowd. The band marched off stage through the audience, then back onstage with some enthusiastic dancers from the crowd. They then led a procession up the boardwalk and into the VIP area, where the fun for many had to halt.

Best Dose of Southern Comfort:
The Grammy Award winning Zac Brown Band brought out a sea of meaty, clean cut, good ol’ boys in golf shirts. Brown looks similar to the guitarist Zach Deputy and shares his lightning fast picking style. His lyrics are a cross section of marijuana laced party rock and patriotic southern pride – a seemingly incongruent mix that somehow works. One song even went into a long instrumental jam. Brown played a solemn version of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Cost of Freedom,” followed by Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The presence of the armed forces is ubiquitous in the Deep South, and Brown was cheered on as he spoke about the importance of the military and their role in preserving our way of life.

Best Southern Picking:
Jeff Austin & Friends, including Larry Keel, wowed the crowd with a power trio bluegrass combination. The band played complicated bluegrass with fast picking and complex modulation. The Honey Island Swamp Band gets a honorable mention for some solid electric slide guitar.

Trey Anastasio Band :: Hangout Beach & Music Festival
Best Opportunity to Hook Up with a Southern Belle:
John Legend played soulful tunes until curfew, evoking a young Marvin Gaye. Each song was steamier than the next, set amidst the backdrop of crashing waves and a starry sky. He ended with a soulful, yet somber version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”

Best New Jam:
Nashville natives Moon Taxi played the JamBase Stage before it closed on Sunday due to weather. The high energy and virtuosity of this band is not to be missed.

Best Dose of Culture Shock:
Kathleen Kennedy was brought on to introduce the Zach Brown Band. Dressed in the height of hipster fashion, she began talking about preserving the environment, an issue difficult to oppose. Somehow Kennedy managed to ruin a very clear, beautiful message with the pompous attitude of an MTV VJ crossed with a royal bloodline. As she got booed and subsequently escorted off the stage, there were actually two sides of the coin that became apparent. It was appalling and shocking to see Americans so ignorant and uncaring about an issue as vital as clean beaches, yet here was this famous, twenty-something jetting down to Flora-Bama and lecturing folks with not a bit of humility in her voice.

Best Dose of Psychedelia:
Trey Anastasio and Classic TAB opened with a solid version of “Gotta Jibboo” and the set hit its climax early with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The Phish tune “Alaska” was subdued but featured the horn section creatively. The set was mostly slow and steady carried by bass player Tony Markellis‘ groove. Trey announced that when he and Tom Marshall found out about the festival, they wrote a song just for the occasion. The fruit of this was a reggae tune called “Sailboat Man.” The song was written in the most common rock arrangement of 1-4-5 (think “Stir It Up” or “Chalk Dust Torture”) and it sounded like it was written in five minutes, but nevertheless, was a thrill.

The set closed with slightly higher energy, including a beautiful version of “Drifting” and Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” The choice of “First Tube” for an encore was exciting, but nothing for the record books. Fireworks were set off behind the stage, with bombs bursting in air giving those who traveled just for this show an over the top Southern send off.

For more pics of the Hangout Music Festival go here.

JamBase | Alabama
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