Hangout Music Festival 2014

Another fantastic festival recap from Blake Ells!
It’s been said that the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama is easier because there isn’t much overlap with bands. While that’s already a misleading characterization, it was especially apparent this weekend as two of the bands that my Country Fried Rock eye was on were playing at the same time on Sunday evening: Birmingham’s St. Paul and the Broken Bones and The Avett Brothers.

That was a difficult decision, but I began the hour at the BMI Stage for St. Paul and the Broken Bones, CFR alums and fast-rising stars, as I was eager to see the band which I have seen numerous times own a festival setting. The band took the stage at 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, sans Paul Janeway, to an instrumental opener, recalling classic soul acts of the past. The frontman followed after, fully suited, while the rest of the band opted to leave the jackets at home for the beach gig. Photo By Blake Ells “In case you don’t know who we are, we’re St. Paul and the Broken Bones from Birmingham, Alabama,” said Janeway as the band’s set continued. To see a massive crowd applaud as the sun set on the festival’s last day was chill inducing for someone that has watched their ascent as closely as I have. Photo By Blake Ells The band plowed through many of the tracks from February’s debut record, “Half the City,” including the eponymous track, “Broken Bones and Pocket Change” and the lead track “I’m Torn Up.” It worked, and the band is grasping for the next stage in their career gracefully as they grow. It’s been a long time since they played in their home state, and they’ll continue a long tour before they announce another homecoming date.

I attempted to see some of The Avett Brothers, but it was difficult. The band has expanded much beyond their original trio-feel, and it no longer feels the same. It’s tricky, because they are in an area of success where they’re popular enough to continue selling more tickets, but they haven’t yet grown into those venues, much like Friday night’s headliner, The Black Keys.

The Black Keys did a secret show at Rogue Tavern in Birmingham in April of 2010. It was just before the release of Brothers, and just before a rarely rivaled ascent to stardom.

The Black Keys were fine, but like The Avett Brothers, I’m not sure they have grown into an arena act or a festival headliner. They would have been better served in the slot before the headliner on the Chevrolet Stage. Their 90 minute set didn’t feature much interaction from Dan Auerbach, other than his insistence that fans should “buy the new record so we can beat Michael Jackson on Billboard.”

The set relied heavily on new material from Turn Blue, released on Tuesday. While the band, now a quartet, opened with “Howlin’ For You” and “Next Girl,” it quickly departed from extreme familiarity, only grazing its early catalog, and relying heavily on El Camino. 

SETLIST: Howlin’ For You – Next Girl – Run Right Back – Same Ol’ Thing – Dead and Gone – Gold on the Ceiling – It’s Up to Your Now – Bullet in the Brain – Strange Times – Money Maker – Ten Cent Pistol – Gotta Get Away – She’s Long Gone – Tighten Up – Fever – Lonely Boy – ENCORE – Turn Blue – Nova Baby – Little Black Submarines – I Got Mine

The 90 minute set didn’t take many creative liberties. It was a collection of three and a half minute songs played as they were recorded. It was fine, I’m just not convinced The Black Keys are ready to headline a major festival.

But Hangout did something creative this year – during The Black Keys, it had Sound Tribe Sector 9 playing, and during The Killers, it had Pretty Lights playing. It was a move that thinned out the crowds for the two rock headliners making mobility much easier. I didn’t noticed how effective it was until Outkast took the Hangout Stage on Sunday, unopposed, and that crowd had returned to the main stage. It made enjoying the first two bands easier.

Amos Lee had a really special performance on the Hangout Stage at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. He littered his set with covers, including one incredible transition from Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” into Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” both backed by a Mobile gospel choir. He also included his own “Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight” and “Windows are Rolled Down.”

Modest Mouse and CFR alums Dawes also offered incredible sets. I didn’t get to see the entirety of what Modest Mouse had to offer at Shaky Knees, and I was really pleased with their set at Hangout. It was hit laden, including some of the more notable tracks from Good News for People Who Love Bad News, like “Ocean Breathes Salty” and “Float On,” both terrific soundtracks to the beach setting.

Dawes kicked off their 3:45 p.m. Friday set on the Hangout Stage with “Most People,” and showed an incredible amount of growth from the same young band that played the same festival in its own youth.

There’s a “Little Bit of Everything” at Hangout. There’s an entire stage essentially devoted to the EDM crowd, a stage which I only saw when one act canceled and Flaming Lips side project Space Face came on as a replacement early in the afternoon on Saturday. There’s the smaller stages like BMI and the Red Bull Sound Select Stage which offer an outlet to emerging talents like Wild Cub and Wild Belle. And there are the two main stages which offered everything from Outkast to NEEDTOBREATHE over the festival’s three days. It’s the music festival inside of a beach vacation, and for that, it will remain one of the most unique in America.

I was fortunate enough to run into several new and old Country Fried Rock fans! I’ll be back out and about for Bonnaroo – if I missed you this time, please say hello!

Americana Music Assn Festival 2013

Bands announced so far:
Black Prairie
Billy Bragg
Rosanne Cash
The Del-Lords Check them out HERE!
The Devil Makes Three
Sam Doores, Riley Downing & the Tumbleweeds Check out Sam Doores HERE!
Frank Fairfield
Field Report
John Fullbright
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
Hurray for the Riff Raff
The Infamous Stringdusters
Kruger Brothers
Pokey LaFarge
Nikki Lane
The Lone Bellow
Luella & the Sun
JD McPherson
Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale
Aoife O’Donovan
Old Man Luedecke Check him out HERE!
Lindi Ortega
Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien
Shakey Graves
Sturgill Simpson
Sons of Fathers
Spirit Family Reunion
The Stray Birds
Richard Thompson
Holly Williams
The White Buffalo
The Wood Brothers

Texas Thunder

Texas Thunder May 17-19, 2013 will benefit the people of West, TX this year. Details here:

Lineup includes:  Mickey & The Motorcars, Josh Abbott Band, Whiskey Myers, Turnpike Troubadors, Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers Band, Stoney LaRue, & many more.

“Last week, the Texas Thunder Music Festival announced all net proceeds will be donated to the first responders and schools of West, Texas. The Odessa based firm of Johnson, Miller & Co. will oversee all the accounting and distribution of funds.“As a fellow Texan, my heart went out to all those that were affected by the explosion,” says festival landowner Herb Graham. “We could not sit around and do nothing, so my partners and I quickly decided to donate all the net proceeds from this festival to rebuild the school and get first responders equipment.”

Weekend passes are available for a discounted price of $65 with camping starting at $110. A very limited number of single-day tickets are available for $35.

Texas Thunder tickets are now available for purchase at Graham Central Station in Odessa, Rockin’ Rodeo Midland and Arriba Midland. For more information or to purchase tickets and camping, please visit www.texasthunderfest.com or call 855-362-0535.”

Albino Skunk Bluegrass Festival

Near Greer, SC

I don’t know Glynn Zeigler, AKA Ziggy, but I want to.  He puts on an amazing music event in his own (lovely) backyard in the Upstate of South Carolina.  Gentle foothills, tall trees, perfectly customized old buses, tree swings, toy horse parade, hula hoop stash, grounded houseboat…and that’s just where the children played!  Zeigler’s humor and pleasure shine through both the venue and the music.  I loved the little touches of the mercantile, the coffee stand near the “green room,” that backside of the “barn” for the stage, the false silo, the disco ball hanging from a tree, tractor tire wheel hubs for fire pits, and the fantastic outdoor loo wallpapered with show posters, many signed by cult heroes like Tim O’Brien, Sam Bush, & Elizabeth Cook.

We were not able to attend Friday’s festivities, or “Festavull!!!” as Ziggy encourages the crowd to holler, but Saturday alone was worth the 3 hour drive.  We missed Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, Donna Ulisse, Narrow Gauge Bluegrass Band, Audrey Auld, the Bent Strings, the Red Hot Poker Dots, Sol Driven Train, O Mello Cello Tree.  We arrived mid-afternoon Saturday, missing the first few acts, but due to a minor communication error, our favorite (since Americana 2010) band, 18 South, was just loading in for their first set.  With six members, sound check can take a few minutes–thankfully!  We set up our backpack-chairs under the trees, not too close to the fire pits, about 25 yards from the stage.  I jokingly commented that I’d never seen so many tie-dyed shirts at a bluegrass festival before.

The people respectfully listened, attentive and polite, early in the day, but as the weather cooled and the stage heated up, adults joined the children dancing beside the stage, some couples two-stepped and shagged, or just improvised the pretzel, or moved with the music in the makeshift aisles or in their seats.  Many others have reviewed Skunkfest itself, with beautiful detail, but I cannot omit my own response to the perfect music festival before jumping into the performances themselves!

I caught 18 South for the first time at Americana 2010, at a fantastic showcase night at the Station Inn.  Mike Bub leads this collection of talented musicians, who got together in between other gigs as leads and supporters for others within Nashville’s country music scene.  We hope to chat with Mike soon for a full Country Fried Rock interview.  18 South brought us to Albino Skunk Fest, but the other bands kept us there–thrilled.  Their second set later in the evening brought out the soulful depth of Jessie’s voice, and their tribute to Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon” honored both the song as well as that band’s recent loss.  At Americana, Jimmy Wallace played his tribute to the Peanuts cartoon character, Linus, and one to Franklin on this night.  I like this vibrant homage so much that I bought the CD on the spot and listened to it all the way home on Sunday!

Elizabeth Cook’s second set showed a more relaxed side to the veteran performer, especially when her daddy–a former moonshiner who did time in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, father to 11 children, patriarch of their vaudeville-style country touring musical family–Tom Cook, charmed the audience by telling a joke and singing.  Later, Tim Carroll  played a couple of tunes, and Elizabeth donned white clogging shoes and danced for one of them. In case you’ve never caught her radio show, her twang is real.  I think Reese Witherspoon copied Cook’s delivery of,”Thank you very much,” following each song for the Walk the Line film.

The closest to traditional bluegrass of the evening was Athens, Georgia’s Packway Handle Band.  Their encore amid the audience, standing under the trees, surrounded by clapping attendees, and final gospel number by camera-light made their “extended play” set worth the wait (see earlier mention of a communication error in scheduling).  Rather than rush the guys through their backstage pork chops, we decided to reschedule and are looking forward to our full conversation with Josh in an upcoming post.  Frankly, I was surprised they came over from Athens on UGA’s homecoming weekend, but they had plenty of time to get back to *that* music mecca for a late night show.

Disclaimer & apology:  during the sets for the Sweetback Sisters and the Steel Wheels, the CFR team was chasing the children we brought with us and trying to get them to stop playing and dancing and singing long enough to drink some water and eat something.  Following 18 South’s 2nd set, the children were worn out & the hotel was calling.  We truly missed the chance to hear everyone, but given that all the children slept on the entire 3 hour drive home after a full night’s sleep, we agree that they must have had a marvelous time!

Albino Skunk Bluegrass Festival is sponsored in part by WNCW.org.  We highly recommend listening to their station online, especially for their strong features of both Americana & bluegrass music.

My only complaint is that the fabulous people of Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe in nearby Greenville ran out of their delicious grilled corn on the cob, so instead we ate fresh kettle corn as our vegetable with supper.  (Egad!)

The Twitter feed from #skunkfest until my battery died, oldest at the bottom:

CountryFriedRok fm bill monroe to jimmy martin #skunkfest #bluegrass serious pickin
CountryFriedRok forget charlie daniels, this dude can saw a fiddle @packwayhandle #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok i wanna host smth this cool when i grow up #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok @packwayhandle gettin priorities straight #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok takin requests fm other bands @packwayhandle #skunkfest just walk on in
CountryFriedRok upside down mandolin @packwayhandle #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok 4 part harmony kickin @packwayhandle #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok @packwayhandle josh’s voice is so low! got that twang y’all! #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok @packwayhandle fm #athens #ga playing #skunkfest can’t believe they’re missin homecoming

CountryFriedRok electrified disco ball in the tree #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok ppl next to me brought a sofa out here #skunkfest feels like college
CountryFriedRok @packwayhandle fixin to play #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok kettlecorn for supper! #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok smileys acoustic cafe =yum n grt ppl #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok little kids doing karaoke to bear necessities #skunkfest #back40

CountryFriedRok a capella awesome @steelwheels #skunkfest
serious pickin fm @steelwheels #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok steelwheels are great too #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok lightning mcqueen just told me he’s the new cfr mgr #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok steel wheels up next #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok hanging w josh fm @packwayhandle #skunkfest

CountryFriedRok i feel the burden #gospel 18south #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok most tiedye i’ve ever seen at a #bluegrass fest #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok circles billy preston 18south #skunkfest rockin
CountryFriedRok 18 south sittin on top of the world to #freebird lol #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok 18south still my favorite band #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok sittin on top of the world to stairway to heaven and fleetwoodmac 18south #skunkfest

CountryFriedRok #skunkfest very family friendly great vibe awesome location weather perfect 18south
CountryFriedRok mike bub jammin 18south #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok lightning mcqueen already filled a memory card 18south #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok 18south bluesky allmans riff #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok i wanna live here! #skunkfest
CountryFriedRok 18 south at #skunkfest kickin tail n takin names!