hangout fest

Hangout Music Festival 2014

Another fantastic festival recap from Blake Ells!
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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!