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Published: 2012/05/24
by Grace Beehler

Umphrey’s McGee, String Cheese Incident, Mavis Staples, Wilco and More Highlight The Hangout

Photo by Nick Abate

Underneath the perfectly blue Alabama skies, 35,000 festival-goers soaked up the sun and basked in the beach breeze during the third year of the Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama this past weekend. Three-and-a-half days of music on five stages (two of which were on the beach) made for some blissful times spent sipping blended drinks in hammocks underneath palm trees while listening to the Alabama Shakes and Rebelution open the festival on Friday and Flaming Lips and Dave Matthews close the festival on Sunday evening.

Thursday hosted a half-day of music to the early birds, with bands like Big Gigantic, Perpetual Groove and Preservation Hall Jazz Band kicking off the festivities. But with no on-site camping, some chose to get settled in their condos or hotels before the festival really kicked off. Local buzz band the Alabama Shakes brought out one of the biggest crowds for a daytime set to one of the beachfront stages. Brittany Howard powered through songs from the band’s new album, Boys and Girls. Later, Dawes took to a smaller stage and performed a mix of tunes from both albums, as well as a couple new songs.

Wilco and Umphrey’s McGee had battling set times during sunset – some managed to catch a little of both sets. Wilco’s strong set featured Nels Cline’s burning lead guitar through tracks like “Art of Almost” and “The Whole Love” from the band’s newest album (check out the full recording here). The crowd of young fans who swarmed the stage during Umphrey’s demonstrated that the band should’ve been on a main stage. Regardless, Umphrey’s pumped out a rocking—though fairly standard for a festival—set that featured oldies like “Miss Tinkle’s” as well as some songs from Death By Stereo.

Jack White and STS9 also had opposing set times. Over at the main stage, Jack White brought out his all-female band, The Peacocks, to replace his all-male band, The Buzzardos, halfway through the set. White’s mix of Nashville and Detroit residences shined through, creating a rocking, country-tinged set full of new tunes like “Sixteen Saltines.” STS9, meanwhile, banged out a party set, which definitely garnered many new listeners but slightly disappointed longtime fans, who know that Tribe is capable of producing music more transcendent than a late-night party. With the curfew set at 11pm each night, crowds departed to their condos for some late night swimming in the incredibly warm Gulf or to late-night sets held at local bars. One of this year’s major improvements was the shuttle system. CID Entertainment took over from last year’s abysmal and ineffective service, and succeeded in bussing thousands of attendees safely to their homes (they even had a DJ spinning to the people waiting in the shuttle line).

Saturday was packed with music: Futurebirds kicked off the day at one of the side stages and put on an excellent performance (their cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Wild Heart” with the whole band singing the vocal harmonies was stunning), as did the GIVERS on the main stage. Skrillex’s daytime set drew one of the biggest crowds of the weekend for such a small stage, but Gary Clark Jr. on one of the main stages provided a much-needed break from the bro-step that was going on at the electronic tent. Red Hot Chili Peppers and String Cheese Incident were two of the highlights of the weekend, with the latter playing at sunset, which included a mash up of styles that Kang dubbed “Calcutta meets Appalachia.” Red Hot Chili Peppers were surprisingly good for a band who doesn’t hit the road often; however, there were complaints that the sound was horrible from the middle of the beach (VIP passes were definitely worth the splurge).

Sunday was a day that was meant to be spent lounging in the hammocks underneath the palm trees right next to the water, listening to whatever band performed, like Mavis Staples, who revisited her Last Waltz song “The Weight” as a tribute to Levon Helm. One exception: Big Freedia and the Divas at the xBox Stage: heavy booty-shaking at 12:45pm is a must for Sunday festivals.

A highlight of the day: June Relix cover subject Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The band’s music – performing hits like “Home” as well as soon-to-be hits from their upcoming album – was perfect for the sunny beach atmosphere. During the festival, Michael Franti also stopped by the Relix booth to sign some magazines and play a song.

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