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Published: 2014/05/17

The Black Keys, Queens of the Stone Age, Dawes and More Kick Off Hangout Festival

Photo: Sharon Steinmann

“Look around you people—this is it,” Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme implored as his band tore through a 75-minute set on the Chevrolet Stage. Homme, who celebrates his 41st birthday today, was just one of the musicians to take time to acknowledge the beautiful surroundings on day one of this year’s Hangout Festival.

As far as Homme’s performance went, he—and his band—were on point. And the crowd agreed. A high-energy, progressive rock attack from Queens brought the crowd into the night perfectly and included tunes such as “Feel Good Hit of the Summer,” “Little Sister” and the fittingly titled “I Sat By the Ocean.”

Earlier in the day, Allen Stone kicked off the festivities on the Chevrolet Stage with a feel-good set that included a cover of “Tell Me Something Good” along with his better-known tunes “Sleep” and “Satisfaction.” Stone also introduced the crowd to something called the “Universal Sway” which got everyone swaying in the same direction as the beat carried them.

As Stone and his band left the stage, the Hangouters took time to explore the festival grounds, which included beach access allowing those who desired to jump in the Gulf to cool off from the hot sun. Most made their way back to the main stage following a quick dip to catch Dawes’ set, who garnered one of the largest crowds of the early day.

The Los Angeles rockers last performed at the Gulf Shores festival in 2012 and, as frontman Taylor Goldsmith remarked, they played to “not even half this amount of people,” showing the Hangout Festival family tree developing. The crowd clearly took to the band early on, belting out tracks such as “Most People,” “If I Wanted Someone,” “Time Spent Los Angeles” and more. Goldsmith turned the mic on the crowd during “When My Time Comes” for a full singalong.

As the throng scurried away from the Hangout Stage, they were presented with a couple of options at each end of the spectrum—rapper Wiz Khalifa or English rockers The 1975. Both crowds were fairly equal to each other, as Khalifa brought a high energy set full of his hits such as “Black and Yellow,” which the crowd certainly latched onto. Festival mainstays The 1975 brought a more dancey vibe, offering cuts from their self-titled debut.

Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) took the intimate yet rowdy stage at the Boom Boom Tent to a crowd that extended well outside the realms of the tent, spilling over onto the street. Those who tried to get a glimpse of the former Community star were left to simply listening, as seeing over the masses proved difficult. The lack of vision, however, didn’t deter everyone from dancing along to the set.

If Glover’s crowd was massive, Gary Clark Jr. matched it on the Hangout Stage. Making his second appearance on the beaches of Gulf Shores, the blues guitarist clearly won people over from his last performance in 2012.

Normally reserved on stage, Clark found himself admiring the love shown from the Gulf Shores faithful, most of whom chanted his name in between songs. “You’re beautiful. Thank you,” he said in a rare moment of stage banter. A rare smirk from Clark drew a light-hearted laugh and cheer from the crowd.

As most of the crowd positioned themselves for The Black Keys, they were presented with several worthy options in the 7:30 slot, with the aforementioned Queens of the Stone Age and Conor Oberst, who will celebrate the release of his new album Upside Down Mountain this month. Oberst utilized Dawes as his backing band as he moved through new solo tracks along with Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band songs.

The night, however, belonged to The Black Keys, who played their first official show since the release of their latest record Turn Blue. “Let’s keep it moving,” Dan Auerbach exclaimed as the band swiftly rolled through the twenty-song set. Carney and Auerbach delivered the hits with the opening “Howlin’ For You,” “Gold on the Ceiling” and more with two additional musicians on stage that enhanced their already full sound.

Of the Turn Blue material played last night, two served as debuts—“It’s Up to You Now” and The Rolling Stones-tinged “Gotta Get Away.” The Keys also played the title track along with “Fever” and “Bullet in the Brain.” After a “Lonely Boy” set closer, the band returned for a four-song encore that ultimately ended with a pair of high-level rockers—“Little Black Submarines” and “I Got Mine,” the latter of which finished with a massive fireworks display.

Opposite The Keys was STS9 in the Boom Boom Tent. Playing with new bassist Alana Rocklin, the band took the time to debut more new material, this time premiering “Totem” during their two-hour set. Additional tunes included two other post-David Murphy songs in “Click Lang Echo” and “World Go Round” as well as semi-rarity “Gobnugget,” a selection rarely seen in festival sets. With The Black Keys and STS9 headlining at the same time, everyone seemed to get what they wanted—sending 40,000 festivalgoers home content on day one.

Saturday at the Hangout will feature Moon Taxi’s People of the Sun set, Modest Mouse, Amos Lee, The Flaming Lips, Trombone Shorty, ALO and headlining sets from The Killers and Pretty Lights.

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