Headstash On The Road: The Hangout Day 1
- By Brandon Chiat and Andrew Collins
- Published on May 19, 2012
What is it about the first dayof a music festival? Months of planning and anticipation are realized once you punch your ticket – or in The Hangout’s case, scan your microchip infused bracelet – and walk through the gates. Commence the rage.
The first thing you notice about the third installment of The Hangout Music and Arts Festival is how expansive and open the festival grounds feel. The remodel has doubled the total area of The Hangout, yet promoters made it a point to sell the same number of tickets as previous years. This solved a major foot-traffic congestion problem that frustrated over-heated patrons in the first year two installations.
The re-envisioned layout proves that The Hangout promoters are learning from their mistakes and are taking the right steps to ensure that in a saturated festival scene, the event will remains a mainstay for years to come.
More public water spouts, porta-potties and, most importantly, added entry points meant more time on the beach and in front of the stage rather than in a line.
Even the much-maligned Alabama State Troopers seemed to get the memo. The Troopers’ judging presence was confined to the perimeter of the festival. The police were on the outside looking in, aiming to keep the madness contained.
A vast army of beautiful, freaky people descend on the sleepy beach town of Gulf Shores each year and it’s certainly a culture shock for residents. Yet the locals seem to be willing to make a few concessions as The Hangout continues to grow and establish its reputation as a world-class festival.
All of these upgraded amenities and features returned the focus to the true draw of this year’s event: an absolute stellar line-up.
Rebelution kicked the festival off with their crowd-pleasing reggae vibes, perfect for a weekend spent on the sands of the Gulf of Mexico.
The irie festival veterans were followed in short order by The Alabama Shakes, a young roots band making quite the name for themselves. Led by soulful crooner Brittany Howard, the Alabama natives were greeted with a rousing reception and treated the hometown crowd to passionate versions of their singles, “You Ain’t Alone” and “Hold On.”
The Alabama Shakes’ early-afternoon set was a highlight of Day 1 – perhaps the presence of their Third Man Records’ boss, Jack White, had something to do with it. Either way, the young band refused to disappoint.
But make no doubt about it: Day 1 belonged to Umphrey’s McGee. The jam-scene vets dropped a heavy setlist that was nothing short of explosive. The sextet melted the faces of the thousands of fans who gathered on The Hangout’s Letting Go Stage, where festival patrons were treated to a non-stop litany of UM-believable jams.
Playing behind a picturesque Gulf Coast sunset, Umphrey’s charged through a set that included a classic, “Miss Tinkle's Overture” and the signature Umphrey’s sound of “All In Time.”
A smooth transition from “All In Time,” delivered “Booth Love,” complete with teases of Dr. Dre songs “Xxplosive” and “Still D.R.E.”
Bassist Ryan Stasik was in the zone dropping fat grooves and commanding the stage with his rock-god presence while guitarists Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss played off one another, pushing the band with searing guitar leads and monster riffs.
Bayliss commented that The Hangout was among their favorite festivals and the crowd could tell the group was feeling it in the moment. To commemorate the night, Umphrey’s treated the rabid Hangout crowd to one of those “holy grail” moments when they encored with “Wizard Burial Ground.”
A progressively intense song that sees the band channeling their heavy-metal roots, this was a concussive send off that set the stage for Friday night’s dual headliners, Jack White and STS9.
The Hangout promoters understand their event straddles the line between the jam scene and the mainstream. Booking simultaneous headliners like rock-virtuoso, Jack White alongside livetronica rockers STS9 provided the crowd with their choice of dynamics.
The full-blown rock-spectacle of Jack White’s rough-around-the-edges, rural-blues inspired set was complemented by reworked versions of White Stripe staples “Black Math” and “Ball and a Biscuit.” Accompanied by a nearly all-female backing band (he is a rock star after all), the violin, drums, bass and keys really added to an all-around impressive musical performance.
On the other side of the festival grounds, STS9 brought a predictable festival set, accented by an impressive new lighting rig. Highlights included a “Be Nice” that led to a nice, funky crescendo and a segue from new-school “Simulator” into old-school “Rent.” A raging “When The Dust Settles” in the middle of the set showcased what STS9 does best: coupling organic instrumentation with inorganic computer driven sounds.
Yes, there is something about the first day of a festival weekend. When walking out of the festival, satisfied and contented, a wave of giddy anticipation breaks with ferocity as you realize there are two more days filled with prime music.
Stay tuned for day two coverage featuring Gary Clark, Jr., The String Cheese Incident and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
For more information including the complete schedule check out The Hangout's official website.