The picturesque music festival situated on the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama returns for the third time with yet another diverse and rocking lineup. The 2012 edition of the Hangout Music Fest is sure to be a top music festival this year, although it will have to overachieve to top the powerhouse that was brought to the beach in 2011. With the first “big” headlining act in the festival’s history, Dave Matthews Band, the rest of the lineup is filled out with some old favorites, quality first-timers, and great young bands looking for an audience. There is sure to be 35,000 very happy people come May 21st, and with that, we give to you a preview of what not to miss, the best of the best, and everything in between for the 2012 Hangout Music Festival.
Cream of the Crop: Dave Matthews Band
Yeah, this one is easy. As an attendee of the very first version of this festival in 2009, the second I stepped on the sand I said, “this festival was made for The Dave Matthews Band”, and this year that is finally a reality. Dave and the Band are set to close out the festival on Sunday night with what is sure to be a three hour marathon full of new, old, and everything in between. Starting their 2012 Summer Tour just a few nights prior in Houston, TX, not only will the band be fresh but they will also be filled with (hopefully) some new material from their upcoming album recorded with their old pal, Steve Lillywhite. Regardless of whether any new material is played, DMB should have plenty of energy and fire to get out there and soak up the great environment that the crowd is sure to give them. I for one can’t wait to see just how they react to this setting as it is truly unique to any other venue in the country.
Best Day: Saturday
Come on, there’s a run on Saturday where you could see Shpongle, Randy Newman (!!!), Gary Clark Jr, Dr. Dog, Dispatch, String Cheese Incident AND Red Hot Chili Peppers if you wanted to. Much love to Friday and Sunday, but that is ridiculous. The “big” names are on the bookend days, but Saturday brings a nice, steady consistency while still packing a big punch. Even if you don’t want to see some of the bands listed above, there is still plenty of variety to wet your appetite. If you’re more into the electronic/hip hop scene, you can easily sub in Mac Miller or Kaskade in the later slot. Also, beware of that “Special Guest” slot from 4:15-4:30. With all the talent in the area during this weekend, you never know who might just pop their head into the BP Kids Stage (or Tent) during the afternoon. You win, Saturday. Congrats.
Must See Supporting Acts: Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark Jr., Delta Spirit
The headliners are cool- Chili Peppers, Jack White, String Cheese, DMB, and all that, but don’t forget about the others. The “Best of the Rest” category serves as one band per day that you absolutely cannot miss. These supporting acts have been hitting the road hard during their careers and are worthy of your time in the early/mid afternoon. First off, the hometown band, Alabama Shakes, will be a heavy crowd favorite early on Friday. Teeing off at 2:15 PM on the Chevrolet Stage, the Shakes, formed 370 miles from Gulf Shores, will bring their unique brand of rock and roll to the beaches that they call home. Coming off the release of their debut album “Boys & Girls”, the band will take comfort in being in front of their home crowd, which is sure to produce a highly spirited effort.
Gary Clark Jr is one of the most soulful young blues guitarists you will ever hear. Not only is his guitar soulful, but his voice brings it as well. Combine his talents with a fantastic backing band, and you have a very potent combination. Hitting the Main Stage at 3:15 on Saturday, Clark will play tunes off of his self-titled album released in 2010 in addition to the Bright Lights EP released in 2011. The environment is perfect for Clark’s type of music. Smooth, soulful, and just an all around good time.
Formed in San Diego, Delta Spirit will feel right at home on the sandy beaches of Alabama. Bringing their bizarre and unusual style of indie rock to the Hangout, Delta Spirit will have a mere 45 minutes to entertain you with the 12:30-1:15 slot on Sunday at the “Letting Go” Stage. However, that could be a great 45 minutes given the material they have to expend. Their self-titled album released this year contains hits such as “California”, “Tear It Up”, and “Empty House” and is widely considered to be their strongest album to date. Combining any sound they can think of, this band is sort of like a pioneer for indie rock, paving the way for not only new sounds but a new attitude. They are truly an “anything goes” band, which is why we love them.
You Make The Call: Umphrey’s vs. Wilco, Gogol Bordello vs. Dr. Dog, Steve Winwood vs. Cage the Elephant
God bless the poor souls who have to make these decisions. They happen at every festival, and they are easily the worst part of the festival experience. That defining moment when you have to pick between two bands who play at the same time. When you weigh the possibilities of hearing your favorite song from each band, and decide whether or not you can bring yourself to skip an entire set of music. It eats at every music fan in the world, and the Hangout has some of the all-time conflicts. You can’t get me to pick between Umphrey’s McGee and Wilco, so I’m going to make a hologram of myself and send it over to the Chevrolet Stage to see first-timers Wilco while I hang at the “Letting Go” Stage with Umphrey’s McGee. The 7:30-9:30 slot on Friday is owned by the city of Chicago, but you can only be in one place at once. Good luck.
Saturday presents a nice mid-day conflict: The gypsy rock of Gogol Bordello or the smooth indie sounds of Dr. Dog. You don’t lose here, so base this decision off your mood at the time and go with how you’re feeling. If you feel like raging, hit Gogol and do it right. If you want to sink your toes in the sand with a cold beverage, go see Dr. Dog. The conflict here is that both of these bands are great and put on fantastic live shows in their own unique way. Not as painful as the Friday conflict, not by a long shot.
The final day poses the old “Legend vs. Young, Exciting Band” dilemma. I’m sure many people will be taking in guitar master Steve Winwood’s set for a couple reasons. First, he’s a legend and happens to be a great musician, but also because you might not get a lot of opportunities to see Mr. Winwood take the stage. Cage the Elephant will certainly have a nice crowd, but don’t pass on seeing one of the all time great guitarists live on the beach.
Don’t Sleep On: The First Day
No, not THAT first day. Friday is great, but Thursday should not be overlooked despite not being an official “day” of the Hangout Fest. It is the pre-party at the Hangout, where there will just be two stages, one outside the Hangout restaurant and the other inside the Hangout for the late night shows. An all-day affair starting at 2:30 with Tauk and The Revitalists, the party goes all the way to 1 AM when Zoogma closes it down inside the Hangout. In between those acts, you have appearances from Perpetual Groove, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Big Gigantic, among others. It is sure to be a wild party for those who feel like getting to the beach a day early and enjoying some great music before the official fun begins. This luxury was not available to those of us who were there for the first Hangout in 2009, but the exposure and attention the festival has received has allowed it to grow and turn into a full celebration of the town of Gulf Shores. This pre-party on Thursday is no exception, and should be a fine addition for those traveling to the Hangout in 2012. Don’t sleep on it! Or through it, for that matter.
And that, friends, is the Hangout Festival in a nutshell. To all of those descending on The Beach next week, have a blast and soak it all in. It is a memory and a weekend that I will never forget. Stay tuned next week when we bring you the Summercamp Music Festival preview.