Based on the great line-up last year and promises of overall improvement from organizers, expectations were high for the third annual Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, AL. Hangout lived up to the hype in 2012 with more expansive grounds, better access to the necessities (water, food, restrooms) and a “VIP” experience like no other festival. Even by the time Jack White hit the stage to headline Friday night, it was apparent the additional space helped alleviate last year’s overcrowding issues, especially since the 35,000 capacity limit hadn’t increased.
Alabama Shakes – Chevrolet Stage – 2:15-3:15
My first show of the weekend was an apt start to the third edition of the Hangout Music Festival. Brittany Howard and the rest of the Alabama Shakes made sure their home state was well represented offering sun soaked renditions of tracks from their debut album, Boys & Girls. Howard sported a translucent emerald beach visor as she belted hits like “Hold On” and what should be Hangout’s new anthem, “Hang Loose”. The early afternoon set drew one of the largest day crowds with nearly as many fans lined up in the sand as The Black Keys’ show from a year prior.
Yelawolf/Dawes – Xbox Stage/Letting Go Stage – 3:15-4:30/4:30-6:00
Two acts that couldn’t have had more contrasting styles were up next, AL native Yelawolf and rock band Dawes. As one of the few hip-hop acts of the weekend, Yela touched on his own grimy cuts from Trunk Musik and recent Shady Records’ release Radioactive, but also dipped into recognizable hip-hop landmarks (“Brass Monkey”). While Yela often shouted commands and generic drug-related fodder, Dawes used their set to show off their growing catalog of nostalgic Cali rock. From my vantage point, Taylor Goldstein looked a lot like Mark Ruffalo as he and the band breezily ran through hits like “When My Time Comes” and “A Little Bit Of Everything”.
Paul Oakenfold – Xbox Stage – 6:00-7:30
The first big electronic artist of the weekend got fans acquainted with the newly reworked tent stage. The Xbox stage was pushed North of Beach Blvd and seemed reasonably larger than the year prior. The actual tent was lifted 7 feet or so off the ground, which allowed the sea breeze to move throughout the crowd and newly planted sod was much more comfortable than 2011′s parking lot location. As for the show, Paul Oakenfold kept the crowd moving and dancing in circles with a blend of Euro-house as glowing blondes danced on the giant video screens behind the DJ booth. Daytime electronic dance shows are a tough slot at any festival, but Oakenfold kept the audience intrigued as they chanted to remixes of headliners Jack White and Red Hot Chili Peppers. A quick live collaboration with Allen Stone fell flat, but the veteran DJ recovered in playing a song that didn’t need a remix by closing the afternoon with Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close”.
Umphrey’s McGee – Letting Go Stage – 7:30-9:30
The 7:30pm time slot seemed to suit Midwestern jam band Umphrey’s McGee much better in their second appearance at Hangout. The overwhelming lines for tickets last year hindered many from catching the road warriors early Friday set in 2011. With wristbands mailed in advance, there was no reason to miss two hours worth of melodic jams that showcased the act’s diverse sound. Much of the set featured the band’s sixth album Death By Stereo, but Umphrey’s doesn’t typically stick to the script and displayed a range of progressions that extended nearly all tracks into a funky celebration. “Miami Virtue” sounded particularly emphatic with a sly drum and guitar build that was accentuated by the band’s glowing light show and the nearby spinning ferris wheel.
Jack White – Hangout Main Stage – 9:30-11:00
While some may have questioned Jack White as a headliner when the Hangout lineup was announced, the fervor surrounding his first solo album Blunderbuss should have put any doubts to rest. White’s set blistered through 90 minutes and two separate backing bands featuring The Buzzards, the all male band, and The Peacocks, the all female band. If the rumored “set list free” tour was a challenge for the musicians, they certainly didn’t show it as they deftly transitioned from hit after hit. While the first set kicked off greatly with thumping The White Stripes’ classics “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and “Black Math” and The Dead Weathers’ “Cut Like A Buffalo”, momentum greatly picked up with The Peacocks. Whether it was the the thicker crowd, lady majority musicians or stronger set list, Hangout attendees were much more responsive to the second hour of the Jack White show. The latter half started with less bruising guitar and percussion and more acoustic and steel guitar as White performed popular duets like current hit “Love Interruption” and The White Stripes’ “We’re Going To Be Friends”. White and the Peacocks didn’t slow the tempo for long though as revelers jumped up from the sand for “Sixteen Saltines” and a few hits from The Raconteurs. White and company appropriately closed with a reverb heavy rendition of “Seven Nation Army” with fans shouting to the hook as fireworks erupted overhead.