First-Person Tour of Hangout Fest 2015

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Hangout Fest founder Shaul Zislin looking forward to unplanned ‘magical moments’ hours before this year’s festival opens.

From an early-bird ticket sale to a headline performance by Beck, the third and final day of the 2015 Hangout Music Fest promised to finish strong – and the best weather of the weekend didn’t hurt things either. 5:45 p.m.: Singer Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio and some of his bandmates are a little concerned about the heat. It’s actually pretty moderate if you’re from here, but in his defense, Adebimpe reportedly resides in Los Angeles, where highs are currently in the upper 60s, and the band is facing into the sun. But the Detroit soul singer played it off, and when sound – if not the stage lights – came back on, he brought the crowd back into the groove with a version of the Run DMC/Aerosmith mash, “Walk This Way.” The crowd of several hundred cheered and, best of all, Hawthorne rolled with the punch, moving past the issue and on with the night.

It’s not just enough to deliver a set full of music that ranges from straight-ahead, driving rock ‘n’ roll drive to songs with a layered, emotionally open, atmospheric feel. During an interview in the artist village prior to his set, the blond-haired musician said, “The most important aspect of any Mayer Hawthorne show is fun. Fun is number one for me.” And the first half of his set reflected that as Hawthorne – who counts R&B heavies Curtis Mayfield and Barry White as influences – showcased a variety of music, including his most recent evolutions mixing hip hop and soul.

So now and then he sprays water bottles on the crowd, or tosses them out to listeners. 5:30 p.m.: When I get to looking back at Hangout 2015, I’ll always remember Lake Street Dive as the band that got me sunburned on exactly half of my face. Zislin was impressed with how he handled the “technical issue” which he said went on for “13 minutes too long.” And as for the roughly 7,000 fans roaming around the festival grounds, he wasn’t surprised that there were no boos, and that folks were already buying into the chilled-out vibe the sixth-year festival is known for. “Hey, it’s Hangout man,” he said. “(The Kick-Off Party) gives an opportunity for a lot of people who are not going to the festival to get a taste of it, which is great.” Things will start gathering momentum early Friday as tens of thousands of weekend pass-holding fans flock to the Gulf Shores festival sight to hear more than 80 groups scheduled. I was transfixed by the neo-soul quartet’s performance on the Palladia Stage long enough that I began to feel the sun’s angry radiation take its toll from my left temple to my chin.

Headliners like Beck, the Foo Fighters and the Zac Brown Band are the obvious draws, but Zislin said he’s more looking forward to discovering “these amazing bands that have these breakthrough sets.” The example he gave was Athens, Ala., band the Alabama Shakes who, one year after organizers comped them tickets so they could hand out demos and enjoy the Hangout artist experience, took the eastern Surf Stage and brought the sandy house down. He mentioned performers Future Islands and Vance Joy – playing the western Hangout Stage on Saturday and Sunday, respectively – as some he and other organizers have been watching on the rise. “There are definitely a number of young and up-and-coming bands that are mixed in with the established acts, and it’s going to be great,” Zislin said.” On the whole, the Thursday Night Kick-Off was also great, with nine acts sharing three stages and a range of sound. The younger members of the crowd – most in the signature Hangout Fest uniform of bathing suits and flip-flops – danced to EDM groups like Grandtheft and Black Tiger Sex Machine in the Boom Boom tent. It can only be assumed that had The Word been booked to perform over the weekend, there would have been some impressive sonic tributes to blues giant B.B.

The band as a whole keeps things tight, with bassist Bridget Kearney and percussionist Mike Calabrese holding steady as Mike Olson alternates between guitar and trumpet. And while it was by all accounts a successful prelude to Hangout Fest, Thursday night did have the feeling of Christmas Eve, where the vibrations of future echoes could almost be felt before the weekend even started.

He said expanded shade areas will help beat the heat and, perhaps even more important, flushable toilets will make their debuts. “Now we’re six years into it,” Zislin said. “There’s always challenges to be worked through, but they’ve definitely been fantastic partners helping solve problems.” Paul or any powerful yet smooth female blues vocals will be rewarded for giving the Dive a shot. (– Dennis Pillion) 4:45 p.m.: Business continues to boom at the Hangout Fest’s on-site wedding chapel.

By midafternoon Sunday, the total was well over 200, he reckoned. (The chapel also is available for real weddings, for couples who’ve done their paperwork in advance, and has been used for three this weekend.) Several new themed vows were added to this year’s menu, joining previous options such as “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones.” The most popular of the new ones, Calloway said, was the exchange of “50 Shades of Grey” promises, based on the sexually charged novel and movie. Calloway gestured at a couple who were using the theme as he spoke, in a ceremony overseen by fellow minister Adam Meier. “See, they’re wearing handcuffs,” he said. In the past that has indicated that a general admission sellout is imminent, but no such announcement was made this year.) He said he was encouraged by the increased audience the event was getting via radio, TV and online presentation of its performances. “There is a lot more media,” he said. “Word is getting out.” 3:15 p.m.: The festival’s sunniest day is also its warmest, so it’s no surprise that the free water stations presented by Camelbak are popular. So overall, the supply seems to exceed the demand. 3 p.m.: Those early-bird loyalty tickets are still on sale at the festival box office and at the main merchandise area in the Hangout. The music from songwriter Jean-Philip Grobler and his backing band draws on ’80s pop, especially in the prominent synthesizers that give it a dreamy, atmospheric feel.

MisterWives weaved a blend of pop-oriented dance tracks with some brass, tambourine, accordion and keys, treading safely in upbeat dance music without diverging into bubble gum territory. Lee bounced across the stage, belting out tracks from the band’s full-length debut album “Our Own House,” like “Hurricane” and the appropriately-named “Oceans.” The audience swelled as the band’s happy tunes echoed throughout the early festival grounds, and the crowd matched Lee’s enthusiasm jump for jump as beachballs and an inflatable T-Rex (which is apparently bassist Will Hehir’s spirit animal) flew in front of the stage. Perhaps the highlight of the high-energy set was the cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” a jubilant sing-along for those not yet familiar with MisterWives, whose first EP came out last year.

Now, Hodges explained, the band was going to perform a rendition of My Morning Jacket’s “Golden” with drummer Josh Kleppin playing an actual Nintendo Game Boy. She said she’d gotten general admission passes for her family, and she had a quick answer for people wondering why anyone would commit long before next year’s acts are announced: She and her husband have already been to four editions of the fest, and feel confident it’ll be worth another visit next year.

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