It was only the second year of the Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores, Ala., but it felt like the arrival of a major festival. After selling approximately 15,000 tickets last year—and rain scaring off a number of those attendees—this year saw crowds closer to 35,000 partying on the beach with The Flaming Lips, My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, Foo Fighters and Paul Simon.
With only a six-hour drive separating our Decatur, Ga., offices from the Alabama coast, Paste was there en masse, giving festival goers a sneak peak of our top secret digital development, capturing interviews and backstage performances and just enjoying the music. The sun and sand set the laid-back tone for the entire experience. Here are the eight most memorable moments from the Hangout Music Fest 2011:
8. Brandi Carlile Kicking Things Off
After leaving my house at 8am with my wife and three kids, all of whom are Brandi Carlile super-fans, we were on track to get to the festival with plenty of time to pick up our wrist bands before she started playing on Friday afternoon—until I missed the exit off I-65 and spent the next 15 minutes driving across tributaries from the Mobile Bay. Former Paste intern Ann Cole of Music Allies saved us by escorting my family past the hour-long line so the kids could see their musical idol. We got to the stage just minutes before she came on.
7. Rich Aucoin on a Surf Board
It takes a certain kind of beast to play late into the night, but an even greater monster to wake up the next morning and do it all again. Paste favorite Rich Aucoin rocked a sold-out late night set opposite Bassnectar Friday night, then absolutely crushed his 11am set in the Boom Boom room the next morning. Rocking out with his trademark kindergarten parachute, YouTube video mixes and surfboard-crowd surfing, Aucoin got the party going and helped hundreds dance their hangovers away.—Bo Moore
6. Dead Confederate on the Ferris wheel
Playing their song “Ferris Wheel.” Watch the video above.
5. The Flaming Lips opening and closing songs
When Wayne Coyne sauntered onto the stage on Saturday afternoon without the exuberant flair of jumping out of a trap door on the giant screen there was a slight air of disappointment. People cheered, pointed and yelled, “There he is,” but it wasn’t nearly the triumphant entry that was expected of such a character. If disappointment was the initial reaction of the crowd, it was closely followed by sheer joy as for the band launched into the celebratory “Do you Realize?” Cannons of confetti erupted over the crowd as dancing Dorothys and tin men came running onto the stage. Coyne dramatically stepped out dangerously close to the edge of the stage, teetering on the speaker stacks as he shot neon curls of confetti over and over into the screaming masses. The psychedelic aspect of the Lips show increased over time as if the initial injection of surrealism slowly coursed through our veins. The color-drenched naked woman on the screen struck a cymbal to signal the beginning of the encore. As if they were harboring some sly joke, the Lips emerged on cue from the screen’s trap door as giant eyeballs flashed behind them. “The Captain” rang out as Coyne was inflated into his giant hamster ball to roll out into the crowd, which sang along to “What is the Light,” as specks of flickering lights converged on the screen to create the lyrics. At some point during the second encore the fans were stiller, their eyes wide and mouths slack with amazement. After the final notes of “The Observer” drifted away it was clear that the Lips delivered all that was anticipated. By the end of the show, the dancing Dorothys’ message was clear: “You’re not in Kansas anymore.”—Laura Medina
4. Backstage with The Avett Brothers
(Photo by Josh Jackson)
Scott, Seth, Bob and Joe were kind enough to play a couple songs for our video cameras in their trailer. The boys from North Carolina couldn’t be nicer—or more talented—and we’ll have the resulting videos up on the site soon.
3. On stage with Girl Talk
We were all jealous of Rich Aucoin, who had finagled his way on stage with The Flaming Lips. So a/v intern Jaz Dixon and I, along with our friends from Consequence of Sound, made it our mission to get on stage for Girl Talk. The hour-long set was equal parts thrilling and exhausting as Greg Gillis led the crowd in a non-stop, irony-free medley of recognizable hooks. That’s me with the toilet-paper headband. So. Much. Fun.
2. Paul Simon closing things down
While lots of festivals have VIP areas, Hangout Fest takes theirs pretty seriously, but it wasn’t until the final show that I really took advantage of my pass. I was on my own after The Black Keys, and I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner. I wandered into one of the couch filled tents to the side of the main stage, stuffed a plate full of shrimp and crab claws, and sat down with my feet dangling in the pool (yes, pool!) to watch Paul Simon. After running into some friends, I made my way down into the crowd to hear #13 on Paste’s list of Best Living Songwriters sing songs like “The Only Living Boy in New York,” “Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes,” “Call Me Al” and “Sound of Silence.” It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful weekend.
1. The Foo Fighters with Cee Lo Green
Ten minutes past Cee Lo Green’s scheduled set time, the stage remained empty, save a few guys sound-checking some guitars. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I know that guitar,” I said to my friend. “I know that guitar; that’s Dave Grohl’s guitar.” Finally, some guy wandered out; hesitating, he approached the mic. His words were barely decipherable, but the message was clear. “We had a problem, and Cee Lo Green, forget you! The Foo Fighters are here!” Sure enough, Grohl and the Foo Fighters sauntered on to the stage. The crowd exploded as I began running as close as possible. “Looks like we’re playing two shows today,” Grohl said. “Let’s make this one fun.”
The Foos smashed through an awesome covers set, starting off with Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” followed by Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down” and Tom Petty’s “Breakdown.” However, the moment of the festival came a minute later. “We actually really like Cee Lo Green,” Grohl said. “Because if he were here, I’d hope that he’d sing it with us.” They broke into “Darling Nikki,” the raunchy, rambunctious Prince song that popped up on the Foos’ 2011 Record Store Day covers album Medium Rare. A verse later, Cee Lo appeared, draped in a red and black track suit. Cee Lo on stage, backed by Grammy award-winning headliners Foo Fighters, singing a song by a rock legend. It was definitely the moment of the festival.—Bo Moore