Without a doubt, the Hangout Music Fest was the suprise success of 2011. For only it’s second year in existence, concertgoers from all over the country swarmed the Alabama coast town of Gulf Shores – essentially a first for the entire gulf coast region. In retrospect, though, the refreshing swell of alternative vacationers couldn’t have been much of a surprise: even if they hadn’t been treated to as peerless a lineup as entire festival circuit that year offered (which they certainly were), no one should be able to resist the thrill of experiencing any live concert set to a backdrop of soft white sand underneath a Spring southern sun.
This year’s bill of bands, made public today, appears to balance the rock and psychedelic ambiance of last year with a decidedly jammier inclination. Those ecstatic about the 2011 weirdness of Primus and Ween might be surprised to find the likes of Dispatch, G. Love and the String Cheese Incident in their place; nevertheless, among a sea of headline-worthy acts, you’ll find Jack White, hot on the heels of his just-announced debut solo record, as well as heavy-hitters Wilco and the Dave Matthews Band. High-profile returners from last year include the Flaming Lips (performing Dark Side of the Moon, something they merely teased with last year), Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Michael Franti & Spearhead.
Elsewhere, the festival packs a good punch of young rock bands like Dr. Dog, Futurebirds and the heatseeking Alabama Shakes while filling the nostalgia gap left by Paul Simon with acts like Steve Winwood, Randy Newman and Mavis Staples (who hopefully finds a way to join Wilco at some point in the weekend). With a slighter focus on hip hop with acts like Mac Miller, the Alabama-born Yelawolf and New Orleans’ own Big Freedia, the roster of electronic acts – the easy highlight of last year’s fest in the opinion of many – is noticeably thin this year. Nonetheless, brostep behemoth Skrillex will be leading a pack that includes young electronic duo Zeds Dead as well as veterans Paul Oakenfold and Shpongle.