Hangout Music Festival, Day 3: 05.20.2012

Sunday seems to have been the lightest day of the fest for many people, and maybe that was for the best, because I saw a lot of fatigued faces in the crowd. For those with enough stamina (or maybe just sick curiosity) there was an early set by New Orleans’ own queen diva of sissy bounce, Big Freedia. To say she left the crowd (and the Gulf Shores police force) stunned would be a hilarious understatement. On a totally different note, Mavis Staples treated her unfortunately meager crowd to a little church service. Flaming Lips had a large, largely inattentive crowd present for their performance of Pink Floyd’s seminal Dark Side of the Moon. If you weren’t up front, it was sadly a bit hard to focus on anything but the jabbering going on in all directions (thanks, stoned teenagers!) Festival closer and final night headliner Dave Matthews Band was (as far as I know) the only act to come on significantly late (by about 15 minutes) and the crowd was, once again, mammoth. Unfortunately the sound wasn’t and a combination of long, quiet breaks between songs and poor amplification created a general feeling of “meh” around the whole set, which I had actually been looking forward to (my 15-year-old self has Dave to thank for introducing me to the idea of a band being more than just guitars & drums). So while things closed on a somewhat middling note, the weekend itself was quite a success (which you can read more about in the June issue of Antigravity!)

– Erin Hall, Antigravity Magazine

 

With everything that is known about her long and storied history as a singer, songwriter and civil rights activist, it should be no surprise that Mavis Staples was one of the undeniable highlights of Hangout Fest 2012; nevertheless, it’s life-affirming to actually witness a 72-year old woman in total control of her musical faculties, hitting every screeching high note and every bellowing low note on the psychoacoustic scale. Joined by Rick Holmstrom’s sparse blues band of guitar, bass and drums, as well as by a trio of veteran backup vocalists that included fellow Staples Singer Yvonne Staples, Mavis interjected a playlist of soul standards, new era originals and Pops Staples-penned classics with the kind of energy and enthusiasm that belied that of such an insultingly early set time, the extreme burn of the weekend’s hottest afternoon and the noticeably thin audience. And though the crowd was small, it was packed with devotees who were thoroughly taken by Mavis’ hilarious inter-song banter (“It’s an honor to be down here in beautiful Roll Tide, Alabama,” she quipped at one point) or her straightforward preaching about modern American life (her ability to comfortably and apolitically claw at the Tea Party’s inherent racism was a revelation).

It can also be said that Mavis Staples wins the award for best running farewell to the recently-deceased Levon Helm. Her jubilant cover of the Band’s “The Weight”, which passed off verses to singers Vicki Randle and Donny Gerrard as well as to bassist Jeff Turmes before giving Mavis free reign to burn the entire stage to the ground with an outrageous vocal solo of her own pasted a grin on everyone’s face so wide that it hurt.

Taylor Gray, Barryfest.com

 

In both the years we’ve covered the Hangout Music Festival, electronic dance music has been given huge consideration by both those organizing the weekend as well as those attending it.  And if 2011’s nuanced offering shed light on the surprising diversity some of the more popular performers can squeeze out of the genre’s limited formula, this year’s relatively straightforward lineup of Skrillex, Sphongle and Zed’s Dead (among others), likely gave critics of EDM plenty of fodder to poke fun at what has become a ubiquitous part mainstream music.

But hopefully these faithful and extreme examples of dubsteb and trance also shed some light on why this electronic music is popular.  It’s the same reason Hangout Festival is held on a beach and not in a parking lot on the edge of town: When music is performed in a live setting it almost becomes as experiential as it is artistic; and while the merits of whether or not what electronic DJs do qualifies as making music or performing, there is not doubt they are creating an experience that is enormously appreciated by their swelling audiences.

– Matt Rosenthal, Barryfest.com

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