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Friday, May 24, 2013

Hangout Day 1: What's an Alabama Cheetah?

Every spring, music fans around the world await the release of summer festival lineups, and every summer of late, the list of festivals seems to grow exponentially. For those of us who aren't independently wealthy, choices must be made. For those of you who are, keep those VIP drinks coming over the fence. How does the common plebe pick the right festival? Are we to go on the word of that stranger in the bar bantering "Bro. Bro. Did you see that 'Roo lineup bro? ITS SO SICK!! *belch* (insert big name artist)'s gonna be there!"

Lineup is certainly key; a show is ALWAYS more fun when you know the words to the songs, but for me, a festival can be a great place to meet some new people and jam out to some new music that will inevitably disappoint when I look it up on Spotify the next day. So really, the key ingredients for me are simple: when possible, the location is pretty much paradise, and a comfortable place to sleep never hurts after 12 straight hours on your feet.

For these reasons, this is Charlie Oliver reporting live from my hotel room (Friday, May 17) in Gulf Shores, Alabama at Hangout Music Fest.

Yesterday was Day One of the festival proper, not including the kick-off party on Thursday, which consisted of an extra 17 acts for $20 with festival wristband. Thanks to a couple instances of roadwork traffic, I and the rest of the recently formed Full Disclosure Crew (full disclosure, you're not getting in) didn't make it to the beaches of Gulf Shores until Railroad Earth was taking the stage at 8:15 p.m., immediately followed by Umphrey's McGee on the same stage. It was jam band heaven as smoke rose from the crowd toward scattered flags and other such pole ornaments crafted by more industrious festivalgoers.

Railroad Earth blew my mind. Robust acoustic guitar solos, Mandolin shredding, Fiddle virtuosity that kept going and going and going, banjo picking like it was meant to be, and a token baby-faced bass player. I'm more of a music and lyrics type, but I enjoyed the hell out of that set.

Unprepared to make the switch to Benny Benassi after hippie dancing through an hour-long set that consisted of maybe three songs, I stuck around for one of the big name jam bands of our time, Umphrey's McGee.

Again, I was blown away. I'll admit I was fading toward the end of the set, but they brought me right back with their last song, a jam-ified mash-up of MGMT's "Kids" and Nirvana's classic "Come As You Are," which flowed straight into Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)."

Hangout day (-1) was over, but my blood was running thick with music (and maybe a bit of hooch), so the Full Disclosure Crew, along with some new friends walked out to the beach and had a little dance party, regurgitating the tunes that wouldn't let us sleep until we got them out. I topped it all off with an All-Star Special at the one-and-only WaHo, making it a Southern style party for the record books, or at least my record book.

That brings us to the official Day One of Hangout Fest 2013. Full Disclosure Crew sprang forth to catch some free breakfast before it's untimely demise at 9 A.M. WHO DO YOU THINK WE ARE WHAT THE WHAT. All was forgiven, though, as we spent the next couple hours preparing for the day, including but not limited to festive body paint which impressed those stuck in an endless line of traffic on the one mile walk down the Gulf Shores Parkway from hotel to festival. They screamed and photographed us (not kidding) as we casually walked faster than their horsepower laden vehicles could carry them.

After sacrificing a couple viles of bubble fluid to security check (what kind of liquor do you think this is? It makes bubbles!), we walked up in the fest like "what up I gotta big cock!" Maybe we were a little too excited to see Macklemore ...

twenty one pilots
First up, we caught up-and-comers twenty one pilots who gave more energy and sharp wit than anyone I've ever seen. The piano jumps and stage climbing all culminated in the two of them following two bass drums into the crowd to have a drum circle on the hands of what will inevitably become their new following. twenty one pilots were pure fun.

Later in the afternoon we caught veterans Toots & the Maytals with our toes in the sand. I'd like to note here that dancing in the sand can be hard work, but it's worth it. Toots kept the crowd engaged throughout, but got me hollering with "54-46 Was My Number." "Give it to me, one time!" WHAT!

Following Toots' set we took a necessary break from the sun under a canopy that doubled as an art installation, I guess. Whatever it was, it looked cool, had a place to sit, and shelter from the sun. It was my hero. We sat, rested, and made new friends as the sweet sounds of Jim James floated down the beach to us from the main stage.

We made our way over to the Boom Boom Tent Stage about 30 minutes before Macklemore's set, just in time to get packed in from behind. The crowd was hungry for the famous thrifter, chanting his name and screaming at every sound check. Finally, after several false alarms, in true hip-hop style, a hype man took the stage to announce the rising star. The screams were deafening. Macklemore came out in a black tank and black skinnys with a gray woolen poncho on top for a token stylish touch of weird.

Macklemore, bless his heart, was a preacher in a former life. He talked. And talked. And took time to bring the only person in the crowd wearing cheetah print from the back to the front, then ceremoniously tried on the "Alabama Cheetah," before leaving the stage.

He burst back out for the next song, preached some more about fashion and marriage equality, left the stage again, forced us to scream him back on, talked some more, and hit the downbeat of "Can't Hold Us" with a fleet of inflatable orcas covering the audience. We didn't see the stage for the entire song, but the army of whales bouncing around was pretty incredible to watch. After the set ended, crews of people walked out cautiously coveting their magic inflatable beasts.

The day was growing long, but we wandered over to catch Big Gigantic as the sun went down and the glow sticks came out. Personally, I opted for some contraband glow in the dark bubbles which I convinced security was not liquor because it was sealed. Big G wailed on his sax, and gave the audience some recognizable remixes, including a new one-off Macklemore song. Big G wound down and the entire festival and we made our way to the beach for headliner Kings of Leon. Somehow we found the energy to rock out all the way to the fireworks which mark the end of every day at Hangout, and the end of another memorable day for me.

Back tomorrow with more.

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