The crowd was sparse, but it was absolutely a crowd, and despite the early hour the smell of marijuana absolutely wafted across the beach. I'm assuming those people took a nap somewhere or else did not make it through the 11 hours left in the schedule for the day. In any case, I appreciated their contribution to the ambiance. Best Coast delivered musically, for the most part sounding just as good live as in the recording, a statement not all artists warrant these days.
Guy: I LOVE YOU!
BC: I LOVE YOU TOO! (she yelled despite obviously having a microphone)
Guy: What's your sign? I'm an Aquarius!
BC: Aquarius? Cool, I'm a Scorpio. Unfortunately I don't think we're too compatible ...
Guy: But we've had like 3 conversations! (this exchange took place in individual snippets between songs)
BC: Well in that case I guess we're meant to be together!
Still, even with unique, extended and personal exchanges like that happening, it felt a little bit like they were ready to hurry up and get out of Alabama.
Next up on the docket was GROUPLOVE at the other end of the beach. Whilst trudging in the blinding midday sunlight, I glimpsed a small wad of cash buried in the sand, enough for a drink and a smile. Actually not quite enough, that Strawberita cost like 9 dollars, but whatever.
GROUPLOVE was a colorful bunch, literally. All of the band members except the drummer sang at least one song, but there was one who seemed to be the ringleader who had Technicolor hair. Those of you who caught them at Party in the Park the day before know what I'm talking about. There was a girl with a pink microphone and a skeleton-print morph suit, a British hippie on bass, and a mostly normal looking guy playing guitars, a cuatro (?), and the like. The bottom line on GROUPLOVE for me was this: they have fun on stage, their songs range from good to a couple great ones, but there's a strong sociopathic/cult vibe somewhere in there that's a bit unsettling. And that's really all I have to say about that.
Moon Taxi was walking on stage as we came off the beach, and proceeded to rock hard for the duration of the hour time slot they were allotted. Moon Taxi, for those who are unfamiliar, tends to fall in the jam band category, and they certainly do jam, but to me they do so in a way that doesn't distort song structure or cause you to lose interest, which makes them great.
Ellie Goulding took the Hangout Stage at 3:15, pulling in the first major crowd of the day. Her set was good I guess. None of the Full Disclosure Crew were big fans of hers, and in fact one of us was about to finally see Imagine Dragons, an event I had been hearing about all weekend.
We left Ellie Goulding early to get set up for Imagine Dragons, which for us meant saying goodbye to our die-hard fan and hello to nap-time in the shade tent. From the tent, Imagine Dragons sounded pretty good. Not really my cup of tea, but they were clearly blown away by the size of the crowd that came to see them, and the whole experience in general. That part was cool to see. Meanwhile, back in that paradise they call a tent, a face leaned over me mid-nap and demanded my attention. It turned out to be a friend from school and the only familiar face I'd run into all weekend. He sat with me for a while and told me about the guy up front at Bassnectar who dug a little hole in the sand, squatted down and pooped right there rather than lose his spot in the crowd, and other anecdotes about his weekend thus far. All of a sudden I heard the sweet sound of "Gold Lion" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs float in from the other side of the beach. With that, I bid my friend adieu, quickly reassembled the Full Disclosure Crew, and danced/ran down the beach toward the Hangout Stage.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs were fucking great. I say it like that because I think that's the way Karen O would want it. The show rocked hard, and consisted mostly of the songs I know and love, rather than that new stuff Pitchfork deemed uncharacteristically bad on the YYY spectrum. Their breakout hit "Maps" was sweetly dedicated to "Stevie Fucking Wonder," and past that, all was rock 'n' roll and whatever that sound was when KO stuck the mic down her pants. There was one moment that begged for disaster in which a roadie grabbed the mic during "Soft Shock" and pulled it down to the front row of the crowd to let people "loo loo loo" into the mic, Charlie Brown Christmas style. Except for a couple guys who went low, the results were shockingly good. Major props to YYY fans, your ability to accurately sing six notes is pretty outstanding.
After our encounter with that slew of high school anthems, we headed over to catch Bloc Party, ready for more.
They played two songs I knew, and frankly were uninteresting to me for the most part. To be fair, those in the crowd who were undoubtedly bigger fans than I seemed to be loving it. Bloc Party ended with an hour to go till Stevie Wonder, so we wandered up through the massive crowd watching Trey Anastasio of Phish, then headed toward the bathroom. We were two steps in when they broke into a funky fresh cover of the Gorillaz hit "Clint Eastwood," and our labored walk through the sand became an inspired strut and skip as we danced our way up to the front to take a leak. It was then time for the grand finale of the entire weekend: Stevie Fucking Wonder.
Stevie Wonder is great for a lot of reasons. He's seemingly always happy, rocks out on a piano, redefines the word inspirational, and he cried on stage thanking us for supporting him and making a life that could have been very difficult so wonderful. We followed Stevie through hit after hit, both his and others' ("We can't finish this show without some Michael! (Jackson)" - Stevie Wonder), but unfortunately exhaustion had set in on a couple of my crew members, so we packed it up and began walking out through the food tents toward the exit. We were almost to the gate when we heard "Superstition" grace the air of Gulf Shores, and everyone stopped where they were and began singing and dancing. I mean everyone. Random merch tent people, wanderers who didn't know they liked Stevie Wonder until they recognized every song he played (not entirely unlike myself), and others who, like us, were simply ready for bed. On a related note, impromptu dance parties are the best dance parties, and songs that pervade out culture like Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" are the best songs for such dancing.
My weekend at the beach is over, but these memories will last a long time (mostly because I just wrote them down). Thank you, Hangout Fest. I hope to see you again next year.
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