Gulf Jams: AG’s picks for Hangout 2013

Technically, Hangout Music Fest––which takes place in May on the sugary sands of Gulf Shores, Alabama––is still in its infancy. Compared to veteran behemoths like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, it has a long way to go. But in just four years, it’s made such a mark on the spring and summer festival scenes that many fest-goers now consider it a real contender. It has the perks of being a short drive from New Orleans and taking place on a beautiful stretch of Gulf coast, and Antigravity has been covering it since the beginning. This year, our two staff Hangout veterans are giving you the rundown on essential artists. It’s worth noting as well that the Thursday night kick-off party is growing in size and lineup influence, hinting that perhaps Hangout is modeling Bonnaroo’s slow morph into a four-day festival. If you haven’t seized the opportunity to enjoy some great bands in this picturesque locale, don’t mess around. This thing is getting bigger and better by the year.

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Thursday, May 16th (evening kickoff party)

UMPHREY’S MCGEE
The last time Umphrey’s McGee played Hangout, it was an ill-timed show. Let’s face it: this is gritty jam music with a heavy bass that is a little too heavy for the sunshine hours. It’s vampire jam. Seeing it in the daylight makes us feel selfconscious and bewildered. But in 2013, UM closes out the Thursday night festival kick-off party and returns to its rightful place in the darkness. If last year’s Big Gigantic Thursday night show taught us anything, it was to never arrive on Friday. The Thursday night crowd, excited for the weekend ahead, will throw UM’s high energy right back at them. For a band that enjoys improvisation, that’s quite a gift. —KR

Friday, May 17th

LISSIE
Earning notoriety first for viral videos of her covers of Kid Cudi and Lady Gaga, Lissie (full name Elizabeth Maurus) released her debut, Catching a Tiger, in 2010. In the three years since, she has dabbled with artist collaborations, toured and quietly accepted praise from the media and, oddly enough, a glowing recommendation from cult filmmaker and notorious weirdo David Lynch. A new album release is rumored for this summer, so chances are this show will be a great place to hear it first. Catching a Tiger showcased that she was capable of deeper soul and the time I saw her live, she honed in on that with deft precision. —EH

JIM JAMES
My Morning Jacket’s sundown performance at Hangout 2011 easily ranks in my top 5 moments of Hangout history. By the time the sun was fully set and they broke out the extended jam of “One Big Holiday,” I thought my heart might explode with joy. Jim James is just such a blissful, hairy teddy bear of a man. His passion is so infectious that I was left confused by anyone able to stand still through that magnificence. Never content to tread water though, James has been working with other artists (including nurturing a heartwarming bro-mance with our own Preservation Hall Jazz Band) and pumping out some solo material while the band took a break. While it might lack some bombast not having the rest of  MMJ on stage with him, this will be one of Hangout 2013’s best sets––and that is a promise. I feel certain we’ll hear some MMJ material as well as selections of his solo work, covers from his George Harrison tribute album and perhaps even some Monsters of Folk songs. —EH

MACKLEMORE AND RYAN LEWIS
Antigravity,” you might ask, “Why are you telling me to see a one-hit wonder who raps about second-hand clothing?” Fair question. First of all, while “Thrift Shop” was so catchy that one Colorado woman tried to choke her boyfriend after he just wouldn’t stop singing it, Macklemore’s 2012 album The Heist and his previous work include decent lyricism, excellent enunciation and a good ear for attractive hooks. Macklemore, with his second-hand clothes and spaghetti-like dance moves, represents the shift from the gung-ho materialism of the ‘90s and early ‘00s to the post-Great Recession realism associated with the Millennials. He sees a Versace shirt and points out, “50 dollars for a tee shirt? That’s getting swindled.” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis play the last set in the Boom Boom Room on Friday, a far better place for getting close to each other than out in the open air of Passion Pit’s airy, intriguing, but ultimately unsexy music. —KR

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Saturday, May 18th

SHOVELS AND ROPE
Long-time AG readers should recognize these familiar faces (they were featured in our April 2012 issue). The married duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst come to Hangout via the Carolinas and their laid-back, warm honey sound is a perfect complement to the beach. They released their Dualtone Records debut O’ Be Joyful last summer to stellar reviews. They’ve played here pretty frequently over the past few years, forming a close bond with local folk heroes Hurray for the Riff Raff. If you’ve not had the pleasure of hearing Shovels & Rope, they do share some stylistic similarities with HFTRR, although with a sizeable wallop of more traditional country overtones (which isn’t shocking, considering that Hearst was born and raised in Tennessee). To me, Shovels & Rope represent a bit of “hometown” sound for Hangout, which, let us not forget, is on the jeweled coast of Alabama, in the very heart of Dixie. —EH

THE BRIGHT LIGHT SOCIAL HOUR
The Bright Light Social Hour is an Austin rock band and they’re a solid midafternoon pick for Saturday. Think Disco Biscuits meets My Morning Jacket on a budget. They’ve got the tongue-in-cheek nature of Workaholics and an excellent sense of comedic timing onstage, which is key when sporting a handlebar mustache that makes you look like a child molester from 1973. Even better, they’re talented. The BLSH won an unprecedented six awards at the 29th Annual Austin Music Awards. Their most recognized song, “Detroit,” starts off with restrained vocals and a slow riff lamenting a lost love. After a careful build of tension, the song erupts in thundering riffs and rolling drums. Other standouts include the twisting, fun “Back and Forth” and the nine-minute “Garden of the Gods,” which features fervid, strong instrumental solos that coalesce at the end into near chaos. —KR

THE ROOTS
If you haven’t heard of the Roots beyond their gigs on late night talk shows, check out “The Seed 2.0.” Other funk songs wish they could sound this cool. This is a pure love song to music with a sexy, addictive hook, a bucking drumbeat, nimble rapping and pitch-perfect vocals. Beyond their solo albums, the Roots are the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and frequently play with other big acts from the Dave Matthews Band to Jill Scott. From jazz to hip-hop to pop rock, they can play it—and occasionally even better than the original. This is a band who most frequently covers “Handclapping Song” by the Meters, “Men At Work” by Kool G. and DJ Polo, and “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan. Go figure that one out. —KR

RYAN BINGHAM
A lot has changed for Ryan Bingham since 2010, when he teamed with T-Bone Burnett to work on the soundtrack for Crazy Heart. The standout track “The Weary Kind” earned Bingham an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe. Suddenly Bingham didn’t have to worry about his beat up tour bus––a struggling Suburban– –making it to the next gig. His longtime band, the Dead Horses, didn’t join him for 2012’s Tomorrowland or his subsequent tours. Bingham’s unwrinkled skin, bright eyes and full head of hair contrast his gravely singing voice. His vocals would suit a much older man who smoked two packs a day and drank too much––much like Jeff Bridges’ character in Crazy Heart. It gives his songs a credibility normally reserved for older, more worn men. Bingham’s legitimate history of bull riding and ranching doesn’t hurt his cowboy cred either. His songwriting absorbs his travels, creating beautiful storylines like a reimagining of “Hallelujah” with his coarse, yet mellifluous voice crying out over delicate notes. A favorite from Tomorrowland is “To Beg For Broken Legs,” which matches a masculine, mighty and searching string section with demanding, sparse vocals. —KR

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS
Plenty of people have radio hits, but it’s not often that a performer with scores of them manages to stay grounded. I’ve always thought of Tom Petty as a “regular guy” rockstar. He doesn’t have the strut of a Mick Jagger or the theatrics of a Steven Tyler. And yet he doesn’t cloak himself in mystery like Bob Dylan or Neil Young. He’s just been making great pop songs for decades and he’s happy to keep playing them. I’ve seen Petty play at multiple festivals and the crowds are always swollen, but they typically taper off as people hear the one or two songs they came for. We all have our favorites of course, but it wasn’t until I stayed for an entire set at Austin City Limits in the pouring rain that I realized just how many great songs the man has written. I will have a drink and dance with my friends and scream “American Girl” at the top of my lungs. —EH

Sunday, May 19th

YEAH YEAH YEAHS
I will, in fact, feel like an unsupervised kid in a candy store all weekend; but of all the shows I’m excited for, this one eclipses them all. I’ve been enamored with this New York band since they screeched on to the scene when I was a freshman in college. They live with the Strokes in my nostalgic hope chest––a place where I am 18 and freshly free from parental control and discovering this massive world of smoky clubs, heavy eyeliner and searing guitar riffs. It’s been fun to watch them grow and change along with me in the last decade and their newest album, Mosquito, is a delightful return to form, tapping into some of that wildness that was absent from the more polished and sedate It’s Blitz. Karen O. is a born performer and having only had the chance to see them live once, I plan to elbow my way as close as possible to take it all in. —EH

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT
Perhaps one day I will write about Jason Isbell without mentioning the Drive-by Truckers. But his time in that band sparked such a creative outflow for all the members that it’s hard to separate him from them in my mind. But the mark he is making as a solo artist is starting to keep pace with what he produced in DBT. 2011’s Here We Rest (with his band the 400 Unit) was one of my favorite records that year. It still sees heavy play in my house and the memories of his intimate show at the House of Blues Parish room in the months after its release have had me itching for more ever since. Isbell has that rare gift of storytelling that sweeps you away from yourself entirely. He has written multiple songs that never fail to bring me to tears (some of them giant crocodile tears; see “Outfit,” “Dress Blues” and “Alabama Pines”) and I find myself so engrossed in the tales he weaves that the songs always seem to end too soon. He is releasing a new album of solo material in June and I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced copy a few weeks ago. The first album he’s produced since getting sober and married, Southeastern is full of reflections on darker days and ruminations on the emotional complexities of life. —EH

STEVIE WONDER
There’s no better way to end the weekend than boogying. Yes, boogying—it’s that flailing, hip squirming reaction curiously spurred by Stevie Wonder, a reflexive reaction that requires no thought and must be done. There is no stopping the boogie. It has mystified scientists for decades and they will surely be studying the hip jangles of the thirty-thousand-plus attendees at Stevie Wonder’s closing Hangout set. Wonder, who has won more Grammy awards than any other artist, beat out Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for the Sunday night spot at Hangout Fest, previously held by Paul McCartney and the Dave Matthews Band. Expect 30,000 sandy, sunburned fest-goers to groove their way out of the gates while singing “Superstition.” —KR


The 2013 Hangout Music Fest takes place in Gulf Shores, Alabama Friday, May 17th through Sunday, May 19th. Tickets to the Thursday, May 16th evening kick-off event are sold separately. Tickets and more information at hangoutmusicfest.com