Hangout Fest in Review and a New Jazz Classic

Hangout Music Fest 2017

For the eighth year running, the relatively sleepy town of Gulf Shores, Alabama became ground zero for the summer festival circuit with the most recent installment of the Hangout Music Festival. Each year the festival organizers do an excellent job of brining together a diverse collection of rising bands punctuated by a few standout headliners. It seems like there are always minor issues to overcome in terms of weather and lineup, but despite these difficulties the festival always goes over in grand style. Part of this has to be due to the presence of the beach with is a tremendous attitude regulator under any circumstances. I’m also pretty sure that Hangout is the only festival where rain makes the grounds easier to walk on rather than a muddy mess. This weekend could have easily been a washout but some shrewd planning and a nice bit of luck kept the gates open other than a slightly truncated Saturday night set.


This year there were several standout performances but these are the ones that stuck with me:

Grace Mitchell

The Portland-based singer songwriter Grace Mitchell was positively fantastic. She has this fantastically large grungy sound live, which oscillates between garage fuzz and pop hooks effortlessly. Her song “Kids (Ain’t All Right)” was something of an anthem for the weekend.


Hurray for the Riff Raff

Alynda Segarra has fully arrived as an artist. Not only is The Navigator an astounding record, but she also delivers the songs live with the same passion evident in the recording. I thought that Hurray for the Riff Raff reached a tipping point with 2014’s Small Town Heroes. That record was a near flawless work of Americana but it presented the danger of stagnation for the band’s sound. It would be quite easy to stay on that path but this new work combines the polish of the past with a new direction and new sincerity that have pushed them to a whole other level. “Pa’lante” is overwhelming live especially when defiantly delivered into the face of an early afternoon rain.


Chance the Rapper

I keep finding new things to love about this show. Chance was on stage in frenetic motion for an hour and a half in the presentation of a show that kept seamlessly morphing in terms of genre, playfulness and sincerity. This is a performer who knows how to bring a crowd along with him on a journey rather than just a presentation of some tracks. There is absolutely no reason that Chance should not have been the Sunday night headliner this year. The entire festival attempted to cram itself into the Surf stage for this one. It was easily the best performance of the weekend. Chance has this remarkable ability to speak directly to the mood of the audience without seeming overwrought and his live band adds a flexibility that pushing things far beyond what one would expect from a hip hop show.


Hangout brings this amazing life to Gulf Shores like some sort of manic flower that blooms for four days and then retreats. We always take a couple of days on the tail end to relax at the beach but those days refreshing as they may be are always marked by the absence of this amazing thing that has recently vanished for another year. I look forward to seeing what the next year will bring.




Marcello Benetti Il Vizio!

On Friday night New Orleans based drummer Marcello Benetti will host a record release party for his excellent new record Il Vizio! The album is an outstanding reflection of Benetti’s place in the local scene and features a veritable whose who of jazz heavies including Jeff Albert, Rex Gregory, Helen Gillet, Will Thomson, Dave Easley and Mike Dillon. This record has been my go to in the car for the last couple of months and I keep finding new depth to the intricate arrangements. Cruise by Cafe Istanbul at 10pm on Friday for this wonder free show.


To Do This Week

Tomorrow in addition to Benetti’s show at Cafe Istanbul, the Mountain Goats are at Republic and Ty Segall is at One Eyed Jacks. Saturday Trey Songz is at the Orpheum. Sunday check out Conan at Siberia or Erykah Badu at the Lakefront Arena. Wednesday Kurt Metzger is at the Howlin Wolf.


To Listen This Week


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