The indie spirit is alive at Hangout Fest
This is my fifth year at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores and it is by far the best lineup that the organizers have put together. While headliners like Beck and the Foo Fighters get the most press, all of my highlights thus far have been from the excellent crop of indie bands, which have been holding down the early slots at the festival’s various stages. For those willing to brave the heat, the Saturday festival featured one of the best triple bills in recent memory. We began the day with Toro y Moi on the Surf Stage. After thanking the crowd for getting up early, Chaz Bundick ripped into an excellent set of chill pop that was carried over the beach on the day’s steady breeze. The set highlighted tracks from his new album What For?, which meshed perfectly with the early day festival vibe. For the next set we moved from the South Carolina based Toro y Moi to the North Carolina based Sylvan Esso. This is the second time in the past few months that I have had the privilege of covering Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn. As a duo, they are quickly growing into one the best live bands currently touring. The excellence of their eponymous first record has been amplified both by their increasing comfort on stage and their willingness to experiment with modified mixes and arrangements of their tracks. Despite being just two people, the pair managed to completely fill the main stage. When Amelia and Nick are each in their own groove, both making and dancing to their music, it is impossible to look away. The infectious beats carried a very devoted crowd off into the spirit of the festival. It is at these moments that the real power of the beach is evident in the nature of Hangout Festival. The right crowd, the right band and the right mood all accentuate our innate connection to the surf and the infinite horizon. After taking a moment to catch our breath, we raced off to the Salt-Life Stage for Young Fathers. The Scottish hip-hop collective brought their unique blend of traditional beats and contemporary experimentation to what I consider to be the festival’s most intimate stage near the Hangout Bar itself. This set has stolen the weekend so far. There was a small but seriously devoted crowd there to welcome the Scots and they were more than happy to return the favor. The space could not contain their explosive style nor the audience’s enthusiasm. I have to say that I love this direction for Hangout Festival. While the lineups here have always been pretty deep, this year they have raised the bar. It is fantastic to watch supremely talented young acts find their voice and their style in these incredibly large festival settings. Today, three groups all proved they have the chops to move to the choicer evening spots. Cheers, Hangout, well played.