Our intrepid correspondent on the Festival Beat, the bundle of infectious joy that is James Rockefeller Gray headed to the Gulf Shores to catch the Hangout Music Festival. His co-pilot was photographer Watts Mangum.
They had a great time, highly recommend you get there next year, and even secured exclusive interviews with some of the biggest stars at the Hangout Music Festival.
Hangout Music Festival
by: James Rockefeller Gray
photos by: Watts Mangum
You never really know your favorite artist until you’ve experienced them dancing on top of sand, wind blowing rapidly, over a scorching Alabama sun that is blazing down on you. The Hangout Music Festival located on the Gulf Shores of Alabama. It forces the artists to go harder than ever; and for the music lovers to take extra notice. This year the festival went in hard, everything seemed to be extreme; from the beautiful weather to the abrasive security check-in, from the excellent shuttle bus service to the superb mac and cheese with bacon sandwich from festival foodie favorite Cheese Dreams.
Adventure Club, Beck, Talib Kweli (exclusive interview below), Foo Fighters, Skrillex, Major Lazer, Robert DeLong: The line- up was so stacked that heavy hitters like Beats Antique and Toro y Moi played early in the afternoon. This is an indication to the amount of talent that graced the Hangout stages. The festival was crowded at this point I can only estimate tens of thousands of people must’ve showed up. Hangout definitely has its own character distinct from all the other festivals. Like every festival there were some ultimate pros and ultimate cons. For the most part it was an overall great experience, and by the closing night with Beck it looked like a beach party scene from a Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello film.
The Best of the Best
Hailing from Nashville Tennessee, Five Knives were the belles of the ball. This young, energetic, sexy Pop/Rock band nearly stole the show on the Friday afternoon of the festival. I had the pleasure of meeting with lead singer Anna M’Queen and keyboardist Zach Hall. When they are performing on stage and in their music videos they seem like rock gods, in person they are very calm, humble, and aware. We had a light and very comfortable conversation. Five Knives came together in Nashville, and were all known on the music scene before they formed; the stars immediately aligned themselves to the road of super stardom. I could tell that they are getting used to the whole fame universe, they are not yet (hopefully will never be) jaded by the music industry, a familiar trait that so many new rock stars possess. I asked them how their family is adapting to their celebrity; Anna M’queen replied ‘When it’ showtime, it’ showtime, and when it’s over, I leave it on the stage’. Her statement is the true testament to her artistry. A true artist has the capability to separate themselves from their persona in order to be able evolve in their creativity. Five Knives are signed with Redbull Records, they have an upcoming tour and a brand new album entitled Savages that will drop June 2nd.
You don’t know Skrillex until you’ve raged out on a live set on top of the sand. I’ve seen Skrillex perform at other festivals and this was the best set that I’ve heard him play. I shuffled so hard that I dug a hole in the sand so deep with my feet, the sand was up to my knees!
Robert DeLong is a one man show! He is literally on stage by himself with his drum set, keyboard, and other tools creating a live electronic sound that is uniquely original. He also sings, raps, and dances. He played early during the last day of the festival to a packed audience, at least a couple thousand people. He nearly melted my face off with his mind altering sounds. The audience loved him and begged him for an encore; which he did twice.
Talib Kweli performing by himself would had been just enough to satisfy fans. But anyone who is a fan Talib knows that he is a man of many surprises when it comes to his collaborations, lyrics, song choices, and performances. His set at Hangout was no exception. Talib brought his friend and new- comer Steffanie Christi’an who was the sultry, soulful cherry on top of his set. Steffanie Christi’an has a voice that is reminiscent to Billy Holiday and Erykah Badu. The audience was so intrigued that they followed her every move as she led a call and response between herself, the full live band, and the hyped Hangout crowd. It seemed as though the audience was already familiar with her music, and that she has been performing for decades. Talib surprised fans but doing a song that is completely out of the genre that he has established himself in; he did Punk Rock. Yes folks Talib Kweli did “Search and Destroy” by Iggy and the Stooges , and people lost their minds. He rocked it out! It was so surprising that I saw a man actually sit down on the sand to listen to every lyric Talib Kweli was spitting. I had the opportunity to be able to get an exclusive interview both Steffanie and Talib about their experiences at Hangout and what their plans are for the near future.
(JRG) James Rockefeller Gray
(TK) Talib Kweli
(SC) Steffanie Christi’an
(JRG) Talib, we noticed that you experimented with different genres of music during your set at “Hangout” in particular Punk Rock. Have you always been a Punk Rock fan? And do you ever see yourself maybe doing a rock album?
(TK) I am definitely a fan of great punk rock that I’ve come across in my life, but it’s not something I actively seek out like a true fan would. Lyrically, punk and hip hop share the same spirit. I could see myself doing a rock album, but I would need a lot of training and help first. I wouldn’t want it to be a vanity project.
(JRG) Steffanie, you were superb. Where did you both meet?
(SC) Thank you very much! Talib and I met in Detroit, MI, where I am from, several years ago. Jessica Care Moore and I opened for him at the Music Hall.
(JRG) Talib and Steffanie who are some of the people that you are collaborating with for the upcoming album?
(SC) Well, first I am releasing a free mixtape, entitled “Down,” through Javotti Media, Talib’s label. Down will include new material, along with tracks from my first EP “Way Too Much” and works performed with my old band, FluxPhonic. The free mixtape will be followed up by a yet to be titled, full length collaborative album with Detroit producer, Cool Beanz.
(JRG) Steffanie what do you want fans to know about you? Who are you music influences?
I want fans to know that I aim to transcend musical stereotypes, while blurring the racial lines associated with the type of music I create. It is my ultimate goal to allow people to step outside of themselves, and step outside of the figurative box, in which society sometimes creates and categorizes for us. I am here to express my flaws, insecurities, personal triumphs, life questions and experiences through my lyrics, music and performing, revealing my humanness while trying to uplift and invoke all in the same process. At times, I feel extremely awkward but the opportunity to create music allows me the fortitude to ultimately become who I want to in the grand scheme of things.—Steffanie Christi’an
My musical influences run the gamut and include but are not limited to Bob Marley, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Rage Against the Machine, Tina Turner, Green Day and Mahalia Jackson. I just love music in general from classical to metal. With that being said, Rock & Roll is where my heart is.
(JRG) Talib is Black Star done for good?
(TK) Who told you Black Star was done? We do several shows a year. As far as a new album, that remains to be seen
(JRG) How’s Hangout compare to the other festivals you all have been too?
(SC) I performed at the Electronic Movement Festival last year in Detroit and after performing at the Hangout Fest it solidified to me that there is an awesome palpable synergy at music festivals created by a collective group of people who want to hear some great music and have a hell of a good time. For me, that feeling is the same whether I am a performer or in the audience.
(JRG) Talib what do you want us to spread the word about?
Steffanie Christi’an-check her out here. http://steffchris.com/
Beck was the perfect headliner for the “closing ceremonies.” He really gave off the whole beach party vibe. I was able to see him in the VIP viewing area. VIP is definitely worth doing at Hangout. With its poolside and view and free beer, it becomes a festival goers dream come true.
Hangout Festival wasn’t just for music; it also had wonderful art work, rides, and street performers. I would recommend that if you’re going next year get to know the area of Gulf Shores, you may be able to find a cheap house 15 minutes away from the festival, and a good parking spot if you know the area.
Overall my experience at Hangout Festival was a positive one and we will be making it back for the next year.
Go with a crew!