On Monday, May 18, a steady line of cars silently moved away from the Alabama Gulf Coast. A majority held occupants with sunburned skin and sleepy eyes, evidence they’d spent the weekend at Hangout Fest 2015 in Gulf Shores.
Perhaps it was the power of music and good vibes that created what many called “a bubble” around the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area. It may have rained torrents elsewhere, but the sun shone brightly at Hangout Fest as musical acts from around the world performed on several stages. While the headliners were a major draw, many lesser-known bands provided some of the most memorable performances.
Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires gave the Surf Stage a soul-injection that fell like a tidal wave upon the audience. Bradley brought an old school soul revival to the beach, and the crowd seemed to soak up the musical love. He filled his set with classic vocal work pulled out of the ‘60s and a brand of showmanship that is a precious commodity. At one point, Bradley exited the stage and let the Extraordinaires prove why Bradley has them in his employ.
The Dirty Heads gathered quite an impressive crowd for their set. After the speakers regaled the crowd with the THX theme, the band exploded onto the stage with their mix of rock, hip-hop and reggae. Even in the heat of the day, the Dirty Heads pulled the audience to their feet and had them moving to their irie rhythms. As the band performed their single “Lay Me Down,” the crowd couldn’t resist singing along.
J. Roddy Walston & the Business made one of the best first impressions ever on the Salt Life Stage. This band provides a perfect example of the symbiotic relationship between a band and its audience. When the crowd feels it, the band feels it. Walston and his crew rolled through a set filled with nothing but pure, uncut rock. At points during their set, this group seemed like the second coming of T. Rex. Walston’s front-man swagger (both on and off the piano) seemed like more of an organic movement than an act. Their energy spread quickly across a crowd that almost filled the courtyard in front of the Salt Life Stage.
Beats Antique brought an exotic edge to the festival. As David Satori, Sylvain Carton and Tommy Cappel provided a vertigo of electronic, klezmer, gypsy and Middle Eastern music as tribal-fusion dancer Zoe Jakes performed. The “Snake & Fan” dance was one of the most memorable parts of their performance. Satori, Carton and Cappel provided a seductive foundation as Jakes contorted before the crowd. After disappearing behind a pair of feather fans, Jakes emerged with a companion. The band finished the song with a combination of world fusion and burlesque.
As Lagniappe readers peruse this issue, the stages on the public beach are coming down. The palm trees and grass are being removed, and things are getting back to normal in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. But this year’s Hangout Fest no doubt provided thousands with enough fond memories to carry them into the summer.