Listen Up / May 2011

Who to see and what to hear in May.

by Todd Coder

Spring is finally here and it’s time to hit the beach. This year marks the return of the Hangout Music Festival (, taking place once again on the sand in Gulf Shores. Last year’s festival was affected by the tragic oil spill that occurred less than a month prior to the opening of the festival gates. The spill kept people away from the Gulf Coast, not only during the festival weekend, but throughout the tourist season, crippling the local economy. At a time when thousands of visitors would normally pepper the area, there was little or no tourist activity. This caused many local businesses to close their doors for good.

This year, it’s a much different scenario. Business is building and gaining momentum. Thanks to strong leadership by locals and government officials, the Gulf Coast has rebounded strongly and is preparing for what could be one of the busiest tourist seasons on recent record. This ability to recover and sustain in trying times is now synonymous with the area. The event that withstood the same misfortune and set-backs from the tragic spill is back for its second year and is ready to kick-off the summer season in grand fashion.

The response and excitement surrounding this year’s Hangout festival has been overwhelming. Ticket sales are strong, and the anticipation of the weekend grows more with each passing day. The inaugural event featured plenty of talent and this year, once again, the festival stages will be graced by a strong sampling of music’s upper echelon.  Featuring headliners such as Paul Simon, the Foo Fighters and Widespread Panic, the Hangout festival boasts big names in hopes of attracting a wide variety of music lovers.

There are a few changes to note about this year’s event. There will be five stages instead of four. The additional stage will feature a tent and play host to many of the artists playing dance-worthy music, such as Pretty Lights, Bassnectar and Girl Talk. This tent will also feature a handful of late-night shows on Friday and Saturday. The site itself will be bigger than last year, and the crowds will be larger as well. Thanks to the experience and success of the Concerts for the Coast series last summer, the infrastructure and transportation plans are already proven and in place to accommodate the larger number of concert-goers that are expected at this year’s event. Festival patrons should find that getting around inside and outside the site will be just as easy as last year while accommodating the growth of the event.

It should be a great weekend for music, surf and sun for festival goers and residents of the Gulf Coast. The city of Birmingham will be well represented along the Gulf Coast on the weekend of May 20-22, so I have decided to focus on a few of the artists that will be “hanging out.” Here’s who not to miss at this year’s Hangout Music Festival:

My Morning Jacket

The guys have a new record coming out at the end of the month, and the title track “Circuital” is more than just a difficult word to say.  The song is intricate, a tad unorthodox and really unlike any My Morning Jacket song that I have ever heard. If that is a sign of the entire album, then we all have something special to look forward to. It comes out on Tuesday, May 31, but you can hear much of it when they close out the second beach stage on the Friday night of the festival.

Friday, May 20 7-8:30 p.m.

Jon Black—As the only Birmingham artist to play this year’s festival, Jon Black returns for his second performance at the Hangout. Last year, Black was slated to play an afternoon set on the Hangout Courtyard stage, but he and his band were quickly shifted to the Verizon Wireless Stage to cover for Jerry Jeff Walker, who was unable to make it due to inclement weather. In what is always an uncomfortable situation, Black quickly won over an audience that expected to see Walker. In the last year, he has gradually increased his presence in the industry by writing, touring and achieving a handful of song placements on popular television shows. He’ll be performing a sunset show on the Hangout Courtyard stage early Saturday evening. Don’t miss it.

Saturday, May 21 5:45 – 6:45 p.m.

Avett Brothers

After exploding almost two years ago, Avett mania has leveled out but their fan base continues to grow. Consistently selling out shows across the country, the Avetts remain one of the most popular buzz bands around.  Paving the way for artists like Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers live show is eclectic, high energy and consistently pays appropriate homage to their Bluegrass and Rock & Roll roots.

Saturday, May 21 5:45 – 7:15 p.m.

The Black Keys

What can you say about The Black Keys has not already been said? Their live show is loud, raw and relentless. Their sound is unmistakable thanks to Dan Auerbach’s unique vocal style and Patrick Carney’s efforts on the drums. One of the biggest names in rock & roll, they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The stripped-down duo from Ohio continue to amaze audiences across the globe, and there couldn’t be a more appropriate way to close out the second beach stage on the final day of the festival.

Sunday, May 21 7:30-9 p.m.

Paul Simon

A legendary presence in American music and song writing only begins to describe Paul Simon. With a career that spans almost 50 years, including a quick but monumental five-year partnership with Art Garfunkel, Simon has found a way to stay relevant in an ever-changing industry. With a fan base that crosses generations, this is one artist that everyone can look forward to as the festival closer. Expect plenty of tracks from his new record, So Beautiful or So What, as well as favorites from the Simon & Garfunkel era. Simon brings an appropriate end to an incredible weekend on Sunday night.

Saturday, May 21 9 p.m.

Todd Coder is the Director of Music Account Development at TicketBiscuit.  He is also the Talent Buyer at WorkPlay Theatre and for The Hangout Music Festival.

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