The 10 Best Moments of The 2012 Hangout Festival

Music Lists Hangout Festival
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Photos by Mark C. Austin

The third annual Hangout Festival is in the books, and this year’s event was bigger than ever as 35,000 fans descended upon expanded grounds for the sold-out weekend. While headliners like Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Matthews impressed, many of the highlights happened earlier on in the afternoon. Relive some of our favorite moments from the weekend below.

10. Michael Franti & Spearhead

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He was rightly given the key to the city this year by Gulf Shores, Ala. after three straight joysplosions at Hangout Fest—this year adding in a performance in the middle of the crowd, a guest vocal from Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and giving two fans a taste of living the dream, strapping on two guitars for a Guitar Hero-style jam (their guitars were silenced while two bandmembers jammed alongside) with the crowd roaring approval. Franti does something that’s truly unique: He makes music with the spirit of kids’ music but especially for adults who need to find their happy place.—Nick Purdy

9. Fort Atlantic


Jon Black’s band is new enough to get a night slot on a hidden-away stage that served the kids during the day. The crowd was tiny, but I think all of us felt like we were in on a secret, as Black and his drummer moved effortlessly from Dawes-like swelling, sing-a-long folk-rock to the two-man blues-rock of The Black Keys. I don’t think this is a secret that’s going to keep.—Josh Jackson

8. The Lumineers


Some bands never have a song as catchy as “Ho Hey,” but The Lumineers nailed it on their album debut. That and the rest of their sweet folky tunes made for a great way to get Sunday started at The Hangout Fest. When the Denver band pulled off “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” you knew they were gonna make a lot of new fans on the festival circuit this year.—Josh Jackson

7. Randy Newman

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It was just him and his piano onstage, but Randy Newman proved that even a half-century into his career, he’s still got the chops to win over a crowd, delivering some charming banter between songs and shining on favorites like “Short People,” “Louisiana 1927,” the Toy Story hit “You’ve Got A Friend in Me,” and “Birmingham”—which elicited a particularly warm ovation from the Alabama crowd.—Bonnie Stiernberg

6. Wilco


Wilco settled in right at home alongside the beaches of Gulf Shores, Ala., performing a predictably solid set that drew from most of the catalog. From recent singles (“Dawned on Me”) to deeper cuts (“I’m Always in Love”), Jeff Tweedy and company showed up to Hangout in top form.—Max Blau

5. Mavis Staples

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It was obvious Mavis Staples wasn’t a local. After a fan yelled out “Roll Tide!” during her set, she mistakenly assumed that was the name of the city she was in—but what could have been a cringeworthy moment instead came off as endearing, and Staples more than redeemed herself with her cover of The Band’s “The Weight,” after which she paid tribute to her recently deceased friend Levon Helm.—Bonnie Stiernberg

4. Yelawolf


The crowd seemed to take it up a notch for their hometown boy—Gadsden, Ala., native and Crimson Tide fan Michael Atha, better known as Yelawolf. The Xbox Tent was packed, bouncing and rapping along to every word of songs off his two Shady Record albums Radioactive and Love Story.—Josh Jackson

3. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

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When Jade Castrinos sang the words “Alabama, Arkansas” to open the group’s big hit, the L.A. band must have felt like they’d found a new home. Alex Ebert started talking in the middle of the song, saying that when Castrinos first came up with those words to “Home,” he didn’t even know what they really meant, “but here we are in Alabama.” Ebert has enough hippie charisma to get a large group of people to drink any batch of Kool-Aid; fortunately he seems to content to serve up the peace-and-love variety.—Josh Jackson

2. Alabama Shakes


These soulful hometown heroes—who hail from Athens and proudly sport their state’s name in their moniker—drew one of the festival’s largest crowds on Friday afternoon. Frontwoman Brittany Howard tore through tracks off of this year’s huge debut Boys & Girls.—Bonnie Stiernberg

1. The Flaming Lips

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As the sun set on Gulf Shores on Sunday night, Flaming Lips fans were treated to a veritable greatest hits set featuring favorites like “Do You Realize??” “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1” and “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” before the band was joined by Phantogram to perform Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. The most memorable moment came during “Money,” when Wayne Coyne and company released balloons filled with cash into the crowd—whose members were surprisingly mellow about the whole thing, refraining from trampling one another and opting instead to keep the psychedelic vibes going.—Bonnie Stiernberg