The Gulf Shores beach sets the easygoing tone for a weekend of live music.

photo of Macklemore by Scarlett Rayner
Macklemore, by Scarlett Rayner

[Updated] Yesterday marked the kickoff of Hangout Music Festival as ten of thousands of festivals goers rushed the beach at Gulf Shore, Alabama for a music festival that takes place just feet away from the Gulf of Mexico. This all-ages festival brought a diverse group of people together to experience live music on the beach and in the sand, making for a unique experience for music lovers. It sets the ambience for an easygoing weekend, where you can set your own pace.

Jim James

The front man from My Morning Jacket rocked the Hangout Stage with a performance that could easily be the best of the entire day. His five-person band played with a passion that is becoming rare among bands, and each member thrived off of one another’s energy, playing each note with a hint of respect for the other. James’ lengthy hair draped over his face as he switched between the saxophone and electric guitar. Before closing the set, James turned toward the drummer Dave Givan as they both played their instruments in a harsh but melodic way. If you did not know that this was not My Morning Jacket, you would think they were playing a new album instead of material from James' solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Hip-hop vocalist Macklemore and DJ Ryan Lewis brought a breathe of fresh air to the Hangout, as they will most festivals this summer. The tent the duo played was absolutely packed with the flow of anxious viewers flooding into the street. During their second song, Macklemore jumped off of the stage and onto the bar in front the crowd, shouting the lyrics to his song as the crowd went crazy and security guards scrambled to yank the rapper down. This moment set the tone for the performance of screaming fans with an equally enthusiastic performer.

The group played its breakthrough “Thrift Shop” third in the set, which was by far the highlight of the performance. Most of the crowd sang along word for word. Macklemore sported a furry jacket that someone passed him from the crowd that resembled the one he wears in his music video. As he was putting on the jacket he said, “This is what I call an Alabama Cheetah. Can I put it on?” 

Passion Pit

Next I took a walk over to Passion Pit. The synthpop group played a few of their hits including "Take a Walk," "Got Carried Away," and "Sleepyhead," which sounded far better live. That wasn't expected. While we're used to listening to sound that is degraded as it's delivered as an mp3, it's still usually better than live sound. Friday, Passion Pit delivered with powerful economy and clarity. 

Kings of Leon

Sentimentality rolled throughout the crowd, partly for Kings of Leon’s reunion and partly for the close of day one. The group played a mix of their old hits to new songs including “California Waiting”, “Closer”, “Revelry”, “Back Down South,” and “Sex on Fire.” The band seemed more comfortable than ever onstage, and singer Caleb Followill showed no signs of the demons that brought about an onstage meltdown in 2011. Before they finished their performance, fireworks lit up the sky, bringing a smile to everyone’s face on the beach. 

Updated May 22, 7:37 a.m.

The publicity photo of Jim James was replaced with the live shot of Macklemore.