If You Think Really Hard, Maybe We Can Stop This Rain: Hangout Beach Fest Day 3 Report

Share this post

On Sunday, we learned yet another advantage of having a festival on a beach: drainage. Which is to day, when the inevitable downpour comes, wet sand is vastly superior to mud. So it was on Day 3. We began trying to catch the 12:30 set by the Blind Boys of Alabama in a light drizzle, but two minutes in, the skies opened up, and we rushed for the poncho vendor. Finally outfitted, we made our way over to the main stage to see what Keller Williams was doing (or what they were letting him do). That turned out to be setting up behind the next act’s plastic-covered gear and playing to an audience who could barely see him (see if you can spot him in the photo to the right. At any rate, you had to give him points for being a gamer. And, having never heard him, I was very impressed. A fantastic folk guitar player and more importantly, a writer of immediately accessible songs. Unfortunately, he got cut off after about 45 minutes, after organizers pulled the plug due to another storm system coming through. They actually closed the entire park until 4:30 and told everyone to seek shelter. Which we did, along with a bottle of wine.

Fast forward to 4:30, when after some schedule juggling, Michael Franti and Spearhead took the main stage. Another pleasant surprise. Having never seen Franti, I was expecting nothing more than run-of-the-mill reggae. I was quite mistaken. His act blends reggae, funk, rock and hip hop into a big dreadlocked stew. And he’s about the happiest person you’d ever want to see on a stage.

From there, it was a toss up between two secondary acts: the nerd rock of OK Go vs. the college rock of Guster. A couple of tunes by OK Go was all we needed to hear before picking Guster, who turned in a fine set as the sun finally appeared. But then we joined the mass migration to the main stage for Ben Harper and Relentless7, who got shortened to an hour. Not much subtlety here, just straight blues rock. We heard that about 15,00o showed up the final day (which became free, post rain delay) and they were just about all here. Apart from spirited covers of “Red House” and “Heartbreaker,” they got the only explicit reference I heard to the oil spill all weekend. A chant of “Fuck BP” ensued.

As the sun set, it was back to the other stage for one last time for an appropriately dark set by Ray LaMontagne. If you’ve seen him, you know he’s usually quiet, borderline agoraphobic, but on Sunday he was loquacious by his standards, addressing the crowd several times, and even trying to fill the silence caused by some sound difficulty with some banter. Pretty awkward, but he’s trying. His band provides an outskirts-of-town vibe that would be home on some of Dylan’s later albums, perfectly framing LaMontagne’s desperate lyrics, delivered in his raspy wail.

The Trey Anastasio Band closed out the day and the festival with two-plus hours of exactly what you’d expect. Lots of great musicianship, and lots of noodling (and I love noodling, but there is a limit). His band was accomplished, if a bit odd (female backup singers who doubled as horn players; a bassist that was so obese he had to sit). Highlights, of course, were the covers: “Devil Went Down to Georgia” (for the second time in the festival), “Black Dog,” and a gorgeous rendition of The Band’s “It Makes No Difference.” Perhaps planned, perhaps not, they kicked off their encore just as the nightly fireworks were getting underway and played along all through the display.

All in all, a really fun festival. Who’s with me next year? Here’s a shot of the whole scene, during a set break, from atop the ferris wheel on site, with the Gulf in the background.

Leave a comment!