Take some searing guitars, breathtaking vocals, funky rhythms and dancehall beats and add sun, sand and the clean Gulf breeze picking up wafts of Hawaiian Tropic as beautiful women in bikinis twirl about (a few guys too!) tossing beach balls into the air and you have the makings of what is considered one of the best music festivals in the country! Of all the major music festivals The Hangout Music Festival may be the only one in the U.S. A. that is directly on the beach especially with DeLuna Festival on hiatus. Whether you had a hotel room, were able to rent a condo with a balcony just off the main stage or set up a tent under someone’s beach house, there was no doubt Gulf Shores, Alabama was the place to be all weekend. Only in its fourth year, Hangout keeps get better each year attracting some of the best bands as well as dedicated festival goers from all over the country.
Musically, Hangout may still be finding its identity. Living along the Gulf Coast, I quite clearly remember the debates over the second year’s lineup or at least the wish lists. Many wanted to see more jam bands, but other responded saying, “This isn’t a hippie festival.” Still, each year it does seem to get a bit more “Jammy,” though a hippie festival? No. It still isn’t. It did look like it though. This is probably the youngest crowd of all the festivals I attend and the 20-somethings came out in droves to see performers Bassnectar, Passion Pit, The Shins, Ellie Goulding and Imagine Dragons, to name a few. Dressed in crochet tops over bikinis, cutoff shorts and headbands, the girls were in good hippie fashion, but they were not hippies, nor were their male counterparts. These were truly kids “hanging out” having a great time! (Not that there weren’t quite a few of us hippies there as well.)
Add to that headliners Kings of Leon, Tom Petty and Stevie Wonder, and it was hard to tell which audiences the Hangout was hoping to attract. These artists, especially Tom Petty and Stevie Wonder, are a draw for an older crowd, most of whom didn’t know the above mentioned performers at all or only through their children. Of course jam fans were a little disappointed when the lineup came out, looking for a Furthur, a Phish, an ABB, or a return of Widespread Panic or String Cheese Incident … but the headliners’ performances really left us with very little to complain about, instead showing why they are “greats” although, admittedly, opinions varied.
I like Friday’s headliner, Kings of Leon, well enough, though I’m not really a fan, so I was lukewarm about going to see them. I recognized a couple of their songs including, of course, “Sex on Fire.” Their sound to me was much more earthy though than I remember it being when I saw them a few years ago at Jazzfest. They just didn’t have that hardcore of old school punk I remembered. But I think the more grainy sound they offered this weekend better suited the beach vibe. Part of what I was hearing also could have been from the sound system. It just didn’t seem strong enough to battle the wind which picked it up and carried it away.
Whatever the issue, it was resolved by Saturday night with some help from Mother Nature settling the wind down to a refreshing gulf breeze. Saturday’s headliner Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opened with a crowd pleasing “So You Want to Be a Rock n Roll Star” and proceeded through hit after hit, including “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” “Free Fallin’” and much to my delight, a Traveling Wilburys tune. A favorite that had everyone singing along and swaying in unison was “Learning to Fly,” and the crowd was already pretty hyped since it followed a surprising, almost Dylanesque, cover of “Friend of the Devil” that had everyone raving.
Closing out the festival Sunday evening was the great Stevie Wonder. What can anyone say about Stevie? …. He’s a legend … I’m still not convinced that the beach festival was the best place to see him or that one of the big jam bands wouldn’t have been more fitting, but he came out and gave it everything, as one would expect, and the beach remained packed as he pulled the crowd into a love fest that began with a cover of James Taylor’s “How Sweet It Is,” and continued through covers and originals from “The Way You Make Me Feel” (Michael Jackson) to “Higher Ground” to “Ebony and Ivory.” One of the best moments for me musically was the impromptu cover of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?” that did fall apart at the end but, he said, “I know we didn’t rehearse this… If you can’t have fun, whatcha gonna have. BORING!” I loved that he just played whatever the spirit moved him to, offering peace and love to the crowd and responding with even more as the crowd offered it right back. No time was this felt more than when he did John Lennon’s “Imagine.” With his encore, “Superstition,” fireworks lighting up the sky over the Gulf waters, the festival goers trickled out, slowly moving back to reality, both quite gratified with the weekend and disappointed that the festival had come to a close.
Thursday’s Pre-Festival Party
But let’s get on with the JAMS!! Ok, no WSP, no SCI … But there was no shortage of amazing jammin’ at this festival, especially with Thursday’s pre-festival party. In fact I’m not sure that Thursday’s lineup wasn’t in part a response to the disappointment at the initial announcement. Thursday included Conspirator, Lotus, Railroad Earth and Umphrey’s McGee. The only problem here was that the sets, at about an hour each, were too short. We definitely wanted more!
I’m kind of on the fence about Conspirator myself and so after fighting traffic to the beach, finding out the shuttles weren’t running on Thursday (I really should have read the pass more carefully) and searching for a parking spot, I was only able to catch the end of the set, but I wasn’t all that disappointed. I was immediately drawn to the crowd though. Conspirator was playing at the aptly named Boom Boom Tent. All weekend this tent spilled over with wild young things bouncing up and down to the club beats that were so loud they had the ground shaking.
But of course, that’s one of the great things about large festivals (and sometimes one of the drawbacks). There are choices. And, at least for this festival, mixing the jam fans with the EDM fans made for a mostly comfortable mix. Much better than the mixing of other fan bases I’ve seen in the past.
Lotus is a perfect example of this merging. These guys make me go oddball. I love to dance. But they hit the stage and it’s like I go into some weird, not-drug-related, trance. It would be easy to attribute that to their electronic beats but it’s the jazz elements that grip me. They take you on a real mind trip. They opened with “What Did I Do Wrong?” from their latest album Build and continued into a perfect “The Surf” as beach balls were tossed around the tent. I broke out of my trance long enough to climb to the second floor balcony of beach bar set up across the way where I could take in not only their incredible light show but also a view of the festival grounds, the pristine beach and serene waters. As Lotus moved from one song into the next, and people continued trickling into the festival, you could feel the anticipation and excitement growing. Lotus’ set list included: Greet the Mind>Umbilical Moonset>Greet the Mind>Massif, Marisol, Behind Midwest Storefronts, and Cannon in the Heavens, Spiritualize, and The Age of Inexperience.
Making my way down the road towards the “Letting Go Stage” for Railroad Earth, I noticed how streamlined everything was. In terms of logistics — space and organization — the shuttles, the entry lines, placement of port-a-potties and bars, even the uniform hangout-logo overhangs of the vendors’ tents, the Hangout continues to offer a more comfortable, easy-going feel for festivals-goers each year — the way a stroll down the beach, or even the beach road, should feel. And as the sun began to set and the Mega-drop, the Ferris wheel, and the giant “Hangout” beach ball were lighting up, the full magic of this beach festival began to come alive.
When Railroad Earth took the stage the sun had set and the small “field” in front of the stage was full of shiny, happy people ready for some kickin’ jamgrass which was delivered with the “Happy Song.” This was one of my favorite sets of the festival. I’m a huge fan of Railroad Earth, but this was my first time seeing them live, though I’m certain I’ve seen Tim Carbone before, his long gray-white hair whipping around his face as he shreds his fiddle bow. The first notes of “The Forecast,” brought cheers of recognition from the crowd. This group was definitely there to take in the music and the notes seemed to float off the stage passing blissfully over the waves of people dancing and swaying. The interplay between musician and audience was that almost mystical energy you could only feel, but standing close to the rail I noticed too how the band looked at the crowd. They didn’t just play to the crowd… looking into it, kinda looking at individuals, but not really. They actually look you right in the eye so you feel like they are playing just for you. It was incredible. “Untitled #12” brought more cheers from the audience as Carbone’s fiddle solo turned the space into a psychedelic hoedown. Ending their hour-long set with “Elko,” my friends and I looked at each other, almost pouting. It simply wasn’t enough.
I didn’t ask, but there were clearly no taper’s sections at this festival, and I’m quite certain that part of MTV’s deal with Hangout was to give them nearly exclusive recording access. As one of the festival-goers said, the whole festival seemed very “corporate.” No doubt everything was very controlled. But Thursday, there was no MTV, and at least one taper got in and recorded RRE and UM … so, so glad!
Between sets I wandered no further than to the lemonade stand as the bands changed. That’s right. Lemonade. Lots of sugar. No wine. I wanted to stay as clear as possible. I also passed on the Molly I was offered (as usual). No matter how insidious the security and police presence is, they really can’t stop substances from getting in and somehow that makes their searches that much more insidious. I only entered through the main gate once over the weekend, and though I’ve rarely been to a festival where they don’t at least check bags for weapons and alcohol (we get you want us to buy inside) but you can bet I protested when they started to open my wallet. Sure, beef up security because of the recent, tragic, incident in Boston. But do you really need to look in my wallet for what? A bomb? C’mon. I heard quite a few complaints about the overwhelming police presence and pat downs at the gates, especially young men with cargo shorts, as well as the surveillance teams set up on top of surrounding buildings. But once inside, the police presence at least wasn’t as noticeable — we still know you were there — and didn’t drag down the feel of the festival.
Although I could have listened to RRE for another hour quite happily, I love Umphrey’s McGee too. The crowd called out to them by name as they took to the stage, tossing out roses and then opening with an explosive “Bridgeless.” It was clear it was UM’s beach now. Brandon Bayliss called for a round of applause for bass player Ryan Stasik’s orange, black and turquoise checkered pants as they began “Slacker” which is always a great jam, especially with the Chicago “Saturday in the Park” tease. UM’s whole set had a great vibe to it. The crowd seemed bigger than last year, and more into it, but the set also seemed to offer a perfect ebb and flow between cool grooves and sizzling jams. You had to wonder if they too spent the day hanging out at the beach. Almost ironic for a cathartic set list that offered a purging of teen angst. They certainly got a huge response with favorite “In the Kitchen” especially at the lines “and I wanted to know if we’d all be burnt tomorrow.” Musically, there were no great surprises. They sounded incredible. The intricate, somewhat dark, “The Floor” was probably the best jam of the set but they just had an air of ease about them this night. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but then they explained: they had spent four days in the studio working on a new album… which drew heavy cheers … they were glad to be outside. They did, however, close out the night with a rare “Come As Your Kids” — a mashup of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are,” MGMT’s “Kids” and Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Right Round.” I wanted another set of UM. I bet they would have kept playing too, but all music had to be stopped by 11:00. Time to head home.
Friday – Day One
Since I’m kind of “local” I decided to drive home every night. Perhaps next year I’ll find a house to camp under. I know I miss part of the whole festival experience by not staying but it was nice to sleep in my own bed, see my dogs, and not have to do any packing. Parking was ample and the shuttles were running smooth with almost no wait to get on going either direction. Even better Hangout had us covered musically with local and regional favorites like Ryan Balthrop and Eric Erdman getting us in the groove. They made it easy to “get on the bus!”
Friday was perhaps the least “jammy” day though the lineup included sets from Toots and the Maytals, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Anders Osborne and Big Gigantic. Toots (Hibbert) took to the Chevrolet Stage, the slightly smaller of the two big beach stages, early in the day. Being the only reggae band, it made for a perfect “unofficial” kick-off to the festival. Digging my toes into the sand and slathering on the sunscreen, it was hard to not start craving pina coladas or daiquiris. His reggae takes on “Louie Louie” and John Denver’s “Country Roads,” were very cool, but it was hearing him do his songs “Sweet and Dandy” and then later “Funky Kingston” that were the biggest thrill for me as his voiced boomed out and everyone sang “Funky Funky Reggae” in call and response with him. He ended the song saying “I love you guys” and the crowd erupted!
I had Jim James of My Morning Jacket on my “must see” list. Looking quite dapper, if not beachy, in a suit and tie, and with his long mane whipping in the wind, he kicked off his set with “State of the Art – A.E.I.O.U.” from his new solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God. Most of his set consisted of new songs including “Know Til Now” which suited my lazy, chillin’ approach to the day. I loved that his bass player was a woman …. Something you don’t see often. And I found James’ weirdness interesting as he danced around with a gold something? What was that? It looked like one of those waving cats you see at Chinese restaurants. This made for a discussion with those around me. It’s a pig. No. It’s a teddy bear. No. Why is he dancing with that? Is this your first time seeing him? Yes. I’m sure I’m missing a story here. We came to no conclusion but as the set went on we did all agree, me and my new best festival friends, that James sounded fantastic, that we liked the new songs, that he is a gifted musician, the songs were intense and moving, but if he didn’t pick up the beat we were going to doze off in the sand. Perhaps a little too chilled for me… I needed food and I needed to get moving.
I did catch some of Grizzly Bear. I had no idea who they were. I began to feel as if I were the only one who didn’t as folks started filling the beach. And, unfortunately, not knowing them, I can’t tell you a single song they played. All I can say is these were four talented guys with a cool indie sound and they definitely will have me looking for them again. And from what I heard, both The Weeks and Ryan Bingham, playing at the same time, also had amazing shows. In fact, Bingham may have been more my thing. If only I were three people… I also spent some time Friday wandering about through the vendors that featured a lot of independent crafts people as well as a nice variety of goods — I still can’t believe I didn’t buy the owl guitar strap! — though I have to say my favorites were the John Lennon “Imagine” bus (not really a vendor I know) and the “Fantasy Face and Tattoo” booth with the guy that had “I’m sexy and I know it” on his back, and on his front, “Free Love” with an arrow pointing…um… down. Before I knew it, it was 6:30 … an hour until the next performer I wanted to see, and I still hadn’t eaten a thing…
I have very few complaints or criticisms about Hangout, but this is a big one for me: the food. First, there was a real lack of variety, and only two options for anything that might constitute local, or even regional cuisine. A shame considering some of the great restaurants in this area. In fact if you are willing to leave the festival, re-entry is permitted; there are some fantastic restaurants and fresh local seafood within a few blocks. But inside, the best option for that was the dining tent that offered, among other things, fresh oysters, which are great, but way over priced. Second, if you are on any kind of “special diet,” if you are a vegetarian or on some other restricted diet like me — I’m gluten-free — finding nourishment at a festival becomes challenging. Most festivals I’ve been to have at least one vegetarian vendor, and I can usually find others that are happy to work with me. I had a much harder time at this one. Some just couldn’t grasp what I was asking for: “give me everything you would put on that pita, but don’t put it in the pita. Just put it on the plate.” You wouldn’t think that would be hard, but apparently it was. What I got for $9 was about two tablespoons of wilted salad with a couple of curried…curried? … Chicken chunks. Later in the weekend, when I opted for cheeseburger without a bun, the hamburger, that had been sitting there for gosh knows how long was burnt, dry, and hard, but at least the vendor could assure me that nothing breaded was put in the same oil as the fries, but he didn’t give me enough to fill a stick figure. I did finally find a teriyaki chicken on a stick that was good and someone to give me enough fries to stop my whimpering. I can’t help but wonder if some of the choices for Hangout granting vendor licenses weren’t so that if you wanted “real food” you would have to go into either the overpriced dining tent or into the restaurant itself, which I also tried but there was a 45 minutes wait. And, of course, you can’t bring your own food into the festival. They wanted me to have a doctor’s note to bring in a gluten-free breakfast bar last year when I entered through the public gate. Food at the Hangout Festival is an issue.
This evening, I settled for fries at the bar in the restaurant and a glass of wine — Corin, the bartender was the best!! Give that woman a raise!! — While I waited for one of my favorites: Anders Osborne. Osborne played at the BMI stage, which was a small stage set in the courtyard area of the Hangout restaurant which Osborne had packed and overflowing with fans. I thought it interesting that they put him at this stage. He could certainly have filled the Letting Go stage, but the somewhat enclosed area made for a more intimate and powerful experience as this genius started his set with “Love is Takin Its Toll” and then burned through favorites “Burning on the Inside” and “Send me a Friend.” Everyone who crammed into this area was there to hear Anders, no one just waiting for the next band. Even better for me was watching all my friends arrive, or knowing, through texts, they were all in that crowd somewhere. As the sun set behind them, Anders, along with powerhouses, bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Eric Bolivar , filled that space with riveting, passionate jams, pushing and pulling each note, each beat, like they were daring the night to come on. The sound they create is so rich and full, it’s hard at times to believe you are listening to just three dudes. They closed their set… another one that was too short for me… with “Greasy Money” which they took into a slamming “On the Road to Charlie Parker.” I was hoping for a Grateful Dead cover, perhaps a “Franklin’s Tower,” especially since Osborne had been in California to play with Phil Lesh and Friends only a few days before (He also was there for a ramble at Terrapin Crossroads in April) but that cover never came. I did not feel cheated at all though and only whined for a moment at the end because I had to move on. I picked up my bag and slowly made my way out of the crowd to go hear the end of Big Gigantic’s set.
The first thing I noticed when I got to the Letting Go stage was not Big Gig antic’s light show, which was, I think, one of the best I’ve ever seen, or the throngs of kids jumping up and down, or even the festival poles, flags, glow sticks and led hoops, which seemed to find a home here more so than with any other performance excepting those at the Boom tent. Nope, the first thing I noticed was that the field was trashed! And I mean trashed! I’ve been to a lot of festivals and I know what post-show grounds can look like. This was probably the worst I’ve seen. You couldn’t take a step without crunching something. This was a complete change from the night before where folks were going out of their way to not only get to the garbage but also get to the correct recycling receptacle. Kudos to the Hangout cleanup crew for dealing with that mess. Just as I was trying to get over my disgust, and was cursing my decision to leave Osborne before the last note, I heard something amazing. Dominic Lalli started wailing on his sax. I hear Big Gigantic on the radio and it’s just there. This guy blew me away. Next time they come around, I may have to go see them and hope for a less “trashy” audience.
Saturday – Day Two
If Friday was chilled for me, Saturday had me back running. Those of us who were able to tear ourselves out of bed to get to the “early” shows were more than rewarded for our efforts. It started for me with Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Bluhm has definitely been getting more coverage and airplay lately, and I’ve been paying attention. With her slightly grainy vocals, and the bluesy-folk rock style, it’s easy to see why she is compared to Bonnie Raitt, though she sounded very much like Susan Tedeschi to me. In any event, the woman’s got some serious chops. This was my first time seeing her live, and I would tell anyone, if you get the chance, run, don’t walk, to go see her! Doing mostly originals, including “Little Too Late” and “Jet Plane,” she easily won over those in the crowd who had never heard her. A surprising cover of “Pack up Your Sorrows” (made popular by Peter, Paul, and Mary) had at least a few of us singing along and she and the whole band, tore it up on closer “Kill You to Call.”
Next it was off to see Bright Lights Social Hour at the Letting Go stage. This was another first live performance for me. The Austin, Texas band hit the stage dancing and jumping and had the crowd jumping right along in no time at all with the rock riffs over dance beats. They kept that energy going for a few songs and then went into some soulful rock ballads. I don’t really know their songs… yet… but I think this is a band I could really get into. I know they played “Back and Forth” though, and “Detroit.” They definitely have a unique sound as they blend genres, never letting you rest on any one. And their energy was infectious and made it hard not to dance even though the day was heating up.
From there, I raced over to the Hangout Stage for some Gov’t Mule! I still don’t know why they were so low (about midway) in the billing or even playing midday. By this time the sun had been baking the beach for hours and was still beating down on us. Probably the hottest set of the weekend… literally… as I watched the emergency crews helping dehydrated, heat-exhausted festies. Mule only turned that heat up! From “Bad Little Doggie” to “Lola Leave Your Light On” to “Inside Outside Woman Blues,” Warren Haynes and company were on fire. Between “Steppin’ Lightly” and “Broke Down on the Brazos” Haynes asks the crowd, “Are you all feeling good and nasty now? … We apologize for playing so many nasty songs.” The highlight of the set was a raw, chilling cover of Led Zepplin’s, “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” It was almost a bummer to follow that up with “Soulshine.” I have to say almost because I have never heard it live. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Warren Haynes with one band or another and I’ve never, never gotten a “Soulshine” until now. Ending with a scorching “Thorazine Shuffle >Mule,” I didn’t think anything could top that set… not even Tom Petty. It was definitely one of the best of the weekend.
But then, somebody did top it. The Black Crowes. It feels strange to write that. And I have to take it even further. This was probably THE best set of the festival. They were spot on the whole set. The tunes were perfect for the setting. The crowd, at least around me, was totally into it. And Chris Robinson… from the second he hit the stage was a ball of happy energy! He just looked like he was having the time of his life dancing, almost flying, around the stage, yet his soulful vocals were strong and controlled. Rich Robinson’s playing was crisp, then dirty, then crisp again, playing better than ever, and Jackie Greene is such a natural fit with this band. His playing style and his vocals blend with the Robinsons like he’s another brother. The band was just super tight this day. They started with “Twice as Hard” and proceed through popular songs “Sting Me” and “My Morning Song.” “She Talks to Angels” is always a favorite, making you feel like you’ve had some spiritual moment but their whole set had that feel to it. Fun, but uplifting, moving, and, Oh, to be the girl who caught Chris’s harmonica after he tore it up on “Thorn in My Pride.” As they closed it out with “Hard to Handle” >” Hush” > “Hard to Handle,” the crowd called out for more, but it was over and we just looked at each other knowingly. This was something special.
As sometimes happens at festivals, when you see such a phenomenal set… in this case two in a row, everything that comes after pales in comparison. I wanted to get into Slightly Stoopid, but I just couldn’t do it. And with Tom Petty still to come?
Sunday – Day Three
Sunday started with another “must-see” band and another top set of the festival: The Revivalists. I’ve been singing their praises since I first heard them. And while they are a great eye-opener, I promise you the early slots they are getting at festivals won’t last long. These guys ooze talent. I actually got to “see” them twice this day. They had a second set at the VIP Grove. I wasn’t allowed in, even with press credentials, but it didn’t matter. I could still get a semi-side-stage view and hear them just fine. This is the band that people can’t walk by without stopping to see. High energy is an understatement. The early set had lead singer David Shaw climbing the stage scaffolding! But it’s their music and their talent that grabs your attention. Even standing outside the VIP area, people stopped to listen; many hung out and danced, asking “who is this playing?” “Who are these guys?” That says a lot; when you can’t really see the band but you’d rather be there than go see anyone else. Opening the early set with “Catching Fireflies” they got the crowd fired up, especially the smoking saxophone solo of Rob Ingraham. But both sets were smoking hot, and the late set sit-in from Rebelution/ Brassft Punk saxophonist Khris Royal, was exhilarating. They are playing, well, just about every festival this summer. Don’t miss them!!
Perhaps the only time I had a huge conflict about who to see came Sunday afternoon with Galactic and Moon Taxi playing at the same time. Hangout really did work their scheduling out well, though in a few instances bands started at exactly the same time, making it more difficult to stage-hop. I was leaning towards Moon Taxi since I’ve seen Galactic a number of times recently, but with an interview scheduled close to the Chevrolet stage where Galactic was playing, and hopes of a David Shaw or Khris Royal sit-in, I decided to stay put. Galactic has been drawing huge crowds lately and deservedly so. Opening with “Karate” — pure instrumental funky Galactic — was like letting the horses out of the gate at the Kentucky Derby. The drums start laying down that funk and then the horns blast on in sending the crowd wild. Corey Glover then joined them on stage for “Let’s Do It Together” and led the party throughout the set. I have to say he was a bit screechy for me but still loads of fun. Highlights of the set included a cover of The Beatles “I Am the Walrus” and a sit-in with the vivacious Maggie Koerner from New Orleans on “ Hey Na Na,” For me, it was the “You Don’t Know” Jam and “Keep Steppin.’” I can’t get enough of the hot sax and bone of Ben Ellman and Corey Henry respectively.
And the Jams kept coming … after an opportunity to interview The Revivalists, I dashed over to the Letting Go Stage not wanting to miss a minute of moe. And arrived just in time to hear one of my favorites “St. Augustine” that went on for 10-min. I believe this was moe.’s first Hangout and the moe.rons (myself included) was stoked. Highlights? The whole set! Which was jamtastic … Letting out a huge “YEEHAW” they launched into a sizzling “It” and followed that with “Moth>She Sends Me>Moth.” With minimal lighting, no fog and no flair, this was just a down-to-earth fun moe. Set, the guys playing with big smiles, laid back and having a great time. They closed their set with a perfect choice of “Water” which also was where much of the crowd migrated towards to wait for Trey Anastasio Band at the Chevrolet Stage.
Talk about performers having fun… Trey, Trey, Trey! I say that like I know him personally, but isn’t that how he makes you feel? I made a poor attempt at taking some photographs of him from the photo pit. I started to snap away but then found myself just staring like a star struck teenager. There he was, smiling away, playing “Cayman Review” and looking right at me and all I could do was giggle. Silly girl! I tried to put my professional hat back on but I lost it somewhere amongst the phans in the front row, their arms outstretched, yelling not only for Trey but also “I love you” to Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman. When they launched into “Gotta Jibboo,” I gave up on photos. I had to get back out in the crowd, into the sand and dance! Highlights included covers of “Ooh Child” (Five Stairsteps), “The Devil Went down To Georgia” (Charlie Daniels Band) and “Clint Eastwood” (Gorillaz) and of course Phish tunes “First Tube” and “Simple Twist Up Dave.” But “Dark and Down,” “ Shine” and even “Let Me Lie,” saw Trey at some of his sharpest playing, sweet cool tones, and unanticipated riffs. “Push on til the Day” had Trey spinning and jumping like he was on the trampoline and the crowd joining him, kicking up sand everywhere! It’s a shame MTV didn’t show the encore, a riveting, raucous, “Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin) featuring the incredible pipes of Jennifer Hartswick. Trey then graciously turned the show over to Stevie Wonder saying” I hope you all are going over to see him. I know I’ll be there.”
No, this was not a “hippie festival.” This was not even a “jam band festival.” But this hippie / jam band fan wrapped up the weekend not feeling deprived at all! Til next summer… see ya at the beach!