For me, the end of this past semester meant one thing: The Hangout Music Festival was finally here. This year’s festival, located in Gulf Shores, Alabama, looked promising with big time headliners like Mumford & Sons, Twenty One Pilots, and a late addition of Phoenix. The fest spread across the sandy beach and extended to a cement area just beyond the shore, which centered around a local restaurant and music venue. Just a short 12 and a half hour drive from Columbia, this three day festival was spread across seven different stages, featuring music ranging from pop to alternative to hip-hop.
Out of the dozen or so acts I was able to catch, one in particular stood out to me: they also happen to be a 2017 Roots N Blues N BBQ festival artist too, Band of Horses. After the departure of guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds, this was just their third show with their new composition. The newest additions included bassist Matt Gentling, who had previously toured with the band in 2007. It also featured guitarist Richie Kirkpatrick, who joined frontman Ben Bridwell, keyboardist Ryan Monroe, and drummer Creighton Barrett.
Slotted at 6:15 on Saturday, Band of Horses took the Hangout stage for a 75-minute set right on the Alabama sand. Their 14 song set kicked off with five off their first two albums, “Everything All The Time” and “Cease to Begin,” starting with “There A Ghost” off the latter. Their folk-rock sound echoed off the water and only paused for brief, humorous remarks from a very excited Bridwell in preparation for the next song.
Towards the middle of their set, both the crowd and the musicians began to notice the dark and ominous skies over the Gulf start. It was not long before they started to trickle down water, as the band cranked out Casual Party (my personal favorite song of theirs) off their latest album, “Why Are You OK.” While the rain was brief, it was just enough to take both the band and the crowd to the next level: according to one of my friends, you could hear the crowd belting out the words to one of their most popular songs,“No One’s Gonna Love You,” from across the festival.
The band continued with the theme of playing from their earliest two albums, closing the set with a song from the each of the two. The storm rumbled in the background as the sound of the piano echoed throughout “The General Specific,” broken only by the screams of excitement as Bridwell sang, “With a show of hands, who’s going back to the south?” But the highlight of the set came during the final and most well-known song by the band. While the buildup towards the chorus escalated, it wasn’t until the climax that the rain came pouring down on us in perfect synchronization.
As I took in the power of the lyrics, the beauty that the storm brought, and the look of happiness from fellow festival goers as they danced and sang every line, I realized that no moment at this festival could top the surrealness brought by mother nature’s timing. This was the second time I had seen Band of Horses, and this fall at Roots N Blues will mark my third time seeing this wonderful group. They say third time’s a charm, and I know that Band of Horses will find a way to make this next time even more incredible.