Hangout Festival Friday: Brandi Carlile, Grace Potter, My Morning Jacket

The Hangout Festival 2011. Photos by Jamie Younger.

“I don’t know many festivals where you can come out and play a ballad in the middle of the day and have it feel that good,” Brandi Carlile said during her set Friday at the Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Carlile played the first time slot , delivering a wide-ranging set that even featured a cover of “Forever Young.” Not the Bob Dylan song, mind you, but the one from ‘80s German synthpop group “Alphaville.” Carlile, who is approaching 30, said the song had been on her mind of late.

“Forever Young” set the tone for the day, to be sure, as more than 35,000 packed the beaches of Gulf Shores, drank tall boys, shed some clothing, and took in an array of impressive acts that ranged from bluegrass to rock to electonic fusion. The oil spill that encroached upon the shores during last year’s festival seemed but a distant memory.

By the time Grace Pottter And The Nocturnals took the stage at 4:30 it felt like the festival grounds had reached capacity, and negotiating the crowds became an issue. Potter, who played Hangout last year, called the scene from the stage “too beautiful for words.” Wearing a gold mini skit and diaphanous top, Potter sashayed around the stage, trading off on guitar and piano, at one point serving up a cover of Heart’s “Crazy On You.”

Beats Antique

Jon Black, a Birmingham singer-songwriter who also played Hangout last year, said the festival seemed like a much bigger beast this go-around.“People know about it now. It’s not a hidden gem and it’s not a hidden secret. This is a full-on force.”

One of the more popular areas was The Boom-Boom, a tented side stage  that hosted electronic acts Beats Antique and Bassnectar on Friday. When Beats Antique took the stage, the tent took on an almost tribal air, as the hula hoops came out and the barely-clad gyrated to belly dance techno.

My Morning Jacket played the penultimate slot, mixing tunes off the new album “Circuital” with old favorites. It was the first big show the band had played in anticipation of the new album which drops May 31. “It feels good to climb back onto the horse with ya’ll tonight,” Jim James said.