Year in Review

Chafing 101: Rocks Off's 2011 Music Festival Odyssey

Music festivals are now a part of our lives, just like deadlines, angry commenters, lack of sleep, and eye fatigue. And eating at our desk. That sucks. But at least we have food and a desk, right?

Rocks Off ventured all over the state -- OK, really mostly Austin -- to cover festivals for the blog. Hell, I even went to Gulf Shores, Alabama to see the Foo Fighters and Paul Simon, and masked it by taking pictures of southern girls in bikinis so it wasn't really a vacation per se. Um, it was research. For BestFest. Yeah.

The Main Street Block Party

Around 9 p.m. Saturday, Rocks Off was walking out of Tacos A Go-Go and ran into Main Street Block Party organizer Eric Dean on the corner in front of the Continental Club, and he told us he had just broken even. This was before any of the evening's real main events, and by about 10 p.m. the wristband line stretched outside the Mink all the way past the entrance of the Big Top.

Besides the inevitable delays and a few instances of scheduling three-card monte, everything seemed to go pretty smoothly Saturday. The only real question was whether or not the indie-heavy lineup could pack the Continental.

Unfortunately for bands like Baton Rouge's teeth-gnashing Twin Killers, it didn't look like it early on, but the club began filling up around the time CC regulars the Small Sounds opened with a lovely Waterboys-esque tune, and was wall to wall for keyboard-heavy Austin New Wavers The Black & White Years and Houston's own Ton Tons.

All in all, Rocks Off would say Dean's little midwinter experiment has to be counted a success, especially for a first-time festival with no clear headliner. -- CHRIS GRAY

South By Southwest 2011

This SXSW wasn't a pretty one by any means, with a camera boom falling on fans at Stubb's before Orchestral Manoeuvers In the Dark, Ben Weasel lashing out physically at unruly fans, the Death From Above 1979 police party, and the massive crowds seemingly dwarfing the numbers from the past few years.

Add to that Rebecca Black, the super-moon in the sky, and the UN allies bombing Libya, and it was a virtual pop-culture maelstrom.

But aside from the mace, Kanye West, and the harried SXSW staff, this wasn't a bad year for music at all. We found ourselves wide-eyed and grinning every night in front of one or two artists, thankful to be in the right place at the right time. Here are our ten favorite things we saw last week.

Honorable mentions go out to the Black Angels, Buxton, and especially Billy Gibbons for showing up to the Rachael Ray Feedback party and playing Elmore James' "Dust My Broom" with a bottle of his own BFG hot sauce in his back pants pocket. -- CRAIG HLAVATY

The Hangout Festival (Gulf Shores, Alabama)

Imagine the Austin City Limits Music Festival or even the rapidly approaching Free Press Summer Fest on pure, white sand just feet away from a (variably) blue ocean, or as Thurgood Jenkins from Half Baked would say, "Right near da beach. Boy-eeee!"

The Hangout Music Festival is located at Gulf Shores, Ala., on the shores of the Gulf Of Mexico, in the sleepy resort town of just a few thousand people, and mere miles east of Mobile. This year's edition of the three-day festival was just the second in its history. In a crowded crop of music festivals, Hangout is actually the biggest in its habitat, meaning it can cater to masses starved for big-budget sweaty spectacles.

With a lineup including Motorhead, Paul Simon, Foo Fighters, Flaming Lips, My Morning Jacket, Widespread Panic, The Black Keys and Primus, among others, the second year was more than enough to compete with the established big boys in the festival industry.

Having a festival on sand is a welcome change from grass and hard ground, but a challenge for fans and those working the event. Getting from one main stage to the other in time to shoot a band was an exercise in agility and endurance, but something we needed anyway. -- CRAIG HLAVATY

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty