Taken from The Mullet Wrapper (May 16, 2012)
Michael Franti’s place as Hangout hero is secure
by Fran Thompson
I have not asked event founder Shaul Zislin if there is a reason that Michael Franti is the only national artist that has been booked to play all three Hangout Festivals or why he and Spearhead will for the third straight year play a Sunday afternoon set. I wrote in 2010 that Franti’s show at the first festival, after the grounds were cleared during a thunderstorm and the gates were later opened to all, stole that initial fest. I also suggested that he should be invited back every year (a coincidence, I’m sure).
It was a weird time for us to say the least. We were the first major tourist area that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was going to hit. We knew 100 percent that it was coming. We just didn’t know when. I knew little about Franti other than he was willing to get political in his songs, his interviews, his life.
But instead of ranting and leading obscenity laced chants about BP as some of the other artists were doing, Franti said local merchants were hurting and asked the crowd to tell our pals to come down, stay at one of our hotels and go to a restaurant to "eat some shrimps and drink a few beers."
I became a fan for life at that moment. I’ve lived on these beaches since 1983. I didn’t need a visiting rocker to lead me in anti-BP chants before heading off to his next gig. I’m pretty sure I can speak for every other local in the crowd when I say Spearhead was the perfect band to lift our spirits. None of us knew exactly what we were facing. But we knew it was going to be bad. And it was.
There are still questions that remain to be answered about the longterm effects of those 4.9 million barrels of oil that spewed from the earth for 91 straight days.
But any questions about the ability of our two mayors and our business and civic leaders, including Shaul, to step up to the plate were answered in spades by the time the scaffolding came down following that initial fest.
Last year’s fest sold out two weeks before the event. This year, general admission tickets sold out two weeks after they went on sale. Numbers indicate we just had our best spring break ever. People are definitely coming back to "eat some shrimps and drink a few beers."