Towards the end of the Shins' Hangout Music Festival set, lead Shin James Mercer came clean with the Gulf Shores crowd. Sort of. "I was walking on the beach earlier today, and I stepped on a seashell," he said. "It broke. I'll send you a seashell."
That was one of many wry comments from Mercer, who is usually happy to just run through his songs without a word to the crowd. Tonight's set was different -- maybe it was the white sandy beach setting of Gulf Shores, Alabama. Mercer did, in fact, dedicate "Bait and Switch" to "whoever invented the bikini." Or maybe it was the moment he successfully dodged a kite that came dangerously close to his head while in the middle of "Australia." Or maybe he was feeling jazzed after recruiting singer-songwriter Jessie Baylin to help the band out on backing vocals for "Simple Song" and "It's Only Life." (Baylin's husband, Nathan Followill, headlined with his band Kings of Leon across the beach after the Shins.) Whatever the reason, the crowd ate up the band's 18-song super-sized set.
Over the years, Mercer's taken the band's peppy indie-rock and twisted it into something more psychedelic and country-infused. Their Hangout set continued this trend, with a handful of spacey song intros on "Kissing the Lipless" and their classic ballad, "New Slang," which trickled out of an eerie ending to "Port of Morrow." Other set highlights included the Port of Morrow opener "The Rifle Spiral," which segued into a rather choppy version of "Caring is Creepy," a haunting version of "Saint Simon" and set-closer "One by One All Day."
This set caps an interesting week for the band, as they once again found one of their songs tied to a pivotal film moment (the first one being their association with the Zach Braff flick, Garden State). "Simple Song" was on the season finale of How I Met Your Mother, during the final scene in which "the mother" was finally revealed.
The Shins are on tour for the rest of May, bringing Ra Ra Riot along for the ride. Hangout Music Fest continues throughout the weekend with performances by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kendrick Lamar, Dirty Projectors, Holy Ghost! and more.