Written by Michael Talavera
Location, location, location. I cannot stress this detail enough when helping people decide on their next festival. This was my second visit to Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and while the lineup is incredible every year, what makes this festival unique is the beauty of seeing your favorite acts on the beach with your toes in the sand and a drink in hand. Great food, amusement park rides, tropical drinks, sandy dance parties, a dip in the ocean, and a diverse and talented lineup…there really is nothing like it. The following is a collection of highlights and tips for those thinking about making the trip next year. Enjoy!
Hangout Festival Quick Facts:
Camping: No, but there are some parks nearby you can camp at. I spoke to a few people that did this, so it’s definitely possible if you’re really looking to save some money.
Capacity: Medium – about 40,000 attendees per day
Crowd Type: College Kids / Middle-Aged Go-Hards
Music Genres: EDM, Trap, Pop, Indie, Alternative, Hip Hop, Reggae
How To Get There
One obstacle of note is deciding how to get from your condo/campsite to the festival. If you’re staying close enough, I highly suggest renting a bike or walking. You can find yourself stuck in a parking lot for up to two hours if you’re among the last half of attendees to leave. If you decide to park in a lot, try and negotiate with one of the kind homeowners and work out a weekend price as opposed to a daily rate. Make sure to have an exit route planned and, if possible, beat as many people to the exit as you can. We learned this lesson the hard way on Friday, what could have taken ten minutes ended up taking two hours!
Where To Stay
Grab a condo! Gulf Shores is a popular tourist spot for beach getaways (I, for one, did not know Alabama even had such beautiful beaches before Hangout) and the amount of rentals available are endless. Split the condo with your friends and enjoy the comfort. Worth. Every. Penny.
The festival has countless choices when it comes to cuisine, but since the fest is on the beach, your best bet is to take advantage of the many seafood options. If you’re really looking to treat yourself, go for gold and grab a seat at the Hangout restaurant near the Mermaid Stage—this offers a truly refreshing break from the sun. Water refills are absolutely crucial, and I found the most convenient station to be that located next to the Boom Boom Tent. Bathroom breaks and water refills could be accomplished in the same trip while catching an artist at the Tent.
The two huge main stages at Hangout are set up right in the sand, which really rounds out the festival’s unique beach vibe. Other stages include the aforementioned Mermaid Stage, which almost functioned as its own standalone party: foam machine, private bars, proximity to the Hangout restaurant, and isolation from the rest of the festival made this stage an entity unto itself worth your time in exploration. The Boom Boom Tent catered to our electronic needs all weekend; we spent a lots of happy times there fist pumping and head banging.
Artists You May Not Have Heard of But Can’t Miss
The Thursday Pre Party was crucial, and Moon Taxi’s Rage Against the Machine cover performance got the weekend off to an amazing start. Seeing People of the Sun, Baauer, and Matt and Kim only got me more excited for the rest of the weekend, and the whole pre party experience was a great way to catch a sneak peek of the venue. Moon Taxi, Alison Wonderland, Alabama Shakes, The Weeknd, and especially Snails get my special shout-outs for Friday.
A surprise performance by Panic! At the Disco brought on full-force nostalgia on Saturday. Lead vocalist Brendon Urie mentioned having never performed on such a large stage to such a large crowd, and you could definitely feel the emotion bleeding through the microphone. Portugal. The Man, Cage the Elephant, and Hippie Sabotage earn my honorable mentions for the day.
Sunday seemed to be girl power day, and I was all for it. Grimes was the weirdest show in the most incredible way possible. Inflatable cockroaches soared over the crowd while she, accompanied by two dancers and a second singer/musician, put on a performance unlike any other. Ellie Goulding continued the trend with a stellar performance on the Surf Stage, fueled by the admiration of so many fans.
The golden ticket of Sunday was Florence + the Machine’s closing set. I never would have predicted her set to be my favorite of the weekend, but alas, surprise is a beautiful thing. Between inspiring speeches about love—spoken with her inherently charming English accent—and being continuously amazed at her ability to hit those emotional high notes… I was speechless. Her billowing blue dress made her look as though she had just stepped off the sunken Titanic and straight into our hearts, ethereal and otherworldly as she danced back and forth across the stage.
Things To Do
Bring a hammock along for convenient nap-taking when dancing in the sun and sand wears you out. Several amusement park rides are also available for non-music related activities, and the slip’n’slide was a great way to catch some thrills while cooling down. The ocean was even accessible in certain areas of the beach for those looking for a saltwater fix.
Why Go VIP
This one is incredibly important and I am NOT upselling this detail on behalf of the Hangout. In all of my festival experience, I have NEVER seen a festival take care of it’s VIP as well as the Hangout team does. This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill raised viewing areas and private cash bar VIP experience. I’m talking free beer and a pool party right next to main stage all weekend long. I only got a sneak peak at the VIP Grove, but the free food, drinks, and places to nap and relax looked top notch. If you’re feeling extra bold, you can reach even higher for the Super VIP. Those lucky few were treated like Kings and Queens with golf cart transportation right up to their air-conditioned dining room with gourmet food and hot tubs to enjoy the Main Stage acts from. Seriously, do yourself a favor and try the VIP lifestyle.
What Makes the Festival Different
Hangout’s organizers know how to show that they truly care for their patrons. The first official day of the festival got off to a rocky start thanks to a torrential downpour, leading to delays that made us concerned about missing some of the earlier acts. A huge shout out to the Hangout team for handling unfortunate circumstances like champs…I can only imagine the amount of logistical challenges that went into pulling off Friday as well as they did. When the rain finally stopped around 1pm, people began to complain and wonder why the gates weren’t opening. But, gates were open by 3pm, and an updated schedule alert included every act set to perform that day!
The following day was met with another logistical challenge when a unfortunate car accident involving Calvin Harris forced the artist to cancel his performance. But, Hangout came to the rescue again and brought attendees a top-notch performance by Panic! At the Disco (see Artists You May Not Have Heard of But Can’t Miss for more on this).
Prepare yourself! Hopefully you’ve caught on to this idea by now, but sunscreen and water are the two most important things for Hangout. Dehydration is not cool. Looking like a lobster on the second day is also not cool. Take care of yourself and your friends. That’s cool.
With a fireworks finale, Hangout sent us home humming “Sweet Home Alabama” and reminiscing over a perfect weekend. I’m already counting down the days to my third visit to Gulf Shores. With any luck, it will be one of many, many more.