Weekend in Review: Hangout Fest

Hangout-Fest-1s Hands down music festivals are my favorite type of concert (well, except for the FREE concerts featuring an artist you actually like). You spend one chunk of money for multiple days of music. If we go way back to 1997, my first concert was also a festival, albeit it only lasted one day. My next few experiences with festivals was as an employee. For Jazz Fest and Essence Fest in New Orleans and then a few years later for Lollapalooza in Chicago.

When you work these festivals in the capacity I did, you often get backstage access, they feed you and you get to use real, flush toilets. Or at least the fancy portable toilets that also flush. So I am spoiled. But I digress. Last weekend I found myself in Gulf Shores, Alabama for the 5th annual Hangout Fest. What makes this music festival unique? It’s right on the beach. That’s right, three days where you really only need to wear a bathing suit and it’s not only acceptable to wear flip flops, it’s more or less expected. Actually the only time I had my shoes on was when I was walking from stage to stage and when I went to the bathroom.

This year’s closeout headliners were The Black Keys, The Killers and OutKast. Even though I just saw The Black Keys last year and Jazz Fest and I’m not the biggest Killers fan, I could not resist this festival once I saw that OutKast was playing. For a mere $250(ish) I saw 11 artists play in concert. Some I REALLY wanted to see (The Black Keys, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave., OutKast), some I casually wanted to see (The Killers, Teegan and Sara) and some that I wouldn’t have bothered to see even if the came to New Orleans (Capital Cities, The Avett Brothers, Modest Mouse) and ones that piqued my interest, but now I’m ready to spend money on their music (Bastille). The rest of the ones I saw, I felt like “oh hey, cool, they’re playing.” On average, I paid $22 to see each band perform. I can’t remember the last time I paid less than $25 to see a national touring artist.


Maybe one of the best parts of this festival being on the beach is that even with 40,000 in attendance each day, I never felt overwhelmed by the crowd. Granted, I never wanted to be up in the very front (the one drawback about going to a festival by yourself is that when you find The Perfect Spot, there’s one one to watch your stuff while you go pee or get food), but for Black Keys I was relatively close.

Something I will say I noticed a couple times (during Black Keys and Trombone Shorty specifically) were people getting just a little too close while trying to slip in in front of me. Listen, if I can run my fingers through your hair when I’m trying to raise my hands and clap, you’re too fucking close. I’m not saying I need a huge bubble during a concert because I realize where I’m at, but there should be more than a millimeter of space between me and you. Sort of on the same topic, it’s weird how people seem to gravitate toward each other. Not in a relationship/friendship kind of way, in a space kind of way. On Day 2, I plopped down to write some notes in the area of the main stage, but way far back and near absolutely no one and a few minutes later I hear a group of girls talking. I turn around to see how close they were and if I went to stretch,  I probably would have accidentally felt one of them up. What is that? I don’t get it. Here are some random notes I took in regards to the “fashions” seen at the festival:

  • WHAT ARE YOU WEARING? (I wish I had a picture of this outfit because I cannot remember it to describe it.)
  • Too many girls wearing high waisted jean shorts. Don’t they know this gives them front butt?
  • Saw quite a few people wearing boots and jeans. Definitely saw one guy wearing sneakers, pants and a long sleeve button down. It was in the 80s all weekend and I was hot just in my shorts/swimsuit.
  • Lots of white people not wearing sunscreen.
  • New rule: If your shorts are so short that I can see your butt cheeks, you need to go back inside and put on some pants because what you’re wearing is underwear.
Did I mention there were fireworks at the end every night? So awesome!
Did I mention there were fireworks at the end every night? So awesome!

There were a couple logistical things about the festival that I loved and hated. Being that the festival was on the beach, there were lots of lodging locations within walking distance of the location. And for those that were staying at locations that were beyond walking distance, there were shuttles. My main issue (and I do recognize that the onus might be on me for this one) is that it seemed like you HAD to get a shuttle pass if you weren’t in a hotel or condo within walking distance. For the price I paid for the shuttle ($60), I could have parked at a  local establishment and not had to worry about traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian, so close to the festival. This is something I will keep in mind for next year. Though I will give props to the festival for having the shuttles run continuously like they said. The longest I waited for a shuttle was at the end of Day 2 when an 18-wheeler was trying to get on to festival grounds (presumably for a Day 3 band load out) and ended up blocking shuttle traffic. Most of the shuttle drivers were friendly, but there was one cranky one that kicked some passengers off when I was waiting to get on! He then also complained about some slight route changes that had been made once we got up to the festival grounds.

Two things that can really make or break a festival’s reputation are availability of fresh water and bathrooms. This one was equipped with three (maybe more, but I definitely saw three) Camelback water stations. The water might not have been ice cold, but it was cool and free and the attendants were all very nice. You couldn’t bring any water bottles (i.e. a 1 liter of SmartWater) into the festival, but you were encouraged to bring your Camelbak or other refillable container. The port-o-potties weren’t too bad. The first day, I made my way to the central location that had the most units and the line was kinda long, but the wait wasn’t terrible. Of course, there was no toilet paper and very little hand sanitizer by that time in the day and I had inadvertently forgotten mine back at the condo. Rookie mistake! Upon my return for days 2 and 3 the units had been cleaned and stocked with toilet paper and more hand sanitizer. And I even remembered my own! My one potty/water gripe is that on the west end of the festival the restrooms and water station were right across from each other. As the west end was where the main stage was located, this created a bit of a clusterfuck immediately after a main stage set ended. People needed to pee, people needed water and people needed to head to other stages. I hope this is something they examine and change for next year.

Hangout Fest marriage Another aspect of the festival that I thought was cool was that there was a wedding chapel. I saw two people get married on Sunday! Best and cheapest wedding ever. I didn’t spend much time on the east end of the festival (where the chapel was), but there were at least two weddings during the weekend (the one I saw, plus I saw pictures of another on Instagram). I’ll leave you with one last story from the weekend before I go. I had my Brave cap on most of the weekend in an effort to combat the sun. While leaving the Trombone Shorty set to head back toward the main area so I could pee and get some food, I was confronted by a girl.

“You! You! You!,” she shouted while pointing at me.
“Me?” I asked, so confused because I don’t know her.
“Yeah, you! Fuck the Braves!”
“Fuck the Braves?”
“Yeah, fuck the Braves! Go Cubs!”

Now mind you, I was in Gulf Shoes, Alabama and there were MANY other festival patrons wearing Braves gear. I just didn’t understand why she called me out. Sotally tober, I bet she was. Even going solo, Hangout Fest was such a great experience and a great value for the price of the ticket and the number of bands I saw. I can’t wait to get back next year! MTV is starting to post some of the performances from the festival on hangout.mtv.com. You should definitely check them out. All pictures courtesy of MattBlerg.

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