After driving across the country to experience one of the greatest festival lineups of the year, the smell of the ocean tickled my nose with excitement as our car approached the heart of Gulf Shores, Alabama, where the Hangout Music Fest awaited thousands of music lovers from all over the world. The Hangout granted patrons 4 days of music, white sandy beaches, and tastes of the sea that could only be found in the Gulf of Mexico. Arriving early for their famous Thursday Kickoff Party was a huge bonus because it offered fans another full day of music and fun to start things off properly.
Big names in the festival circuit like Umphrey’s McGee, Dillon Francis, Conspirator, Lotus, and Railroad Earth, partook in Thursday night festivities with a smorgasbord of other acts raging on two stages, for festival-goers who were lucky enough to get off an extra day. Each act that played made sure people we’re smiling ear to ear because they showed up a day early to party. Marc Brownstein of Conspirator (and formally of The Disco Biscuits) voiced his appreciation to those who attended early and yelled to the crowd, ‘we (Conspirator) love to come out and play early for an extra night of the celebration!’
As Friday rolled in, so did roughly 35,000 more attendees who showed up to fill the streets of Alabama’s Hangout. With the sun beating down and as cool breeze whisked through, the atmosphere felt euphoric. On top of the music and perfect weather conditions, the freshest seafood from the South had people swarming the vendor spaces and restaurants. Oysters, shrimp, crab, and even gator were caught days before and served up by legendary chefs affiliated with Alabama Gulf Seafood, put smiles on the faces of patrons with every bite.
Several acts during the day set the mood for the entire weekend. The sounds of Lance Herbstrong kicked things off bright and early, while Twenty One Pilots shocked onlookers by playing on platforms held above the heads of brave members in the crowd. As the day went on, so did killer performances; including one from world renowned DJ and producer, AfroJack, who took the stage and played an intense electronic set in the Boom Boom Tent that could be heard clear to the BMI Stage. Although some DJs played early on, the electronic pulse kept energy levels high for people going stage to stage; it also offered some nice shade from the hot sun. Another act that set the bar for the weekend was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who wowed fans by playing their most popular tracks to close out the Boom Boom Tent for the evening. Macklemore was even spotted mounting an inflatable Killer Whale and riding it across the crowd as attendees carried him high in the air.
As night began to fall the lights of amusement rides filled the skies for miles to see. After phenomenal performances from The Shins, The Weeks, Big Gigantic, Passion Pit, and array of other Hangout artists, one of the festival’s main attractions, Kings Of Leon, took the stage to end Friday on a high note. From old favorites to some of their most recent tracks, the group rocked the beach with sing along after sing along. It truly seemed like everybody felt like they were the biggest Kings Of Leon fan in the crowd that night.
When the music came to a close each night, festival-goers took to the streets of the Hangout and the beaches that lined the venue and hotel strip, while stopping at nothing to make their time in the musical paradise unforgettable. Partying into the wee hours of the morning seemed to be a must for attendees, as many people were spotted strolling back to their living quarters during the beautiful sunrise that reflected off the ocean’s surface each day.
Time flew by on the beach as the official weekend began, and for those who couldn’t attend the event, MTV made sure everyone felt like they were on-site by broadcasting daily coverage for people to see across the world. Vinny Gaudagnino from MTV’s famous reality show, Jersey Shore, made his presence felt by hanging out with attendees and photo-bombing groups of people who were taking pictures to cherish the moment. The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus stood out by offering the opportunity to participate in live recordings on the bus, and by informing guests about their mission to spread creative awareness of music around the world. Yoko Ono got wind of the operation years back and decided that her late lover, John Lennon, would be in full support of the bus’s ambitions. Now, the bus is set to be rolling across countries in every continent. So keep your eyes pealed because it won’t be long till you get your chance to participate in such a noble cause aboard the “Lennon Bus.”
Saturday was filled with acts that kept the vibes flowing with good tunes and good memories. Performances from the likes of The Roots, Slightly Stoopid, The Black Crowes, and a plethora more of outrageous entertainment kept excitement vibing until nightfall. Perhaps one of the most exciting shows (and certainly the loudest) was Bassnectar’s performance on the Chevrolet Stage that night. The bass from his speakers roared across the crowd and made the cores of everyone on the entire beach vibrate with authority. Playing a mix of originals and covers like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by The Beatles, Loren (aka Bassnectar) served the crowd with a heavy dose of the bass that they’ve been craving all winter long. After those strutted away from Bassnectar, the air was filled with anticipation to see the legendary group Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers play for masses. Another sing along concert that could be heard across the breezy skies of the Alabama shoreline.
By the time Sunday came around, people were eager to spend their final day in the sand listening to as much music as possible before they had to leave the musical paradise for the real world the next day. Baauer proceeded to shake things up in the early afternoon by unleashing his worldwide hit “Harlem Shake” on the crowd. The electronic presence continued to run strong, as Steve Aoki stopped at nothing to deliver one of the most memorable performances the Boom Boom Tent had hosted over the course of the entire weekend. He stood out by Spraying those in the front row with champagne from a bottle rigged with a GoPro, and setting sail a blowup raft above the crowd. The extraordinary talent of the young Porter Robinson played a remarkable set while portraying his influence from the “gaming world” to the crowd by showing visuals from old-school video games on his LED light-board.
People spread throughout the extraordinarily large venue to take advantage of the sites one last time. Those also turned to rare vendor experiences that offered amazing food and unique festival-wear that flourished throughout the Hangout over the weekend. Rides were packed as attendees tried to get their last glimpse of the breathtaking setup from views from above. Huge names in the industry like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Trey Anastasio Band, Ellie Goulding, and Imagine Dragons, flooded the main stages to keep the music going until Stevie Wonder took the Hangout Stage to say farewell to an amazing weekend.
Stevie’s performance was filled with emotion as he spoke to the crowd in between his iconic songs. Emotion ran so high in fact, that Stevie shed a tear after mentioning thoughts he had on gun control and acknowledging that he has lost relatives from gun violence in the past. He also pointed out how much it meant to him to be playing in front of the thousands that gathered to celebrate this monumental experience together. Onlookers seemed truly moved by his timeless music and his words that were spoken directly from the heart. Fans were blessed enough to witness this moment in music history. It will be hard to forget Stevie’s closing performance on the final night at the Hangout.
The fourth annual Hangout Music Fest was the biggest success the festival creators have had yet, and next year is sure to be nothing short of being amazing. With a festival offering the best music, a flawless location, the tantalizing food, and the welcoming vibes, festival-goers could not ask for more. Like every chapter of the Hangout, next year should be even more over the top than the previous. So if you didn’t get a chance to come hangout on the sandy beaches with your closest friends this year, plan on doing it big next year as the Hangout Music Fest takes over the beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, for yet another unforgettable journey in festival history.