The Hangout Festival 2013: Review & Photos

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith tickets purchased, bags packed, and camping equipment all ready to go, nothing was going to stop crew from making the long drive to the beautiful white sandy beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama for our first visit to The Hangout Festival, May 18th – 20th. Well, except for some car trouble that delayed us a few hours, followed by a hefty speeding ticket. We were determined to make the best of the experience ahead of us. I’ll say first that the Festival well exceeded my expectations in almost every category I could think of and was well worth every dollar spent.

Arriving for the Thursday kick-off party, we (myself + photographer) randomly ran into Todd Sheaffer of Railroad Earth (we were introduced to the band at Music on the Mountaintop last year) and chatted with him for a few minutes. After catching up, we quickly made our way to the Boom Boom tent to catch Lotus as part of the pre-Fest event. Lotus was a crowd pleaser and really got the festival in full gear for the bands that followed.  The crew quickly moved to the Letting Go Stage to see sets from Railroad Earth, followed by Umphrey’s McGee.  We couldn’t have asked for a better way to start our weekend on the beach. The Gulf Shores area and venue setup gave the Festival an incredibly cheerful and lively atmosphere and is truly a one-of-a-kind layout. Whether on top of the Ferris wheel, lounging in the sand, or catching a break from the sun at a beachside bar, the energy of the place was untiring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Friday, we were sunburnt and slightly hungover, but ready for a piece of the action. The setup of the festival was very well planned, with a street of food and drink tents running in between the four stage areas.  An extremely large open beach area, where the main two stages were located, created a spacious and comfortable area for people to lounge around. The great thing about this festival was the difference in areas and places you could escape to, nothing looked the same. You could be checking out food vendors on the street, sitting on the beach, dancing at one of the stages, drinking frozen margaritas at the bar, or even sliding down the water slide. You can’t have a festival on the beach without seafood, so we made more than a few stops for the different types of shrimp offered. Highlights from Friday included a beautiful set from Jim James,  sets from Ryan Bingham, Big Gigantic, The Shins, and to end the night right, Kings of Leon. A few of the fans we spoke to actually said they drove three days from Montana to see Kings of Leon perform at Hangout.

As the sun rose on Saturday and awoke us from the tent, the realization of “This is just the second day. This is wonderful” sunk in. The shuttle service that The Hangout offered with a purchased shuttle passes made for an extraordinarily convenient solution to the chaos that festival typically breed. We managed to make stops at Dirty Projectors, Gov’t Mule, The Roots, The Black Crowes, Kendrick Lamar, Slightly Stoopid, and legends Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Each night of the festival was concluded with an awing fireworks show lighting up the beach. The magnificent firework display was a throughly enjoyed addition.

The last day crept up quickly, as did the inconvenient truth that this was the last day and we would be leaving Gulf Shores in a matter of hours. Sunday started with some Moon Taxi, before moving on to Ellie Goulding, Porter Robinson, Moe., Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Trey Anastasio band, and Stevie Wonder. As the day drew to a closing, Trey Anastasio and his band began to a lengthy set of songs that included covers of “O-oh Child”, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, “Clint Eastwood”, “Small Axe”, and an encore of “Black Dog”.

So, as I sit here writing, sunburnt and deprived of sleep, I look back on our weekend at The Hangout Fest as one of the most memorable yet. Gulf Shores, we’ll see you next year. Featured Hangout 2013 Artist InterviewsThe Sheepdogs / The Weeks

Words by Hinson Hays – Photos by Ilona Hartwig