From April to June, I am embarking on an 11-week, 11-music festival trip across the United States, beginning with Coachella and ending in Pasadena at Arroyo Seco. The sixth stop on the trip was Gulf Shores beach fest Hangout. Here is how my trip went.
HANGOUT FEST (GULF SHORES, ALA.)
THURSDAY, MAY 18
This was going to be my third straight year doing Hangout — the beach-side Alabama fest. My first year there, 2015, I found a place to stay on the Reddit page for Hangout and ended up in a condo walking distance from the fest with 7 total strangers, all who ended up being pretty cool. I made a couple friends at the actual fest — one of them my friend Brittany who I’ve stayed really good friends with. She did Coachella with us last year — it’s her sister Brooke who I camped with at Coachella weekend one this year. I came into NOLA on Wednesday via Greyhound (10 hours), getting there around 9 AM or so. I was going to ride out to Hangout with them Thursday afternoon.
I had a place to stay for Hangout that fell apart last minute, but Brittany’s boyfriend Tommy was able to put me in touch with some of his friends who had a place a couple miles from the fest. So for $130, I had a top bunk in a house with 23 or so other people, none of which I had ever met. In fact, getting into NOLA on Wednesday morning was the first time I met Tommy, who is a cool fucking dude. Brittany was working Wednesday, so we just hung out and watched some movies and grabbed sandwiches at Butcher, so delicious. We kept it pretty low-key and then Thursday went and grabbed some sandals for the beach and a quick bite before getting on the road.
Hangout always does a Thursday pre-party that isn’t technically part of the fest — you need a separate ticket to attend. I was covering as media for QRO Mag, so I was able to go for free. I got dropped off at the house I was staying at and met most of the people who were staying there for the weekend. Almost all of them were from NOLA, some of them were pretty bro-y (I mentioned in my Best + Worst post that Hangout was Brochella), but they were all pretty nice and super welcoming to me even though none of them knew who the fuck I am.
I took a ride with a couple of the peeps down to the fest to pick up my wristband and check out the pre-party. I caught the end of Cherub, then went over to DJ Jazzy Jeff‘s set. Over there, I saw a dude freaking out that HAD to be on bath salts. I mean, the guy was making all sorts of weird faces and dancing suggestively at 60-year-old women, grabbing his junk and shit. It was really weird. Afterwards, I went to catch whoever the DJ was at the Mermaid Stage before heading over to the Boom Boom Tent to see Migos, who were closing the pre-party.
Over there, I bumped into a dude wearing a Mac Dre shirt. If you’re unfamiliar, Mac Dre is a rap legend from the Bay Area in California where I’m from. I asked if he was from the Bay and it turns out this dude and all his friends came to Hangout from fucking San Jose. Hangout is truly becoming a destination fest and isn’t just kids from nearby. I ended up hanging with this dude Marc and his friends the rest of the night. They were all pretty cool and I got his info, but am bummed we didn’t really get a chance to kick it the rest of the weekend. Migos was a lot more fun than I anticipated, but it was probably because I had good company. Afterwards, I walked the two miles back since the shuttles weren’t running Thursday. I went to sleep on the early side since it was going to be a long weekend.
FRIDAY, MAY 19
Woke up before 10 AM and ate some microwaveable sausage and then helped one of the dudes get a bucket for a keg that they had got. For 10 bucks, I was able to drink beer all weekend, pretty good deal. I took the shuttle down to the fest in time to meet up with my friend Hanna + Ashton (who I met at Middlelands) and their Lake Charles crew for Cash Cash. I watched about half that set before leaving to see some of Charli XCX on the main stage. The last time I saw her, it was a #30DaysInLA gig and I’m pretty sure she was lip syncing. This time, she was actually singing. The media pass for Hangout allows you access to the VIP areas, so I watched from the VIP pit. Honestly, of all the fests I’ve been to, I think Hangout has the best VIP perks. They have two pools in the damn sand in the VIP pit at main stage, and free beer (Bud Lite and Stella cider), and a VIP grove with liquor. I also went into the media area and met up with Don, a dude who stayed at the Dohm campgrounds at Middlelands also.
Afterwards, I met up with Brittany and Tommy at Foreign Air on the small BMI stage. I had seen them the previous weekend at Shaky Knees. They have a couple good songs but otherwise I found them pretty average. I chatted with a couple people who were sitting down and shared my weed vape. It’s funny how people in the south are mindboggled by these things, because on the West Coast you see them everywhere. Afterwards, we went and watched Mac DeMarco from far back on the Beach Stage. I’m a little exhausted by the guy, I think he tries a little too hard to be funny, but I enjoyed his set more than I thought I would.
Afterwards, we went to A$AP Ferg for a bit at the Boom Boom Tent, which got packed even though we were there 15 minutes or so early. I watched about half that set before dipping out to go see some of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. I love Andrew McMahon and he always gives a really spirited performance, but he played pretty much only new material I was unfamiliar with to start his set, so I bounced to see some of MGMT.
I’d been told MGMT are not very good live, and I finally confirmed it for myself. These guys just sort of act like they don’t really give a shit on stage and their stage banter is super awkward and cringeworthy. Their hits sounded alright, but overall it just didn’t translate for me. Afterwards, I went over to see Weezer on the Beach Stage. This was one of my favorite sets of the whole weekend. I bumped into some kids from Ohio, and this girl told me they got pulled over on the way to Hangout and she had to eat her joints before the cops walked up to her car, so I shared my vape. Weezer ran through all their hits and even dropped a brief unexpected cover of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”, which was funny. Nostalgia is a helluva drug, and singing “Say It Ain’t So” and “Buddy Holly” with complete strangers was one of the highlights of Hangout.
Afterwards, I went and met up with Brittany and Tommy at Dillon Francis. I had seen Phoenix the previous weekend and didn’t need to see them back-to-back. We got a pretty solid spot just outside the tent on one of the corners where you could hear pretty well and see the screen, and you had room to dance (so much room for activities!). I put this really short girl on my shoulders during part of the set for like two full songs and when I put her down she was all, “Oh, was I getting too heavy?” Like nah, but you were up there a pretty good amount of time. Everyone around us was pretty cool and we all did a good job at keeping people from moving in front of us where there was no room. This one girl got on one of the pillars and danced with security pretty suggestively, which was hilarious. She told Brittany and Tommy the next day she was blacked out and didn’t remember any of it. Overall, it was a pretty solid set and a good way to close day one. Nabbed the shuttle immediately and went back, smoked a joint, and passed out.
SATURDAY, MAY 20
The weather was forecast to be pretty terrible all weekend, but for the most part we dodged a bullet. We got through Friday without issue, but Saturday had potential to be the worst. After drinking a few beers and eating some breakfast, I went down in time to catch part of Mondo Cozmo. They did a killer job covering The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”, and even sang a little bit of “Fell on Black Days” in remembrance of Chris Cornell. Then I went and caught some of MUTEMATH, who really surprised me how fun they were. The lead singer brought out his young daughter, who dropped some fun dance moves and sang a little bit. They also did a bit of a tribute to Cornell, as he sang a little bit of “Black Hole Sun” near the end.
Afterwars I went and met up with Brittany and Tommy and Hanna for Snakehips, but we couldn’t get anywhere near the tent so we bounced and went over to RUFUS DU SOL, who were pretty fucking awesome. I had never really seen them live before and they had the perfect vibe for a midday beach set. Afterwards, I sort of allowed myself to be dragged to Tory Lanez, who I had seen a few times and thought wasn’t very good live. He was a tad better here — at least his singing. He was preaching about something sexual and I said, “Slow down, R. Kelly,” and then seconds later he started singing “Bump N Grind”, which was funny. Then all of a sudden it began pouring rain pretty hard. I threw on my poncho but everyone else got soaked. It only lasted about 10 minutes.
Afterwards, I left to go catch Band of Horses in the VIP section of main stage. This girl was behind me to scan in and she had one of the complimentary beers that I thought you weren’t allowed to bring out of the VIP and we started chatting. We ended up watching the whole Band of Horses set together (her name was Brittany also) and chitchatting. We grabbed a few more of the complimentary drinks and watched from the sand close to the stage. It was cool to just strike up a convo with someone and they rolled with it. After Band of Horses we said our goodbyes and I went to meet up with some friends at Major Lazer. One of my friends was pretty deep into an acid trip, so I convinced them that their next move was 100 percent seeing Sigur Ros intead of Twenty-one pilots, given their situation.
Sigur Ros are incredible. They have this Explosions in the Sky vibe to them, but then you add the most beautiful vocals you’ve ever heard. Sure, it’s not in English, but it really doesn’t matter. They’re able to get across the emotions you’re supposed to experience and they really put you in their feels. Their visuals are also pretty dope, and the lights on stage are cool. This all worked really well for my friend’s psychedelic experience — until the band stopped playing abruptly and rushed off the stage. The festival had alerted us that terrible weather was coming and we needed to GTFO out of there.
We waited for the rest of our friends to meet at the lockers and then we started walking. Where was this terrible weather, I asked out loud. Nothing imminent and they cancelled the rest of Sigur Ros? Not five minutes later it started POURING like I had never experienced and we started heading towards my friend’s car. We got to it and were getting pounded by sheets of rain. The rest of our crew met up at the car and we packed about 10 of us inside of it. I was stoked I didn’t have to take a shuttle, other people told me on Facebook that it was a fucking nightmare and police had to restore order to the process because assholes just kept walking up and cutting the line.
The car ride was a bit scary. I saw no less than THREE transformers blow the fuck up on the drive back. The traffic was bad, there were huge puddles everywhere. we finally got back and rushed inside my friends’ place, which was a 10 minute walk from me. I hung out there for a bit and dried off. I met some people there I hadn’t met the whole weekend. There were some dudes from Indiana or somewhere like that, they were all cool. Apparently, all the people in this condo had met on some Raver app called Radiate? I’d never heard of it but it’s like a Tinder for music, I guess. Pretty cool concept.
Holy smokes, these guys were sunburned like I had never seen — they looked like action figures who had only been painted halfway. Some of these kids started doing some ketamine and acting really funny on the stuff, dancing to some music.
Then this one kid came busting into the place wearing dress slacks and a dress shirt. He went on about how he had to pretend to be someone’s dad because they got locked out of their condo and had to be let in by the homeowner. The kicker was, the guy was tripping on acid for the first time in his life while the whole thing was happening. When he came into the condo we were at, he was at level 10 fucked up and was saying some of the most hilarious shit I’ve ever heard — like how he has the best smiles and he thinks his smiles could cure AIDS. Yeah.
I hung out until the weather cleared up and then walked back to my place around 2 AM. I pretty much passed out instantly but the people in the room I was in kept snoring, so I threw in some headphones and listened to Warpaint’s Coachella weekend one set.
SUNDAY, MAY 21
The weather was looking grim when I woke up Sunday. I was a bit worried it was going to go bad, which would’ve sucked because I had an interview with Warpaint setup for later that day. If you know me, then I’m sure you know that they are one of my absolute favorite bands and this was something I was super stoked for. I had already seen them three times in five weeks, and was trying to craft a feature on their live show specifically because they are so dope live.
After eating some breakfast, I went down to the fest while it was lightly raining and got there in time to see Shaggy (yes, of “It Wasn’t Me” fame). This was a solid booking by Hangout — the first half of his set he was just a hype man but he hit his stride later on. It was a fun high-energy set and was pretty well attended.
Afterwards, I met up with my friend Chelsea, who I had met at my first Hangout Fest two years ago. She was with a pretty cool crew of people — one dude had the craziest tattoo of a fish taco on his ass. We met up at Bob Moses, who should only be allowed to play Sunday early-afternoon sets because it’s the chillest music that is perfect for when you’re tired from a long weekend. Afterwards, we went to the Boom Boom Tent and watched some of Matoma.
DJ Snake had abruptly cancelled his set without reason and deleted his social media. My friend Brittany had gone mostly for him, and was wearing a French flag one-piece. So that really sucked that he pulled out. I went and caught a little bit of Franz Ferdinand before heading to the media tent for my Warpaint interview. The weather had held up and their tour manager had told me to standby as they were finishing up some radio interviews.
I got to chat with some media pals from The New Nine, who were about to interview Grace Mitchell, before my Warpaint interview. Eventually, it was my turn and I got to chat with bass player Jenny Lee Lindberg, which was awesome. I’m waiting until I see them at Governors Ball and Bonnaroo in the next few weeks to publish my piece, but she gave me really good quotes for it.
Afterwards I ended up meeting up with Hanna and some people at NGHTMRE. His set was really dirty in a good way, but I left about halfway through in order to get a spot up front for Warpaint on the Mermaid Stage. I was a little bummed they didn’t put them in a bigger spot, they deserved to be playing on the beach at the golden hour — but the upside was that there was no separation between the crowd and the stage.
I honestly wonder WTF Warpaint is thinking when they’ve played these last few festivals I’ve been at. This might have been my favorite of their festival sets so far, they seemed to really embrace the small stage and they really ended up drawing a good crowd by about the halfway point. Everyone around me was super chill and not like the Brochella crowd I had experienced all weekend. I got everyone around me to dance along and I pretty much was jumping up and down singing along to every word. Afterwards I saw Emily through one of the fences behind the stage and said a quick hey before taking off to meet up with Hanna for Mumford & Sons.
I really hate Marshmello so it was an easy choice to see Mumford instead. I’m not the hugest fan of theirs, having seen them at Bonnaroo and Firefly last year where they put on a pretty good show. But this was a different experience for me. I was surrounded by a wide demographic, lots of families, and Hanna is a superfan of theirs which made it more enjoyable. It was a pretty powerful performance and I was mostly shocked by how awesome their visuals were.
After they wrapped things up, we went and hungout back at their spot before heading over to a friend of theirs for a party. I won at beer pong and chilled before heading back at 3 AM or so. As I walked up the stairs to the condo I was staying at, some dude I didn’t recognize was all “Hey who the fuck are you? I don’t know you…” but luckily someone else I was staying with gave me the clear or this dude was gonna karate kick me from the top of the stairs.
It was another whirlwind weekend at Hangout, and this was the first time I didn’t go hang on the beach afterwards since our condo wasn’t on the beach side. I woke up Monday on the early side and got my shit together and Brittany and Tommy swung by to pick me up around 10:30 and we headed back to NOLA, where we chilled all day and just watched movies after being wrecked by the fest.
I’m not sure if I’ll return to Hangout next year. I was on the fence because I didn’t love the lineup this year, and it really is Brochella now. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do this festival travel circuit again next year anyways and might have to pick and choose fests more carefully. What made the fest enjoyable was hanging with people I already know are awesome, so I guess it’ll come down to who decides they’re in next year.
Next, I’m off to Boston for the first time in my life for Boston Calling. I’m staying at a hostel for the first time also, and am hoping to swing by Fenway Park on Thursday for a Red Sox game. Check back next week for my Boston Calling journal!
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