I spent my third straight year on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama for Hangout 2017 last weekend and there was a lot to like, but also quite a few things not to like. Here’s a quick rundown of the best and worst of one of the country’s most unique music festival experiences currently offered:
BEST: Mumford & Sons close out the festival in style
I don’t pretend to be the biggest Mumford & Sons fan out there. I’m a fan of some of their hits, but never really dove deep into their other material, or really give their electric guitar album much of a listen. I’d seen parts of their sets twice before at festivals — last year at Bonnaroo and Firefly. But this time I got to watch their full set from a decent vantage point Sunday night at Hangout and was much more impressed by what I saw.
Marcus Mumford is an excellent lead singer and the band brings out a lot of emotion in the crowd. At a festival that was mostly packed with college-age kids, it was great to catch a headlining set from a band that appealed to such a wide demographic. One of the most touching moments of the festival came midway through the set when I saw a father embrace his son and the two get a bit emotional during one Mumford song. Sometimes I can forget that festivals can sometimes be a family affair rather than a rowdy alcohol-fueled outing with friends. Sunday night served as a much-welcome reminder.
WORST: DJ Snake pulls the plug without offering any reason
— Hangout Music Fest (@Hangoutfest) May 21, 2017
First, let me say that I hope DJ Snake is OK. On Sunday, hours after the festival had started for the day, I got a notification from the Hangout Fest app that the French DJ had cancelled his set, with no reason listed. The “Turn Down for What” hitmaker later deleted all of his social media and days later we still have no clue what happened. I’m not the biggest DJ Snake fan by any means, but he was billed in the top 10 names on the lineup, so hopefully there is a good reason for him disappointing his fans last minute. My friend Brittany that I’m staying with while in NOLA and rode down to the fest with came mostly to see DJ Snake — even wearing a French-flag one-piece Sunday when she thought he was going to play. That was a big bummer.
BEST: Tributes to Chris Cornell
The news Thursday that Soundgarden/Audioslave/Temple of the Dog lead singer Chris Cornell passed away hit me like a ton of bricks. He was always one of my favorite singers, and I headed to the beach that day a little bit somber. All weekend, I heard little mini tributes to Cornell. Though I didn’t see it myself, a Facebook post alerted me to The Head and The Heart doing a cover of Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” — the best of the bunch.
Mondo Cozmo sang a little bit of “Fell On Black Days” and MUTEMATH did a little bit of “Black Hole Sun”. I also heard a couple DJs drop some Cornell vocals in their sets, which took me by surprise. It’s clear that the all-time great singer impacted a lot more musicians than just within his own genre.
WORST: The festival truly felt like Brochella
This year more than the two previous I attended, Hangout Fest felt like Brochella. There were so many douchey juicehead frat-boy types, with their resting-bitch face sorority girl friends along with them. Don’t get me wrong, I met a ton of really cool people throughout the weekend, but far too often a bunch of these negative types pushed their way through the crowd or stepped on your feet without saying excuse me. The Boom Boom Tent was hell on earth for a lot of the weekend. Also, it seemed like people got much more wasted at this fest than any of the others I’ve attended. It wasn’t enough to bum me out for very long, but it was annoying at times.
BEST: Hangout Fest adjusts for the weather
In the days leading up to the weekend, weather forecasts suggested there was going to be a hellacious storm during the festival. All totaled, the festival was only cancelled for about 40 minutes of the entire weekend. When the storm looked like it was going to come in Saturday and Sunday night, Hangout Fest adjusted by moving headliners Twenty-one pilots and Mumford & Sons up a half-hour earlier. Sure, some people missed the notifications from the app because service can be shoddy or your phone can be dead, but there’s no perfect solution in cases like this. I feel like they handled it as best as they could on the fly, and even though 21P and Sigur Ros fans were disappointed to be sent home early, they got to see more than they otherwise would have. The fest seemed to wait as long as possible before pulling the plug on the music.
WORST: Lil Yachty + MGMT
Hands down, the most complaints I heard about the actual music were about Lil Yachty and MGMT. A lot of people were excited to see rapper Lil Yachty, and he was bumped into DJ Snake’s later performance slot after the DJ pulled out. I didn’t see him myself, but of everyone I talked to that was really into his music, he was a huge disappointment. I did go see MGMT, an act I’d been told were inconsistent live for years. I finally got to see for myself, and they were right. They were lackluster, seemed to not really give a shit and took so much time between songs that they never got into a rhythm. It was nice hearing their hits, but their sound just doesn’t really translate well to the live show.
I’ll have a travel-journal style writeup of my experience on Hangout later on this week. This weekend, I’ll be at Boston Calling, covering for QRO Mag.
All photos courtesy of Hangout Fest / aLIVE Coverage