Surviving Hangout

You hear about a festival on the beach and think “that sounds pretty cool”, then you get there and realize it’s totally amazing!  The Hangout Beach Music and Arts Festival delivered such a great lineup, a cool vibe, and lots of fun amenities this year in Gulf Shores.

The music was absolutely  unbelievable.  Since it’s inception the festival has hosted super  lineups with a diverse and  eclectic group of bands and DJ’s for your listening pleasure.  This year I was blown away by the performances of Jack White, Michael Franti, and The String Cheese Incident.  Perhaps because a lengthy anticipation leads to greater reward, my favorite show of the weekend was Dispatch.  Their kind of music and vibe is just tailor made for a festival like The Hangout, and after nearly a decade of waiting I finally got to enjoy their live show.  Perfect.

Between shows there is lots of fun stuff to do, like carnival rides!  This year the Hangout had a Ferris wheel, a giant water slide, a death drop, and some very tall Swings.  With the amazing lineup it’s hard to imagine a dull moment but if you’re looking for something different you have lots of options.

A few tips for beach chilling at a festival:  If you bring a towel or tapestry to sit on (which I recommend), you should bring something brightly colored so that you are less likely to leave it behind.  Also, try not to leave your belongings scattered on the ground.  People are constantly walking by and kicking up sand so your stuff can end up covered up or moved around, making it likely to get lost or left behind.  I saw one person wearing a leather belt which he had attached all of his things (wallet, water bottle, camera, cell phone) with karabiners as to keep up with them.  I suggest a book bag, but this is another option for those who like to think outside the box.  We were rocking our new Solarbaks, which is a new backpack that has a solar panel attached.  This pack was perfect for the beach because it kept my cell phone charged all day while I was dancing and walking around, and all my stuff fit comfortably inside.  Choosing shoes, hats, etc. that you can easily attach to yourself or a pack can keep you organized as well.  It is obviously easier to walk in sand when you are barefoot so try to find some comfortable shoes that can slip on and off without much effort.  I would also like to add for the guys, don’t forget your gold bond or baby powder, you know why.  Enough said.

Anyone who has ever been to the beach knows that after a full day of walking in the sand, your legs get tired!  To help with this the festival installed boardwalks across some of the beach to help you move more quickly between stages.  A few of the stages are also located off the beach on the asphalt so your legs will have a few minutes to recover.  Once the beer starts flowing I have the bladder of a small child, so we tried to locate the bathrooms first then pick a spot to watch the shows that was the closest to these.  We learned that lesson after our first show of the weekend when my friend and I were wearing ourselves out just getting across the sand.

I just wanted to add a few notes for my hoopers out there.  The first lesson I learned about hooping this fest is this: hooping in the sand is exhausting!  The sand adds the extra challenge of keeping your balance and using a lot of different muscles in your legs.  It is still a lot of fun but an interesting challenge for sure.  My other piece of advice for hooper girls is to buy bathing suits with some cushion in the top, especially if you are using a big hoop or an LED.  When a hoop is rolling across your chest repeatedly over just a thin bathing suit top it can lead to waking up with some pain.

Most people do not need to be reminded to put on sun block but I am going to remind you anyway.  Until the sun goes down there are very little shady spots available so the sun is coming for you!  I suggest applying sun block before you leave your place and let it set in a few minutes before you arrive on the beach.  This will save you from getting sand and sweat mixed in with the lotion.  Spray on sun block is helpful once you get the gritty sand all over.  It is also important to reapply throughout the day, especially the first few days to avoid a weekend of discomfort.

Please remember to keep the beach clean!  The beach is so beautiful, so if you take a few minutes to collect your trash before you leave a show you can keep it looking that way.  Clean Vibes was representing to help sort out all recyclables, so if they can volunteer in the hot sun we can surely help out by bringing our trash to the bins.  Cleanup crews will be there to restore the beach to it’s previous condition but remember, the less people the festival has to hire to clean up, the less tickets will cost!  Plus, it’s just a nice thing to do.

Some of the rules at The Hangout differed vastly from other festivals.  For example, each person can only bring in one unopened or empty water bottle up to 2 liters, and camel bladders have to be empty to enter.  Hydration is soooo important at this event, so you need to bring something to keep you hydrated.  Water refill stations are available throughout the grounds.  These lines for these can get pretty long so try to plan ahead and go between shows so that you don’t have to miss anything.  Outside food is not allowed either so don‘t bother bringing a pack full of snacks, they won‘t make it in.  Attendees were allowed re-entry throughout the day so if you are parked or staying close to the festival grounds you can leave to eat, if you are not make sure you budget the money for vendor food (which runs about $8-$10 on average).  The food available was very delicious, especially the Gyros, fish tacos, and Jerry Rolls.  Yummy!

For safety reasons the festival also does not allow any chairs or beach umbrellas to enter the grounds.  Which just means that you have to be a little creative to make yourself comfortable.  My favorite solution to the chair problem was watching all the people who make “sand couches”.  It was sort of funny but actually worked really well.  If you throw a towel or tapestry down it is a nice little chill spot.  If you have a sturdy sandal, Frisbee, or small kids sand-castle shovel you can pull this off pretty quickly.  Because umbrellas can not be brought in the sun can get intense, so big floppy hats are a good compromise.  These can keep the sun off your face and shoulders during the heat of the day.

The logistics of The Hangout requires a little more planning than for other festivals.  It is not a camping festival so there is the task of finding a place to hang your hat.  Most of the affordable hotel rooms and condos sell out very quickly.  Some people even reserved them for next year before leaving this year.  If you are planning on hitting up this festival it would be helpful to start looking for a place as soon as possible.  Some good options are open in Foley and Orange Beach as well so include these in your search.  For those of you who are not “planners” the locals are generally very nice and some are willing to rent out rooms to those in need once you get yourself to Gulf Shores.  We stayed at Doc’s RV park, which was a good experience for our crew.  We had access to some warm showers, a refreshing pool, water and electricity hookups, wifi, and a nice picnic table.  It was very affordable and only about 3 miles from the festival grounds.  If you have an RV this is a great option, but if you are into primitive camping you can also check out the State Park and the other local RV parks which allow camping.

Some condos and hotels are walking distance to the festival .  If you stay father away you can either drive or take the shuttle to the shows.  Parking is very limited.  The festival provides some, but locals also open up their yards and driveways for festival goers, however the charge is around $20 a day for most.  The shuttles were greatly improved this year so the shuttle pass is a good option.  We also found that driving a truck we could just let folks hop in the back and drop them off on our way back to Doc’s.  Grabbing rides from nice folks is always an option, but just for the sake of thoroughness I would like to add this warning: Do not get into the car with anyone who appears intoxicated, and do this at your own risk!  Most people are good natured and helpful, but it is still hitch hiking so use your noggin and be very careful!

VIP at most festivals is pretty cool, but VIP for The Hangout was completely sick!  If you could make a list of all the awesome things you would ever want from a VIP ticket, would a pool right next to the main stage not be first on that list?  Ask and you shall receive!  Free beer and Pina Coladas may also be at the top of that list, so cheers!  Just remember to tip for the free beers, cuz that’s just the right thing to do.  Bathrooms were also very close by and readily available for the VIPs.  It was pretty magical for all.

In an effort to keep the festival comfortable the organizers decided to sell no more than 35,000 tickets.  This stinks for those who missed out on tickets but is great for attendees.  Because of this the festival was not overly crowded.  Certain shows were however wall to wall, like when The Red Hot Chili Peppers closed out Saturday night, but for the most part you can always find a spot to stretch out and dance, or nestle into the crowd.

Volunteering is available for this fest, so if you want to greatly reduce the cost of your fun weekend you can hit up the Work Exchange team.  It’s a good time and the jobs are not super intense so this is a great option.  You get to experience the festival from a different point of view and still have enough cash to make it to your next fest (or pay rent, you know, whatever).

If you are planning a festy vacation next year, The Hangout should definitely be on your list.  So many smiles, bikinis, sun, swimming, and of course bad ass music made the weekend  a must see for the coming years!  Thank you to all the amazing people who made our Hangout experience unbelievable. We will never forget it.

We would love to hear about your experiences with Hangout!  Share your tips, stories and anything else you found awesome!