Surviving the Hangout Festival

Chilling on the beach with your toes in the sand can only be made better by one thing…awesome live music!!! The Hangout Beach, Music, and Arts Festival has been bringing music lovers an unbelievable selection of artists the past four years and the festival shows no signs of slowing down. 2013 proved to be another banner year, with sold-out crowds, exciting activities, and legendary performances.

The highlight of course at Hangout is the lineup! Year after year the festival puts together a weekend full of diversity and excitement. 2013 held something for everyone. Whether your thing is classic legends like Stevie Wonder and Tom Petty, new arrivals like Imagine Dragons, or Jam Gods like Moe., Trey Anastasio, or Gov’t Mule, there was always a show worth seeing. At times heartbreaking decisions had to be made, like Slightly Stoopid vs. Bassnectar, what to do?! Overlapping shows are nothing new to festy fans, but the sand does make it a little more difficult to jump quickly from show to show. It was comforting that Stevie Wonder did not miss a beat after all these years, and Tom Petty still has the ability to bring it as if he were a 20-year-old. After seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the first time I can now say I am truly a fan. Their energy on stage was unbelievable and they entertained to the fullest. It’s hard to keep a crowd’s energy up after a long day in the sun but they certainly did their best. I will be forever grateful to the Hangout for allowing me to see Flavor Flave and Warren Haynes in the same weekend, how often does that happen?

Along with the stellar lineup came a few challenges to navigate. The vibe at Hangout was very different from other festivals, perhaps because of the location and the fact that it is not a camping fest. This lends itself to slightly less camaraderie and more party ‘til you drop attitudes. At any event where thousands of people gather, it is increasingly important to watch out for one another. I saw very little of that, unfortunately. The crowd seemed less like the festival free spirits and more like the MTV spring break crowd. For every nice soul, I found to converse and play with, there was one waiting to snatch my wallet or fight over a bathroom line. I don’t mention this to discourage people from attending Hangout, just to encourage them to be a little nicer to one another when they’re there. Not everyone had these attitudes of course, for example, I owe another big thank you to the super nice fellow who found my friend’s phone in the sand, answered it, and waited for us to retrieve it. You rock!

That leads me to an important tip for those attending this festival in the future. Sand is like a big hungry mouth, just waiting to be fed! It is hungry for your shoes, sunglasses, wallet, phone, and anything else that’s not strapped down. Every day we witnessed folks crouched down with a search party, hunting down lost items. To avoid this I suggest literally strapping everything down. Keep items in a bookbag, then keep it zipped, and find a way to tie or clip your belongings to the outside. Keeping your things altogether will ensure they don’t get eaten.

Shade is definitely at a premium at this festival. Sunny beaches are lovely, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming in the sun. If you find yourself getting overheated you can seek out a little corner of momentary relief, or squeeze up in the tents for a few minutes. A big floppy hat proved to be a useful purchase as well as a small water mister. The VIP section was always comfortable to its inhabitants, however. Some festivals offer a few perks for VIP ticket holders, but I can say with all honesty that The Hangout has some of the best VIP perks I have seen at a festival. A pool sits curbside of the main stage, with plenty of lounging space around to lie out and tan. Free beer flows like water while you float around enjoying your favorite performances. Misting fans and shaded areas are located all throughout, and a boardwalk is available for quick passage from stage to stage. These are just a few of the privileges available, but that is only a drop in the bucket. The tickets cost a pretty penny but if you want to make Hangout your big vacation spot of the year, it is worth the price.

Transportation and lodging are important factors to nail down in advance of the festival weekend. Spots fill up fast for condos and hotels, so start making arrangements as far in advance as possible. Local listings, facebook, and other online forums can prove helpful for your planning. We have had much luck the past few years with the local RV parks. They are close by, very inexpensive, and easy to secure because they do not fill up as quickly as condos. The festival has no parking, but finding a way to and from the shows did not prove too difficult. Many people purchased shuttle passes. Shuttles run frequently so you are guaranteed a safe ride, but they cost around $50 so include that in the budget of your trip. Many chose to take advantage of the large bike racks. Gulf Shores is very bike friendly so if you are fit enough, this may be a good option. Locals also rent out their parking spots for around $20 a day. They are close to the grounds but spots are limited and not guaranteed to be available. Traffic coming and going from the grounds was pretty congested so drive slowly and carefully. If you chose to drive, designate a sober driver!!!

The most important thing to do at Hangout (besides rock out, ride the water slide, eat amazing food, and have the time of your life) is to always remember to drink plenty of water and apply plenty of sunblock! It was both hilarious and tragic to see the array of awkward sunburns. Do yourself a favor and put sunblock everywhere, not just the places you can look down and see. Get a friend to help for heaven’s sake, and take care of that back and shoulders. Don’t forget about your feet and ears! As mentioned before, it can get very hot and little shade is available, so drink that $7 beer all you want, but also take advantage of the free Brita water refill stations available all over the grounds. The water tastes great and it can literally save your life!

We hope everyone enjoyed hanging out at The Hangout as much as we did. It is proving to be a festival whose traditions will continue to grow every year. Be safe out there, see you all next year!

Tell us your stories and share your love for the fest in the comments below!

And by the way… Have you checked out our Music Festival Packing List?