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Festival goers from across the country trekked down to Alabama’s Gulf Coast this past month to take part one of the first major festival offerings of the season, The Hangout Music Fest. A bustling beachside boardwalk littered with carnival rides and restaurants and the surrounding beachfront served as home to the 35,000 in attendance. With an underwhelming turn-out last year in its first installment, due in part to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the air at this year’s Hangout Fest was heavy with nervous anticipation at first, but as people lined up outside the gates for the sold-out festival it was clear that the two weeks of site building and preparation were about to pay off.
Beach-day smiles spread across the faces of eager fans as they walked down to the fine, white-sand beach, over 100 yards wide stretching one-quarter mile in each direction to the two opposed main stages. Some fans rushed toward the stages; others hula-hooped, spun poi, tossed Frisbees, relaxed on blankets and built sand couches, castles, and makeshift viewing platforms. Others explored the spectacular panoramic views of the two-story Sky Bar and the surrounding palm laden Hammock Village. Those more accustomed to the finer side of festival life could opt for the VIP upgrade and luxuriously lounge in an in-ground pool with views of the headliners’ stage. Night provided a welcome break from the Alabama heat, as the festival grounds came alive with ambient lighting along the expanse of the beach and boardwalk.
The best sets were delivered by Primus, the primal and tribal electronic powerhouse trio Beats Antique, The Flaming Lips, reggae rockers SOJA, the saxophone wielding electronic masters Big Gigantic, and of course Paul Simon – certainly not Cee Lo, as he failed to show. The Foo Fighters had to recover his set time with Alice Cooper and Tom Petty covers.
All in all, the venue itself was the true star of the weekend. It takes good music to make a good festival – the stellar lineup drew the crowd – but Gulf Shores and the relaxed feel of a beach backdrop will bring those people back for years to come.
Photos by Chase Guthrie