This weekend, a conflagration of festival craving, winter tired, pasty skinned people from all over the country will converge on the white-sand beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama.
In its 5th year, the sold-out Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama has raised the stakes and secured for itself a spot as one of the top festivals in the country by raising the number of tickets sold from 35,000 to 40,000, and greatly increased features and amenities for festival goers.
My main complaint against this festival, since I first attended in 2011, was the lack of access to the ocean. This year, for the first time, sun baked and blinded music lovers will be able to take a refreshing dip in the Gulf of Mexico. Word has it that this was not a promoter issue, but a city council issue, and festival founder Shaul Zislin jumped through enough hoops to satisfy them so there will now be a designated area for swimming in the Gulf.
The “Chevrolet Beach” is a section of beach set apart for use by the Festival. Promoted by Chevrolet, it will include amenities, and lounge chairs.
There will be new amenities in the beach area to draw people away from the crowded boardwalk, including a clothing store, and a mechanical shark (think, rides like a bull, looks like a shark).
The lineup this year is pretty good, with a wide variety of music to choose from, and to compensate for the larger number of attendees, Hangout promoters have added another stage with more bands.
The Hangout Fest is known for scheduling bands so that they don’t conflict with each other, but this year’s lineup has some music lovers gnashing their teeth as STS9 plays head to head with The Black Keys on Friday and The Killers play opposite Pretty Lights on Saturday.
The headliners are crowd favorites The Killers, The Black Keys, STS9, The Flaming Lips and Queens of the Stone Age. These bands have all hit the festival circuit hard in the last few years, and are all great bands. If you’re interested in hearing some lesser known talent, you might try the BMI tent at 4pm on Friday where you’ll have a chance to see some local bands who managed to make it through a rigorous selection process to land a spot at the Hangout Fest. These bands are Joel Madison Blount and Festival Expressions of Birmingham, Kaboom of D’Iberville, Ms, The Volks, The Underhill Family Orchestra and the Mulligan Brothers, all of Mobile.
Some of my other favorite, lesser known bands are Ivan Neville’s band, Dumpstaphunk, The 1975 who hit it big at Coachella this year, OutKast (no-brainer), and of course, The Black Keys whose new album just hit. I also want to see The Queens of the Stone Age, and ALO who everyone but me has seen.
With the greater number of tickets sold and the early sell-out date, lodging is getting hard to find.
I will be staying at the Beach Club for the fourth year, and after the music it’s my favorite part of the trip. It’s away from the noise and traffic of down town and sits on a pristine white sand beach.
Here’s some advice from a four-year vet of Hangout Fest:
- STAY HYDRATED - The most important thing is to drink tons of water. When you’ve drank enough water, drink some more. A rule of thumb is that you should urinate at least once every hour and your urine shouldn’t be concentrated. If you don’t, you’re dehydrated. Signs of dehydration are dizziness, dry mouth and constipation. If you didn’t know, beer doesn’t count as hydration. Dehydration, especially when mixed with alcohol and certain drugs can kill you.
- LEAVE EARLY. I mean REALLY EARLY. The roads leading into Gulf Shores are all two lane roads and if you’re Johnny Sleep Late, you’re going to be sitting in traffic FOREVER.
If you don’t have a place to stay yet, start calling now. Almost everything is sold out, including every campground I called. I believe The Beach Club still has some condos available and it’s a beautiful place with great service.
- DRESS FOR IT! Seriously. Wear long sleeves a hat and loose fitting clothing. The Hangout Festival will beat you down. The sun and the sand are awesome but if you don’t play your cards right, you’re so burned and sun blinded by the second day that you can barely move.
Wear real shoes, like tennis shoes. Yeah, it’s awesome that you can wear those flip flops, because you’re at the beach after all. The problem is that the place is huge and you’re running back and forth all day getting from show to show. Wearing shoes with some kind of support will help reduce fatigue and allow you to go longer.
The Hangout Fest is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself, mix in lots of plain water with your booze, plan for the heat, and use common sense.
Finally, if you crave seafood like I do, go to The Steamer, Mikee’s or a Shrimp Basket. They all have fantastic food.
The Hangout Festival – 2014 Lineup
The Black Keys, The Killers, Outkast, Jack Johnson, Queens of the Stone Age, Pretty Lights, The Avett Brothers, Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, STS9, Wiz Khalifa, Zedd, Childish Gambino, Amos Lee, Conor Oberst, Matt and Kim, Tegan and Sara, Portugal. The Man, Fitz and the Tantrums, Gary Clark Jr., Dawes, Capital Cities, Needtobreathe, Boys Noize, The Bloody Beetroots Live, Ingrid Michaelson, Blackberry Smoke, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Ozomatli, Bastille, Los Lobos, Chance The Rapper, Soja, Allen Stone, Tommy Trash, The 1975, ALO, Claude VonStroke, Andrew W.K., Black Lips, Moon Taxi as People of the Sun, Little Green Cars, Tom Odell, Balkan Beat Box, Valerie June, Mimosa, Caked Up, Wild Belle, RAC, Daedelus, Robert DeLong, heRobust, RDGLDGRN, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Shakey Graves, Bronze Radio Return, Wild Cub, Le1f, Reignwolf, Gemini Club, The Wans, Diarrhea Planet, Bad Suns, The Tontons, Desert Noises, John and Jacob, Ethan Tucker, Mystery Skulls, The Lonely Biscuits, Los Colognes, Empires, The Black Cadillacs, The Electric Sons, Wrestlers (formerly Bagheera), Dugas, Josh Farrow, Underhill Family Orchestra