The second installment of the now celebrated Hang Out Music Festival took place May 20th – 22nd on a glorious beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. As great of a concept as it is, the inaugural event only drew modest crowds. This was certainly not the case in year two – the festival and all related shows were completely sold out. They achieved this feat by positive word of mouth and a lineup of renowned artists from almost every musical genre.
The adventure started early Thursday night at the show billed as the Pre-Party. Music fans in search of tickets surrounded The Hang Out, an immense club on the beach, in which the festival took its name. The allure of seeing such amazing artists in paradise was too much for many music lovers to resist, as I met people from around the country. The marquis included many talented artists, featuring headliners Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk and Moon Taxi.
It set the tone for the weekend with each artist playing at their best and musical savvy fans savoring every note. The weather down here was so fine and the vibe was intoxicating. Officially, the festival started the next day and it was obvious it was going to be magical.
Upon entering the grounds early on Friday, I scoped out the immense and vastly improved layout. The two main stages faced each other on the beach, both impressive and equipped with screens. To my surprise, the other three stages each had their own personality appropriate for the atmosphere the scheduled artist was sure to attract. The five stages were accompanied with many other attractions dispersed throughout the grounds to flood ones senses or just to escape from the sun. It was truly an exceptional playground for music. My only complaint came when choosing my daily musical journey. The acts in many cases were equally amazing at several stages in overlapping time slots. Sure, if that’s the only problem, bliss is sure to follow…and follow it did.
As the sun set, Grace Potter was joining Warren Haynes for a rousing “Honky Talk Women”, while across the beach, I am sure My Morning Jacket was rocking the Surf Stage. I felt like getting weird, so I deviated from my original plan and caught STS9 before everybody converged for Widespread Panic. It seemed the artists enjoyed this tranquil setting as much as the fans as almost every act played with purpose. W.S.P. followed suit, playing a set full of classics and in true festival fashion, had Warren sit in for a couple of numbers.
Over the next couple of hours, the diverse musical parade continued as I caught acts from Ween to Girl Talk and seemingly everything in between. Michael Franti & Spearhead was a fitting way to watch the sunset. His positive vibe and feel good music blended with the surroundings flawlessly. He danced among us on the beach and pulled fans on stage to do the same. After the energetic show Michael spoke about how excited he was to see Paul Simon, a sentiment shared by most.
Before the much anticipated show, I had time to catch Galactic. They wasted little time transforming the beach into Bourbon Street. Stanton Moore led the funk-fueled set that had every tired body moving in a tribal-like fashion. I had just enough time to rehydrate before the legend took the stage.
Paul Simon was an ideal choice to close the festival. His iconic career influenced almost every artist that played over the weekend in some fashion. He did not disappoint as he mixed timeless classics with songs off his new release, So Beautiful or So What. His band was tight as he brought back memories for some, all the while creating new ones. He encored with “The Sound Of Silence”. Hearing the iconic words under the stars on the beach was one of those moments one never forgets.
To call Hang Out Festival a success this year is an understatement. Each day’s lineup reminding me of the choose-your-own-adventure books I read growing up. Whichever path one took surely led them to a happy ending. In only its second year, it solidified itself as one of the premier festivals of the summer, and proved to be not just another weekend at the beach.
Words by: Kevin Long