Hangout Fest came to Gulf Shores, Alabama, Friday-Sunday, May 19th-21st.
Hangout Fest returned to the beaches of Gulf Shores and dodged some bad weather on its first day — though thunderstorms could derail some of the music later in the weekend.
Dueling headliners Phoenix and Dillon Francis put on high-energy shows, with Phoenix closing the main stage in place of Frank Ocean, who bailed on the festival just over a week earlier.
Phoenix played new jams and old favorites to a crowd that was heavy with late twenty-somethings, while the majority of the ‘90s babies partied in the Boom Boom Tent for Dillon Francis. Phoenix brought a killer production to the stage, using a mirror to project the screen under their feet on top of the band.
Rock elder statesmen Weezer played 75 minutes on the Surf Stage, a set comprised of their many radio hits and also a brief cover of Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”. There might not have been a bigger sing-along moment all of Friday than for “Say It Ain’t So” in the closing ten minutes of their set. Halfway through, at least a dozen inflatable swans went flying through the crowd, the wind picking them up off people’s hands to send them flying.
A$AP Ferg had the Boom Boom Tent pretty “turnt” as the kids say, with the area surrounding the tent on all sides packed as tight as inside the tent.
MGMT played some new material among older favorites like “Electric Feel” on the Hangout Stage. I’d heard from numerous people that MGMT plays inconsistent live shows and I witnessed it for myself for the first time. The actual music sounded solid for the most part, but their set seemed really disjointed as they often let the time between songs linger too long.
Earlier on the same stage, Charli XCX delivered a high-energy show. “Are you guys fucked up?” she asked, to which the crowd responded enthusiastically. “Good, me too!” she said. Despite possible inebriation, her show didn’t miss a beat.
Portland folk rock sister trio Joseph was one of the most impressive sets early in the day on the main Hangout Stage. Though the crowd wasn’t huge, those that made it into the sand early enough seemed really into it.
Stay tuned for coverage of the rest of the weekend at Hangout Fest!
The weather god nearly allowed Hangout Fest to make it through all day Saturday – until a storm wiped out the last hour or so of the festival.
Twenty-One Pilots were on the main stage and I was in the Boom Boom Tent for Sigur Rós when the band was rushed off the stage hastily before the screens were replaced with text warning of imminent bad weather and to exit the festival quickly and safely.
Sigur Rós was one of the sets I was most looking forward to all weekend. Their name is totally out of place among the rest of the names on the Hangout 2017 lineup, and the tent was predictably sparse. The Icelandic band brought their full production, including amazing visuals. It was a bummer when the sound was cut maybe five songs in. A quick browse of Twitter told me Twenty-One Pilots fans were furious, but that’s a band that will be touring exhaustively for years to come.
Mondo Cozmo kicked off the day with a solid rock show, including a killer cover of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” that got everyone on their feet. They also dropped a few lyrics from Soundgarden’s “Fell on Black Days”, homage to the suddenly departed rock icon Chris Cornell.
MUTEMATH made one of the biggest impressions on me this weekend. Lead vocalist Paul Meany showcased some epic dance moves in his all white suit – but he was later upstaged by his super young daughter Amelia, who came out in sunglasses and busted some moves before singing a few words herself. The band also paid tribute to Cornell by playing the first verse from “Black Hole Sun”, which was nice.
Snakehips and RÜFÜS DU SOL put on two very different electronic sets simultaneously. Snakehips was in the way too over packed Boom Boom Tent. Hangout Fest needs to do something about the size of that tent, it could be twice that size and it would still be packed. RÜFÜS DU SOL was on the main stage getting really vibey with their alt-dance tunes.
Band of Horses recently lost two members so I was curious to see what their show would look like just a few weeks later. They didn’t miss a beat, as they played a lengthy set buoyed by favorites like “The Funeral”.
Canadian rapper Tory Lanez had a big crowd on the Beach Stage, alternating between rapping (one word every verse while telling the crowd to throw their hands up) and singing. When he sang he was much more impressive. He got in his feels a little bit to the point I said, “Slow down, R. Kelly” to my friend – and then Tory Lanez launched into “Bump and Grind”. Rain came down pretty hard for about ten minutes during his set, but most people stuck it out.
When the festival was called off early for the day, the weather didn’t look that ominous. Clearly I’m from California and not used to this because ten minutes later it was coming down HARD. Sheets of rain, and as I got into a friend’s car to drive off I saw at least two transformers completely blow up.
With Chance the Rapper, DJ Snake, Mumford and Sons, and Shaggy of all people left to play, Hangout attendees are hoping the worst has come and gone weather-wise and they’ll get through Sunday without any more issues.
Though the clouds hung ominously overhead for much of the final day at Hangout Fest, the skies never opened up – allowing all but one scheduled performer to make it to the stage Sunday.
The one performer who didn’t make it to the stage was completely out of Hangout Fest’s control. DJ Snake, one of the top ten acts on the bill, cancelled suddenly the day of the show. He then proceeded to delete all of his social media accounts, and as of Monday afternoon there’s been no word from his team as to what the issue is.
DJ Snake’s cancellation was surely a disappointment to many – but it didn’t completely derail what was otherwise an excellent day of music on the beach. Mumford & Sons delivered a powerful performance worthy of closing the entire festival, and it was followed by a monstrous fireworks display that had everyone’s eyes towards the sky.
Marcus Mumford and Co. didn’t waste any time getting into their hits, playing “Little Lion Man” just two songs into the set, which also included the live debut of a new song called “If I Say”. The show also surprisingly featured some of the more stunning visuals of the entire festival, with some flames igniting the stage in one instance.
Chance the Rapper is everywhere this summer, and Hangout Fest was the first of many major festivals he will play through the rest of the year. He had one of the largest crowds of the weekend, and he’s clearly improved his festival sets from previous years by coming on stage on time.
With DJ Snake out of the mix, it was NGHTMRE who dropped the filthiest set of the weekend with some savage dubstep that had college kids head-banging like they were at a Bassnectar show. He finished his set by playing two DJ Snake songs while offering some positive thoughts towards his peer.
One of the festival’s most intriguing bookings was Shaggy of “It Wasn’t Me” fame. The singer mostly hyped up the crowd for the first half of his set before really hitting his stride. Though it was a 1:30 PM start time on the final day of a festival weekend, he had a pretty big turnout.
I caught glimpses of Warpaint, Matoma, Grace Mitchell, and Franz Ferdinand’s sets. Warpaint was the only musical act going at the same time as Chance the Rapper, and though their crowd was sparse, they jammed out as hard as they always do. Grace Mitchell is an up-and-coming rocker who can’t be defined in one single genre, and her on-stage presence is just as enticing. Franz Ferdinand delighted the crowd with old favorites but one wonders if they’ve grown stagnant over recent years.
Heading into the weekend, Hangout Fest was looking dangerously close to having massive chunks wiped out by bad weather. That only 30 to 45 minutes of the festival was cancelled is a massive victory.
But one wonders how many years in a row will Hangout Fest be plagued by last-minute cancellations in the weeks leading up to the fest before it’s considered a curse? The last three years have seen headliners pull out last minute. This year, Frank Ocean and DJ Snake didn’t make it to the stage and they were big names. Last year, Calvin Harris got in a car wreck and didn’t make it. The year before, Sam Smith’s voice wasn’t ready for a live show.
One thing is for sure: Hangout is becoming a destination fest. I met people who drove ten-plus hours, and a group of kids who flew out from California. It’s not just a regional fest – though it certainly is the bro-iest fest out of the dozens I’ve attended.
The vibe can sometimes be a downer – many of the college kids I encountered in the crowd were without manners as they stepped on your feet to push their way towards the front of the crowd. That isn’t to say it was impossible to meet kind people – like the guy who handed me one of three unopened beers he had as the festival ended Sunday night.
As the festival landscape continues to be oversaturated, it’s uniqueness that will shine through. Hangout’s location on the beach is what sets it apart. As long as weather and cancellations don’t continue to plague it, it should be around for a long time.
-words: Mark Ortega
-photos: courtesy of Hangout Festival