About This Festival
The Hangout Music Festival is like MTV’s Spring Break writ large for this century. Organized in 2010, the name really says it all. It’s a standard multiday music festival with the differentiator being that it’s on the beach. In Gulf Shores. In Alabama.
This part of the US is often overlooked by the other coasts (that is, East and West), and it’s deserving that the American Southeast gets a bit of its due. Gulf Shores, as its name implies, is the littoral coast running along the northern edge of the Gulf of Mexico. The gulf is smaller and better protected than either the Pacific or Atlantic oceans, so its waters are calmer and warmer and great for a swim.
The shore itself is a seemingly endless line of hotels and high rise condos stretching for 32 miles along white sand beaches. It’s where folks from the Midwest, South, and to a degree some the East Coast go to escape the winter blahs. For the past five years, it’s also been the site of an easy-going music and arts festival that continues to grow.
Gulf Shores History and Hangout Music Festival
But let’s back up a moment. Prior to the 1937 opening of the Intracoastal Waterway, this part of the south was sparsely populated, mostly peopled by small clusters of shacks of fisherman hauling in their share of seafood, especially shrimp and oysters. Gulf Shores didn’t even begin incorporating as a town until 1956. But, it really wasn’t until 1971 when it started making a name for itself with the creation of the National Shrimp Festival, a celebration nearing its 50th anniversary. The event now brings in over 200,000 crustacean junkies each October, pretty significant considering there are just over 5,000 residents in Gulf Shores.
The Hangout Music Festival
Founders Shaul Zislin and A.J Niland came up with the idea for the Hangout Music Festival while walking along the beach together in Gulf Shores. They wanted a festival to continue to bring people down to the area after being hit hard by the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. That first year saw 12,000 attendees with a small line-up including The Root, Trey Anastasia, Michael Franti, Alison Kraus, and the Zac Brown Band.
The promoters were keen on setting a vibe of an easy going southern beachy good time. To convey this, they chose to symbolize their festival with a shaka gesture, better known as a surfer’s symbol for saying it’s all cool.
The billed acts continue to impress; an Outkast reunion, Jack Johnson (whose sound is perfect for the beach), Fitz and the Tantrums, Bastille, Pretty Lights, The Avett Brothers, Tegan and Sara, Queens of the Stone Age, Capital Cities, The Black Keys, Amos Lee, Zedd, Childish Gambino, and more totaling over 60 performances.
Although the Hangout “officially” starts on Friday, organizers have put together a pre-festival kickoff party that has included performances by Girl Talk, Iron & Wine, Wolfmother and Dumpstaphunk. There are also pre-shows at various bars throughout the city for months leading up to the festival weekend.