When we heard that Megan’s sister Erin had just won 4 tickets to Hangout Fest 2017 and a stay in a nearby condo, we were delighted to receive an invite to attend alongside them! In reality, the moment we heard they won we called and hastily invited ourselves – and they were gracious enough to accept our self-invitation. What followed was a week of hasty preparation, and then a 3-day whirlwind of music, sun and booze that would take at least 3 posts to fully chronicle – and frankly, I’m not even sure we remember everything. So instead – we present to you our survival tips, best shows and favorite moments for Alabama’s greatest beach music festival…
Tips for Surviving Hangout Fest
The festival website provides a list of the obvious things to do if you want to make it through this festival alive (drink water and wear sunscreen, duh), but that’s only half the story – the rest you may not learn until you’ve been to the festival at least once. In the interest of doing you a solid, here’s the deal:
- You’re not gonna see every show. You’re probably not going to see the entirety of most shows. The showtimes overlap regularly, so you’re going to have to leave early, show up late, and just filter in and out in general. Pick your absolute favorites (1 or 2 shows over the weekend) that you’re committed to seeing from start to finish. Get to these really early to get a good spot. Pick bands/artists that you’re fond of, and be willing to see a portion of their show from far away. If you try to see all of everything, you’re gonna kill yourself doing so.
- If you’re not within comfortable walking distance (and keep in mind you’re going to be walking ALL DAY). Then pick a designated driver and drive yourself. The taxi/bus system is a complete mess. We attempted to Uber in and Taxi out the first night, and while we were successful – it got super expensive (over $100 total) and took forever. The second two nights, I volunteered to DD and drove us. This advice is doubly useful if you have a capable 4WD vehicle – we were able to get extremely close parking for $20 because the 4Runner could handle the sand lots.
- Don’t bother with cash. We didn’t go to a single booth or stand that didn’t have a card reader. Cash is just one more thing to lose/get stolen. Just don’t drop your credit card down through the cracks of the floor of a restaurant or something. Eh, that would never happen.
- Got tricky dietary concerns? Just hunt for a bit – you’ll find something. Though Pizza/Greek/Burgers are ubiquitous, there were a couple of Jamaican, Brazilian and Creole Seafood stands scattered around the grounds – and they were DELICIOUS. Even if you can eat anything – try the more daring options, you’ll be glad you did.
- There are actual drinkable water refill stations for your bottle/camelbaks – I had to stop a few guys from filling up at the hand washing stations outside the bathroom and inform them of this (“You just saved my life, bro!”). We even caught one guy buying $100 worth of bottled water to fill up his pack (though maybe he was just a really fancy bro). These stations can get very crowded, so it’s a good idea to hit them when the lines are short, and fill up for the day if you can.
- Do bring a blanket to sit on while watching the shows but don’t bother with a towel. The lines to get to the beach access areas were always super long – and it’s a music festival! If you want to cool off, you’d be better off getting out of the sun and hydrating for awhile, not continuing to broil under the sun in the ocean.
- The Hangout is a good place to sit down and enjoy some AC for awhile – and the prices were normal. More expensive than you’d pay at Chilis but cheaper than the food you get at the stands. It can just get hectic at peak hours, so plan ahead.
- Bring a Mascot or Totem! This will help your friends find you when you get separated. We saw everything from inflatable submarines to piñatas. We found that a tall, crazy hat was helpful – keeps the hands free for partying. Just beware that once you’ve transformed into Shark Boy, you will be shouted at, high-fived, and groped frequently – so be prepared for that.
Hanging Out with the Rich and Famous
From the moment we arrived, the infamous Matt Stone of Blaze 103.1 served as our ambassador to the stars, setting up meet and greets for the lucky contest winners (us!). We were ushered through the VIP section, into a secret Press area where radio and TV stations were doing interviews for all the acts at the festival.
First up was Missio – although they had a few successful hits on the radio already, they were dropping their album the day we met them, making it an exciting time for all involved. Matthew and David were both super nice, and we got to discuss what it felt like to finally release a full album, and how programs like Advanced Placement on Alt-Nation (where Megan and I had first heard them) helped them achieve their popularity.
We didn’t have long with the guys, but got to catch their show shortly after, and we were blown away. Definitely one of the best shows at the festival.
Later in the day, Matt brought us back again to meet Andrew McMahon – previously the lead singer of Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin, now doing his solo thang (and doing it WELL). Andrew was one of the warmest artists I’ve ever met, pulling the 4 of us into a huddle behind one of the tents to chat with us like we were all old friends, as nearby DJ’s recorded our convo for soundbites and snippets to use later. He even recorded a special video message for one of Erin’s friends (a die hard fan).
We caught Andrew’s show a couple hours later – his piano stomping, inflatable riding performance surely did not disappoint.
Best Bro Eavesdrop of Hangout Fest 2017
Bro Number 1: [puffs on his joint] Man, I think this is gonna be a good day for a fight. [passes joint to Bro Number 2]
Bro Number 2: [Hits the joint] Nah dude. It’s never a good day for a fight.
Best Shows of Hangout Fest 2017
Erin’s best show: Missio
Kevin’s best show: Weezer
Megan’s best show: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Ryan’s best show: The Head and the Heart
All in all – the festival was a total blast and completely worth the 12 hour drive down. Special thanks to Erin and Kevin for letting us tag along, as well as Matt Stone and Blaze 103 for hooking us all up to begin with. I give it 11/10 bros, would bro again.