REVIEW: Hangout Festival 2016

For 7 years now 25,000 humans descend on sleepy little Gulf Shores, Alabama for Hangout festival. With sunshine, sea and sugar like sand it’s an easy sell despite any line up. It’s a coastal vacation and music festival in one happy little package. Only a 16 hour drive stands between Pittsburgh and glitter doused bikinis and the smell of sunscreen on the ocean breeze.


All festivals have glitches; this year Hangout was no exception. Pouring rains and fierce lightning delayed day 1 by 4 hours. Additionally headliner Calvin Harris was pulled from the line up do to an automobile accident.


Despite all this, the rest of days were filled with festival fun. Since it is a beach location all stages are literally in the sand. The festival had 2 beach access points for a quick dip in the Gulf. Obstacle courses, hammocks, kickball, slip and slides and campfires add to set break amusement. Throw in the requisite Ferris wheel, a drop ride and some carnival games (Along with great vendor stations) and there is nothing else you could want.


This year’s musicians also held something for everyone. Here are the highlights…


The VIP pre-party (Thursday) included decent sets by Grouplove and Matt and Kim but a real highlight was the Seratones out of Shreveport. This 4 person jam session was pure old style rock and roll. Referring to themselves as ‘beasts from the southern wild’ singers AJ Haynes has soul in her soul. Unsigned just 1 year ago the band now resides with names like The Black Keys at Fat Possum Records. Check their debut album Get Gone that was just released earlier this month.


Friday’s small stage favorite was The Struts out of the U.K. Glammed up front man Luke Spiller gave off heavy Bowie vibes and the band laid down an awesome sound that literally drew passersby in.


Friday headliners started with Alabama Shakes. Having been listening to them forever I was pretty stoked to catch it live. While Sound and Color has a different feel than Boys and Girls, Brittany & Co. did not disappoint. Damn that girl can sing. That’s all. Enough said.


Pop stardom names Like The Chainsmokers and The Weeknd finished up the night as expected-if its your thing, it was solid. If it wasn’t you could have caught it on the radio.


Saturday evening featured a supremely talented Leon Bridges. Everyone was talking about this one. Think a young Sam Cooke, with only 1 album under his belt, this youngster is one to watch.


Cage the Elephant was in fine form. Leaping off stages and riling up a packed stage there was no disappointment there. Stage presence alone scores these guys points.


The absolute highlight of the weekend was Nahko and Medicine for the People. Being a somewhat unknown band they have a grassroots cult-like following-for good reason. These gentlemen are musically talented but also have a message to share. They are on a mission to make the world a better place (seriously) and even if their sound is not your thing, their “voice” is something you cannot ignore.


Panic @ the Disco replaced Calvin Harris as the Saturday closer. What can you say about these dudes? Their wardrobe game is strong, they are pretty, they can sing and they entertain. As closers go, they were the perfect fit.


The final day brought crooner Mayer Hawthorne. If you have only heard and never seen them it is a pleasure. They have the old Motown thing down pat. Picture black velvet damask cloths over stage equipment and coordinating wardrobes. During his intro, Mayer has a seat and pours himself what is presumably a glass of liquor from a glass decanter. The set is just as smooth. Mayer does not disappoint.


While Ellie Goulding brought loads of young followers the whole show felt very Brittney Spears (minus the wardrobe) to me. Backup dancers, pop sound and loads of lip gloss.


But Lenny…Lenny Kravitz was, well, Lenny. Much to the disappointment of the ladies there was no hang out at Hangout but the collective female sigh could be heard for miles. I’m pretty sure he sang…


Florence + The Machine closed out the festival. Even if her style is not your first choice the show was a crowd pleaser. A sparkling backdrop, wispy transparent dress, red tresses flowing in the wind all made for an ethereal set that matched her tone.


So what about the little guys? The daytime, side stage folks? Couldn’t tell you.  I was lying in the sand, listening to the waves and looking up at the big blue sky. You want to check the day shows? You go next year.

Photos and review © Dawn Cosnotti 2016