The Hangout Music Festival is arguably the best music festival in the country. Multiple factors contribute to the statement including the strong and diverse musical lineup, the grounds on the beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, the mostly cheerful attendees and the weather gods that cooperated over the three days of Spring Break-like fun. The grounds incorporated two main stages on the beach and four smaller stages along the adjacent streets parallel with the shore. Brick and mortar stores and restaurants were located inside and just outside the perimeter of the grounds. The constant ocean breeze kept the crowds cool even though the sun was relentless. Several artists, including headliner Beck, made a point to talk about how great the festival was compared to others they had played. Without further ado, here are some highlights, observations and opinions of the fantastic weekend.
Best Way to Spend the Drive From H-Town to Gulf Shores: Listening to the Rockets comeback from 19 points down to push the series to a seventh game.
Best Headliner: Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Taylor Hawkins played hit after hit after hit for nearly two hours.
Best Way to Cool Down: Go swim. Festival goers had beach access and could watch bands like Future Islands and Sylvan Esso while swimming in the cool waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Biggest Disappointment of the Weekend: Zac Brown Band. The headliner packed the beach Saturday night only to see large amounts of people leaving midway through the set as solos went on a bit too long coupled with two horrible covers of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Most Energy of the Weekend: Sarah Barthel of Phantogram was bouncing and moving so much in skintight leather pants and four-inch stiletto heels that she seemed to be plugged into the same outlet as the stage’s strobe lights.
Best Set on a Small Stage: J. Roddy Walston and the Business put on one of the best sets of the festival. Walston looked like a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher of Cannibal Corpse as he whipped his hair around like a buzzsaw while banging it out on the ivories.
Longest Hair: The Crystal Gayle of Reggae, Damien Marley’s thick dreads hung straight down and almost reached his ankles.
Best Early Show: Houston’s own The Suffers kicked off the festivities on Saturday morning and had the bouncing, shaking and shouting their name before noon.
Best Left-Handed Bassist: Not sure about how many left-handed bassists there are, but Deven Craige from Philadelphia's Strand of Oaks was the best one witnessed this weekend.
Most Represented Sports Team: Naturally, the University of Alabama, followed by a close second the Atlanta Hawks. Rockets gear was all over the beach on Sunday, though.
Biggest Surprise: No rain. None, even after the forecasts predicted 80 percent chances of thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday for the week leading up to the festival.
Biggest Fashion Trend: Walking silver and gold glitterbombs. It looked like a huge coven of Twilight vampires were let loose to sparkle out in the sun all weekend.
Best Festival Food: shrimp and grits
Best Beach Cocktail: The bushwhacker is apparently the staple frozen concoction of area, made with coconut rum and Kaluha that tastes similar to a chocolate milkshake.
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Best Song: My Morning Jacket’s “Wordless Chorus” sent the crowd into a frenzy as Jim James was in prime festival form as he ran back and forth across the staged bathed in bright colored light.
Best Cover Song: Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Misterwives
Most Covered Song: At least three groups (Foo Fighters, Robert DeLong and Beck) gave their renditions of The Rolling Stones classic hit “Miss You.”
Favorite Festival Purchase: Two tickets to Hangout Fest 2016.