The Sights & Sounds of Hangout Music Fest 2015

Hangout Music Festival
Gulf Shores, Alabama
May 15-17, 2015

Every dream has a beginning. For Hangout Music Festival founders A.J. Niland and Shaul Zislan, that dream was to create a beach party-style music festival in Gulf Shores, Ala. Their dream was nearly shattered when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster occurred a month before and 90 miles south of where the inaugural event was scheduled to take place back in 2010. But just as the Gulf of Mexico and it's beaches were cleaned up and returned to their previous glory (for the most part), so too has Hangout Festival grown into one of the most popular festivals on the music calendar.

With white sand under their feet, the Gulf breeze against their skin, the ocean within reach, and sun above, almost 40,000 fans attended this year's festivities. With Goldenvoice on hand to produce and Viacom on the broadcast, festivalgoers were treated to top-notch entertainment in the most laid-back environment imaginable. Friendly dudes in board shorts and beautiful ladies in bikinis only added to the appeal, and photographer Marco Torres was on hand to capture the scenes. Press play on the recording below and check out the photos:

Friday began with the incomparable and supremely passionate Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires. If you haven't already, please check out the documentary about his life, Charles Bradley: Soul of America. The so-called "Screaming Eagle of Soul" is just about the most passionate man I've ever seen in a live performance. The man flat-out loves his music and his audience, and tells them so every chance he gets. Combine that with Bradley's James Brown-esque dance moves and lyrics full of love, sex, and struggle, and you're reminded why you fell in love with soul music in the first place.

The night would end with Foo Fighters and Jack Ü. This would be my first time to see and photograph the Foo Fighters, and with the strong, cool wind blowing in from the Gulf majestically flowing through Dave Grohl's hair, it was certainly a special and almost magical experience. Dave had one of the most expressive faces as he shredded on the guitar and sang his innumerable hits. As my friend Jon Durbin would say..."Got 'Em!"

Saturday would be a really "Good Day," as Houston's own The Suffers hit the BMI Stage for a lunchtime set full of heart, soul and smiles. The crowd began small, but ended with a few hundred people and almost as many new fans. I then ventured over to see Toro y Moi and Damien "Jr. Gong" Marley with the band, who was having the best weekend ever. Kam Franklin in particular made many new friends at this festival, spreading the gospel of The Suffers at every opportunity, and generally being her lovely, charismatic and amazing self. The night ended with an energetic Skrillex show (sans spaceship) and then listening to the Zac Brown Band do a Metallica cover as I soaked my feet, had a few drinks, and relaxed on the beach. Wild for the night, and only a but polite.

After watching the Rockets win their Western Conference Semifinal series on Sunday afternoon, I headed to the festival just in time to catch My Morning Jacket. This was another first for me, and I was definitely converted into a fan. Jim James is a marvelous front man, and watching him smile at the crowd as he moved from one side of the stage to the other was enchanting. As the sun set on the festival, I focused on the American flags waving in the crowd. With so many nice people here and world-class music at every turn, I was extremely proud to be an American that (and every) day. Oh, and then I saw Beck. That's one cool white boy.

I really can't say enough about how amazing this festival really is. The crowds are large but manageable, stages are not too far away from each other, and the music is always the focus. Even the artists who play this event consider it one of their favorite shows to play. And when the artists are happy, it translates into their performance. Happiness for everyone....Yes please. Hangout, forever! 
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When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Houston Press contributor Marco both writes and points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond.