When the weather turns friendly and the sun warms the sky, it’s time for music festivals to play on the beach. There are several across the country from BeachLife in Redondo Beach, CA to Carolina Country Music Festival on Myrtle Beach, SC
I spent time with Dante DiPasquale, the co-founder of Winter Circle Productions, the company who runs the Hangout Festival which is arguably the trendsetter of beach-based festivals. Hangout is held every year on the weekend before Memorial Day, which is this year on May 20th-22nd. They put 40,000 music loving people daily onto the beaches of Gulf Shore, AL. Dante describes Hangout as “a big beach music vacation to kick off the summer. The vibe is just complete freedom on the beach, no one cares who you are or what you look like, they’re just there to have a good time. Everyone just made it through the winter. It’s the kickoff to the summer.”
This year, the most premium tickets sold out quickly. As of this writing, there are still some tickets available, but there is little doubt that Hangout will be a sellout prior to the opening notes being played. A quick check of the secondary markets shows a small supply of tickets which are holding value at or near face value.
The main two stages play at either side of the beach, and you are standing in the sand or in the ocean as you watch the acts perform. The other stages are on the boardwalk. Hangout’s demographic is typically 18-27 although as everywhere, Hangout attracts some patrons from all ages.
Dante is Hangout’s talent buyer, so he has a substantial role in booking the acts which play this festival, and you can see on the poster above the thought which went into putting together the artists who are playing this year.
Booking a successful festival goes one of three ways: either it’s a narrow channel such as all EDM music, it’s a diverse path through many genres, which is how I see this year’s Hangout lineup, or it’s a clown circus of randomness.
There is a magic which occurs when a festival comes together drawn from disparate influences and draws a crowd each of whom may prefers one of the genres over others, but over the course of the weekend those in attendance coalesce from a crowded strand of strangers to the collective cathartic experience of a crowd.
Gulf Shores Alabama has its own vibe. It’s not your generic setting. There’s flavor there which is different from what you’d find in Southern California or in Madison, WI. That famous southern hospitality spills across the beaches where the stages are built for Hangout and encourages a warmth which flows from those in attendance, as well as from the Spring weather in Gulf Shores.
The setting is a significant part of Hangout’s attraction. For those traveling from away there is also the opportunity to take a side trip to the nearby Flora-Bama bar which has famously straddles the states of Alabama and Florida since 1964.
Below in both video and audio podcast format is my conversation with Dante DiPasquale. As you listen to the podcast Dante’s love for this festival shines through like the Alabama sun.
It’s exciting to watch a festival which has been in play for years still come out swinging with top tier acts and interesting programming. There is such a gap from Jack Harlow to Tame Impala or Doja Cat to Kane Brown that there is both something for everyone and something which everyone will individually discover having never known the act before. That’s the true secret of festivals – it’s a place where you go to see what you know and wind up in front of something you’ve never heard before but it’s now your new favorite.
If you’re headed in the direction of Alabama, take a detour to Gulf Shores, and let the beach set you free. One you’ve settled into the rhythm of the weekend you’ll be ready to relax and Hangout. Could there be a better way to spend a few days of Spring among friends, bands and experiences which are geared toward displaying Alabama’s intrinsic hospitality while you frolic on the beach with 40,000 new friends?