May 04 2012

Bands, Sand and Suntans

By: Carolyn Heneghan

Beach Festivals are Gulf Coast’s Favorite Hangouts whereyat_com-13357973274f9ea64fbc2a8.png

Just a few hours east of new orleans, a festival phenomenon is brewing on the warm, sandy beaches of the alabama Gulf Coast. in its third year, Hangout Music Festival, held May 18-20, 2012, in Gulf shores, aL, had already sold out of general admission tickets by Mardi Gras Day—only ten days after going on sale.

Having been shaken by a devastating hurricane and stigmatizing oil spill in barely half a decade, the Gulf Coast and its tourism industry have made great progress in rebuilding their coast, economy and reputation as a southern beach and fishing destination.

Assisting in these efforts, concert promotion and festival production company Huka entertainment and the Hangout, a bar/restaurant venue nestled on Gulf shores Beach, have created Hangout Music Festival. this annual event has attracted more than 35,000 visitors to Gulf shores the past two years, and 17,500 its first year—only 40 days after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A key factor in bringing tens of thousands of guests back to the Gulf Coast every year– besides being the first palm tree-speckled beachfront festival of its kind—has been an all-encompassing, fan-focused approach that manifests in every aspect of the festival, from a wide variety of food, amenities and performers to site layout, lodging and location.

“We really tried to build it from a blank slate and put our fans first, and really try to build an experience and a weekend for them that is above and beyond anything they’ve ever gone to before,” says Josh Grady, general manager of Huka entertainment.

With music from noon to midnight in the southern summer heat and humidity, festival re-entry via weekend wristbands is a welcomed and invaluable aspect of the Hangout experience.

“You can go party on the beach all day, then go back to your condo and go for a swim and take a nice hot shower and drink a cold beer on your patio and grill a steak— something that i’ve never really experienced anywhere else,” says Grady. “and then you can just throw your bathing suit on, grab your wallet, and see more of your favorite bands.”

Some of those favorite bands might include this year’s headliners—Dave Matthews Band, red Hot Chili Peppers and Jack White—or other big names like Wilco, skrillex, Gogol Bordello, G. Love and the special sauce and the string Cheese incident, who will be playing two sets.

Repeat performers every year of Hangout include the Flaming Lips, who will perform Dark Side of the Moon for this year’s set, and Michael Franti & spearhead, plus popular groups from last year’s lineup like sts9 and Beats antique. Bassnectar returns after drawing a crowd to last year’s electronic tent that was so massive, the stage had to be moved back for this year, effectively shifting the entire layout of the festival to accommodate for the enormous draw of electronic music, among other things.

The new festival layout—about 50 percent larger than last year—has moved further inland and uses all parts of the beach, road, and grassy areas for different facets of the festival experience. the two main stages are angled toward each other at opposite ends of the site, on the sand about ten feet from the high tide and surrounded by hammocks and rented palm trees brought in to create the weekend’s oases. the two smaller stages have been moved further inland, and merchandise and food vendors—which include vegan and vegetarian options—line the road.

More bathrooms, drink vendors and water refill stations will decrease lines, and attendees can enjoy extra amenities like amusement park rides, misting stations and even an extensive Family Zone with a kids’ stage, face-painting and even a hip hop recording station.

Huka has partnered with CiD entertainment to provide a variety of viP, travel, and Local shuttle packages, including a $40 weekend shuttle pass, new for Hangout 2012, which will bring attendees to and from the festival and any one of ten stops closest to their destination.

Local, flexible lodging options accommodate any and all budgets: nearby camping, rv parks, a marina, condos, hotels and rental properties can house large and small groups, families, couples and lone travelers alike.

“Some of the bigger city festivals, you’re staying in a hotel, going out to eat, and spending a lot of money on drinks and food and stuff. or you go to a camping festival and you’re without a shower for three or four days and no air-conditioning and all that kind of stuff,” says Grady. “i love all those festivals, but there’s just something special about Hangout.”

More information about Hangout Music Fest and any remaining viP packages can be found at http://hangoutmusicfest.com.

If you are looking for another beach festival closer to home, the City of Gulfport and Mississippi Media have combined efforts to put on the second annual Gulfport Music Festival. this year the festival will run from May 18 through the 20 and will be located on the beach in the new Jones Park, right next to the Gulf of Mexico. With 3 stages and over 50 acts, the festival is predicted to be the largest music even ever held on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Headliners for the festival are Gary allan, Hinder, nelly, Justin Moore and Maroon 5. Cobra starship, Gym Class Heroes, Josh thompson, rehab and vanilla ice will also be taking the stage. Festival attendees can expect to see many local and regional acts from across the Gulf south as well.

For more information go to gulfportmusicfestival.com, or to buy tickets, go to any ticketmaster location or tickermaster.com.

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