Road Trip Report: Hangout Music Festival |

Road Trip Report: Hangout Music Festival

William Gross
Special to The Aspen Times
Special guest Lupe Fiasco performs with Umphrey's McGee at Hangout Fest.
Special to the Aspen Times |

The 2015 Hangout Music Festival, now in it’s fifth year, delivered in a big way. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The music fans were nothing but great. The seafood was wonderful, and the musicians definitely brought their A-game.

I have been hearing for years now how great of a festival Hangout is and no words can truly describe the feeling you get at this festival. You look around and see everyone in trunks and bikinis dancing in the sand to great music without any care in the world.

The lineup this year saw the likes of Beck, Spoon and the Foo Fighters playing with up-and-comers such as Joy Wave, Odesza and Sylvan Esso. There was never a dull point and the hospitality hands down beats any festival I have ever attended (and I’ve been to a lot of festivals).

As you walk around the grounds, there are seven stages, with two main stages that are on the beach and about a half-mile apart. Then there is a giant Ferris wheel and an amusement park ride called “The Drop,” which basically takes you 10-plus stories above the festival and gives you a chance to catch your breath before freefalling back down to earth.

Then you have the VIP and Super VIP experiences that are incomparable to anything that can be experienced elsewhere. You can relax in a cabana, swimming pool or your own Jacuzzi next to the main stage — they’re an oasis for adults with an open bar.

Now let’s get to the music of the weekend.

The festival kicked off Friday with highlights such as Joywave, Umphrey’s McGee, Spoon and Foo Fighters.

Joywave opened their set 12:30 p.m. and had the crowd jumping with their melodic rock and synth melodies. Once their hit “Tongues” started playing you knew this was going to be a start to an amazing weekend.

But the men of Foo Fighters put on a truly breathtaking performance that night. Dave Grohl showed what being a frontman is all about and how remarkable of a musician he is. He is that one-of-a kind artist that can play any instrument you put in front of him and is surely not only a drummer in the eyes of anyone. The two-hour set took every fan through what seemed like their entire catalogue. From their well known hits like “Monkey Wrench” and “Everlong” to tracks from their latest album, “Sonic Highways,” and bringing up the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans to show the crowd why they have a place in their heart for the Crescent City.

By the end of the Foo Fighters show not a single person in the audience was disappointed — from teens to middle-aged adults, everyone had been touched and knew the weekend was going to be something amazing.

Saturday may just as well be called the day of Father John Misty, who held the entire attention of the crowd. The former Fleet Foxes drummer used constant lyrical shifts throughout the set to take the audience on a musical journey. If you haven’t had the chance to check out Father John Misty, make sure you don’t miss him if he returns to Aspen or stops by a city near you.

Then Sunday came and everybody knew it would be a good one with the likes of Phantogram and Beck.

Phantogram, the self-described “streetbeat, psych pop” act, kept the crowd moving with their spacey keyboards, airy vocals and swirling guitar sounds. Every time Sarah Barthel sang a lyric, it felt like you were experiencing a small piece of heaven being absorbed by your soul. The audience seemed like they could never get enough, and a high point of the show was 100-plus hippo floats being tossed in the audience, making the Hangout Fest one to remember.

Hangout simply couldn’t have picked a better closing act for the weekend than Beck. His performance brought everyone at the festival together. Between his acid-trippy background illuminating behind him on stage to the journey he brought the crowd on from his melodic songs off his newest, Grammy-winning “Morning Phase” CD to his hits from the ’90s. His performance finished with an encore that could only be surpassed by the amazing firework show that ended the entire festival.

Hangout, thanks for letting me hang with you this weekend. See you next year. I hope everyone reading this will be there as well.

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