Cardi B | Atlantic Records
As tens of thousands slather on sunscreen and prepare their beach bods for this year’s incarnation of Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores that kicks off this Friday afternoon, promoters say they’re still tinkering with the formula that has made this one of the bucket-list events for festival goers nationwide.
They say the festival has morphed considerably since it began in 2010, and they’re still focused on keeping up with the newest musical trends, while also ensuring the ultimate fan experience. Of course, what’s driving it all is the amazing collection of musical talent Hangout has assembled again this year.
So what can you expect at Hangout Fest 2019?
Friday night headliner Travis Scott, who continues to gain exposure both on and off stage, released his third studio album, “Astroworld,” last August, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and subsequently earned three Grammy nominations. In February he accepted an invitation to perform his hit “Sicko Mode” at the Super Bowl halftime show and, as recently as last weekend, he debuted a new track during a show in Miami.
Saturday night headliner Khalid is the Billboard Music Awards winner for Top New Artist in 2018, having emerged in 2017 with his singles, “Location” and “Young Dumb & Broke.” He has since collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, SZA, Post Malone, Billie Eilish and Halsey, among others.
In April Billboard reported Khalid became the first artist to simultaneously occupy the top five spots of the Hot R&B Songs chart with his singles “Better,” “Talk,” “My Bad,” “Saturday Nights” and “Outta My Head,” featuring John Mayer. His headlining set Saturday night on the Hangout Stage is the first stop on a 57-date world tour that runs through December.
Sunday night headliners The Lumineers made their Hangout Fest debut in 2012, appearing near the bottom of the lineup and performing to a sparse-but-enthusiastic crowd shortly after the gates opened on a clear, cool Sunday morning. Between then and now, the band released its second studio album “Cleopatra,” spawning hit singles in the title track, along with “Angela” and “Ophelia.”
An extensive world tour followed including two back-to-back, sold-out engagements at Madison Square Garden, then the band joined U2 for a leg of its U.S. tour. The Lumineers were one of the last bands to perform alongside Tom Petty before his death in 2017, and last month, they announced their third studio album will be released in September.
Grammy Award winners performing in Gulf Shores this year include Vampire Weekend, Cardi B and Diplo, while nominees include Hozier, The 1975, GRiZ, Mura Masa and Sofi Tukker. Gulf Coast native Elley Duhé takes the stage Sunday at noon, still soaring from her collaboration with producer Zedd on the track “Happy Now.” Local favorite The Red Clay Strays, a 2019 Nappie Award finalist in several categories, is scheduled for a set at 12:45 p.m. Sunday on the Sunset Stage.
“There’s always been something for everyone,” said Gene Murrell, assistant program director and midday host at 92 ZEW, which has broadcast live from the festival since its inaugural year in 2010, providing exclusive backstage performances, artist interviews and updates. “[The music] is very exciting, plus the other stuff — people can get married on the beach for the weekend … they set up a piano on the beach for anyone to play — every year it’s bigger. The lineup has changed over the years, but it runs like a well-oiled machine.”
Other amenities include stageside pools for VIP ticket holders, roller disco presented by Tinder, “Camp Hangout” in coordination with Go RVing, Gulf access courtesy of Corona, a Malibu Beach House that features DJs all weekend, beach volleyball, yoga, a ferris wheel, a puppy kissing booth, a tropical spa, sailing excursions and more.
A Thursday Kick-Off Party features live performances by Big Gigantic, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, CamelPhat and SNBRN.
Murrell said he was particularly looking forward to appearances by headliners including The Lumineers, Hozier and The 1975, but also was hoping to hear veterans Jimmy Eat World and up-and-comers lovelytheband, Walk the Moon, The Interrupters, Shaed and Easy Life.
“It’s always interesting when you have bands that have never played or more newcomers,” he said. “It absolutely creates exposure being seen by the people there, the TV and radio coverage … all of a sudden you can see some of these bands thrust into the front of the line. The first year The 1975 played it was during the day, now they’re a main act. Same thing with The Killers. Grace Potter called it ‘Coachella on the beach.’”
After the 2019 lineup was unveiled last November, festival director Sean O’Connell said the acts were reflective of trends in the music industry.
“How people listen to music has completely changed from when we started the festival to even three years ago,” he told Lagniappe. “We’ve literally seen a complete change in how people consume and enjoy music, which I think is amazing. I think it’s putting opportunities out there for young artists to rise to the top.”
While the artists remain the focal point of the weekend, organizers also aim to provide a complete entertainment experience that will lure fans back year after year.
“Our vision is huge,” O’Connell said. “We want to create the best festival experience in the world. What I mean by that is that we want to create a destination that people come to celebrate summer, celebrate friends, celebrate fun and celebrate music.”
In 2015 the Gulf Shores City Council granted a conditional 11-year franchise agreement to organizers for the staging of the Hangout Music Fest on the Gulf Shores Public Beach to provide assurance of a conditional renewal of an assembly permit through the year 2025.
The resolution required the festival to limit admissions to 40,000, provide a zero-tolerance atmosphere for illegal drugs and underage drinking, have all sponsorships and amenities approved by the city, reimburse the city for expenses incurred, mitigate traffic, carry insurance, indemnify certain parties and include city branding on marketing materials.
Beginning in 2017 the city entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with the festival, keeping 1 percent of all gross revenue from admissions. The agreement called for the city’s share to increase to 2 percent last year and cap out at 3 percent in years 2019-2025.
Gulf Shores Public Information Officer Grant Brown said along with vendor license fees and sales tax related to the festival, the revenue sharing agreement generates around $700,000 for the city, “a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $40 million economic impact to our area in 2014.”
“Anytime you bring 40,000 people to a community, it’s impactful,” Brown said. “From an economic perspective, people are traveling. It generates overnight stays — even people who are working at the site for some times as long as two weeks have to have a place to stay, food to eat, gasoline, etc.”
The fees must be paid to the city revenue division within 30 calendar days after the end of the relevant site usage period — which this year is May 23 — accompanied by documentation of gross revenue from admissions.
In its application for a public assembly permit this year, organizers requested a capacity of 45,000, noting feedback from fans and city officials indicated design changes implemented last year “greatly improved crowd flow and alleviated congestion during periods of crowd movement.”
The festival also noted “the continued growth in hotels and condos means guests have plenty of options for lodging.”
Brown said although the city improves its preparation and response plan every year, frequent visitors should not notice any major changes to the footprint or amenities in 2019.
Noting the weather forecast is currently clear and warm, he said there have been last-minute discussions about ensuring adequate hydration and emergency response capabilities.
“Every single year we learn how to do things better,” he said. “We’re not doing anything specifically different, but I feel like we’ve gotten better to be on top of items that have to planned for including public safety and coordination with local hospitals.”
During the weekend, access to some Gulf Shores public beaches will be restricted and traffic along the terminus of State Route 59 and East Beach Boulevard will be redirected north to First and Second avenues.
Grant recommended that residents and visitors not attending the festival use alternate routes depicted on the city’s website and those who have wristbands consider purchasing the festival’s shuttle pass, which provides transportation to points north, east and west.
As of Tuesday, shuttle passes, general admission weekend wristbands and VIP packages were still available, although all single-day passes and Super VIP packages were sold out. Three-day tickets are $319 and VIP passes are $1,099, a price that includes exclusive stage viewing areas, complimentary beer, wine, snacks and cocktails, stage-side pools, air conditioned bathrooms, access to a VIP grove and lounge area, priority entrances and exclusive performances. More information is available at hangoutmusicfest.com.
Murrell encouraged those who could not attend to tune into 92 ZEW, where some of the station’s highlights over the years have included backstage performances from ALO, X Ambassadors, The Record Company and Elle King.
“Even if you can’t be here, we get all these bands that come in to perform and you get to know them a little too, which I love,” Murrell said.
Stephen Centanni contributed to this report.
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