Note: I can’t believe it’s taken me almost a month to write about our trip. This is a new level of slacking, even for me.
Back in mid May, Ian and I along with two friends packed up the car and drove down to Gulf Shores, Ala., for the 2013 Hangout Music Festival. We got in a day early to enjoy the beach a bit and relax before the insanity of the 30,000-people festival kicked in.
In comparison to the other festivals I’ve attended (Bonnaroo, Music Midtown and Beale Street Music Fest are the biggest ones), Hangout Fest definitely wins on location. We rented a two-bedroom condo right on the beach and had a less-than-a-mile walk to the gates each day. We were close enough so that we could take a break mid-day and return to the condo to freshen up in air conditioning (meaning our friends made lunch and drank more booze while I re-applied copious amounts of SPF 70 to my sun-sensitive body), which was a luxury I’ve never had at any other festival.
I’d only been to the beach twice before in my life (never in Gulf Shores), and I became quickly enamored with the ocean. Our condo was on the ninth floor and had a balcony off the living room and master bedroom (where Ian and I slept) that overlooked the ocean, and let me tell you: Falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean was something else. I got addicted to that sound and scent quickly, and in the days after the festival ended I found myself missing it.
Ian and I spent several nights after the festival walking the beach in the moonlight, which was more romantic the first couple nights. By the end of the trip I had developed blisters from walking 10 miles a day and the tide had brought in a bunch of sharp shells and, well, I was kind of over the whole barefoot in the sand thing and was happy to just watch the waves crest from the comfort of our balcony.
The festival itself was well-run, although I was irritated that they were so militant about not letting anyone bring a full Camelbak bladder in. I get that they don’t want you to smuggle in booze, but I have never been to any other festival where they made a big deal out of it. After we got back from the festival I read that someone in the front row for the Tom Petty show had a large knife and was threatening to kill him with it, and my first thought was “Well, at least he wasn’t able to sneak in any water!” Priorities.
This was also the first festival where I saw someone get assaulted—twice, actually. Ian and I were eating lunch one afternoon toward the side of a boardwalk area and watched a man approach a woman who was laying down and start kicking sand on her. She stood up and they started arguing (it sounded like he overslept, despite her attempts to wake him), and when he tried to walk away she followed him. They brought their argument right in front of where we were sitting for a minute, but after they each took turns pulling at each other they moved back into the sand again. Just as I thought they were done yelling, the man punched the woman in the side of the head and took off. She stood there, stunned I assume, and then just kind of crumpled down into the sand where she had been laying before. I scanned the area looking for some sort of police or security presence to report what I had seen (because, as Twitter pointed out, if he does that in public what does he do to her when nobody is watching?), but I couldn’t find anyone. Eventually the people around her started offering her joints, which she took them up on, and then she left the area. I hope she is OK.
Later that day while I was waiting in line to use an indoor restroom a festival volunteer rushed in and sat down on a bench, sobbing hysterically. Everyone else in line just stared and smirked, so I approached her and asked if she needed anything. She didn’t immediately respond, so I asked again if she was OK, and she replied that she couldn’t talk. I pressed once more, asking if she was physically hurt, and she replied no so I backed off. But damn. I hope whatever was troubling her worked out.
The second assault I witnessed was of a sexual nature; as we were at a stage watching Bloc Party (I think), a group of young men wearing Pokemon costumes weaved their way through the back of the crowd. A young woman wearing a bikini top and jean shorts passed in front of them, and the man leading the Pokemon parade stuck his hand down the back of her shorts. I mean, way down in there. She turned around and screamed at him, and his immediate reaction was “What?!” As though he didn’t comprehend that sticking his hand down a stranger’s pants was wrong.
I don’t know. I never feel like an old person at festivals because there are plenty of old timers that are always around, but I have never felt the urge to mother young women that I see at a festival before. I felt powerless and weird to see these events unfold in front of me and not be able to help. Or find help for them.
Despite those instances of creepiness, along with the usual entitled millennials that don’t respect festival/concert etiquette, Hangout Fest was a lot of fun. The location and weather played a big part in that, but it was very well-run and for the most part very clean. I wish they had more vendors and food options—the only vegetarian option, for the most part, was pizza, and there were only about 10 clothing/jewelry vendors where I was expecting many more based on previous festival experiences—but it’s a young festival still.
I didn’t take many pictures, but those I did take are over on Flickr.