Thousands of people every year pack into Gulf Shores, Alabama at the end of May. Their shoulders are showered with glitter, shiny with sunscreen, and wet with sweat. With warm sand under their toes and bright skies overhead, they burst with excitement for the three days ahead of them. Hangout Festival provides nothing short of bliss, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend for five years. It’s my favorite time of the year, a weekend I count down to.

For this year’s Hangout Festival, I attended and conducted interviews on behalf of Pulse Spikes. Unfortunately, I didn’t scoop a photo pass, but I did have some fun with a disposable camera. The media came with its perks. I had couches to lounge on, free water to drink, and had the chance to meet some of my favorite artists. But I do admit I loved escaping from the media tent to dive into the crowds. Energy surrounded me in the hordes of people, leaving me feeling liberated and alive. Everyone buried their responsibilities in the sand and the salary-earning adults came out to play. Many times, I found myself claiming a spot in the sand under some shade simply to watch the live sets and everyone else who walked by. The constant smiles and laughs were infectious, and you couldn’t help but to grin along with the rest.

This year didn’t seem as packed as the year before, but the energy was twice as high. It’s been astounding to see the festival grow over the years, and I feel a sense of pride when I walk into the gates. Due to me conducting interviews and constantly running around, I was away from my friends for most of the festival. I didn’t let this stop me, and I caught some of the best sets of the weekend. The best part of the festival for me was chatting with some of the artists who can proudly claim, in my mind, some of the top sets.

My favorite and most anticipated set of the weekend was Whethan. He’s an 18-year-old DJ and producer, taking over the electronic industry at a young age. His set, not to be too dramatic, changed my life. The melodies and energy he creates moved through the crowd, leaving everyone in shock at the amount of talent in such a young individual. My true excitement came from being able to interview him after his set. At the beginning of the weekend, I was told I didn’t make the list for an interview, but the manager reached out with an opening the night before. Check his interview out—he has even bigger things coming, and you don’t want to miss out on them.

The collection of sets I saw spread out along such a wide variety of genres. One morning, I relaxed in the sun, enjoying the reggae sounds of Roots of Creation. In my interview with them, I dove a little deeper into the reggae scene and caught up on their latest Grateful Dub project. A few hours after my taste of reggae, I made my way over to the Boom Boom Tent to catch San Holo. I had seen him at Ultra a few months before, and I had been dying to see him again since. Shockingly, in my interview with him, he was quiet-natured and kind. I wasn’t expecting the soft-spoken mannerisms due to his incredibly loud and intense live performance.

On Sunday, I walked by myself to the venue and arrived just in time to catch Mobley’s set. I wasn’t able to catch up with him after the show, but I did have the chance to chat with him over email. His funky and nothing-short-of-fun set captured many people’s attention as they walked by, and it was difficult not to stop. A few hours after his set, I finally got my chance to see MAX. I had wanted to see him for years, and his newest single “Lights Down Low” brought in endless crowds. He explained his background of theatre to me in our interview, and it was obvious to see through his dramatic dance moves and exotic outfit choices.

Fortunately, the weather was on its best behavior for us. There were only mild showers and dark clouds, but nothing that could wash us away. I was most worried about the weather during Lauv’s set, but luckily, it was only a mild sprinkle. Lauv has been blowing out of the water lately, has toured with Ed Sheeran, and recently announced his own headlining tour. Before his set, I had the chance to catch up with him and ask about his crazy journey in the music industry.

Headliners for Hangout this year featured The Killers, The Chainsmokers, Halsey, and Kendrick Lamar. Hangout welcomes such a diverse crowd of individuals and provides an unforgettable experience for every single one of them, including myself. I don’t see myself leaving this festival behind anytime soon, and I know it’ll be hard to stop myself from going.

 

STORY & PHOTOS ELIZABETH STAFFORD

Check out the rest of our coverage at the 2018 Hangout Music Festival!

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