SZA performing at Hangout Music festival 2023.

MP3 TAKES: Hangout Music Festival 2023

Introducing MP3 TAKES, our event review series where we dive deep into the exhilarating world of music festivals and live performances. In a time when countless events grace stages across the globe, how do you navigate through the noise and discover the most captivating experiences? Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover the highlights, backstage stories, and unforgettable moments that make each event unique. MP3 TAKES is your ultimate guide to immersing yourself in the vibrant world of live music. 

Every year, a few miles from the Flora-bama shore, Hangout Music Festival graces the Southeastern white sand beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama, inviting the hottest names in music to a vibrant beach festival. The May festival doesn’t adhere to any single set of music genres. The bill included the top acts in pop, house, country, rap, electropop, and alternative, as Lil Nas X, Skrillex, Kidd G, Kevin Gates, Ashnikko, and Paramore were among the headliners in the diverse lineup. Hangout Music Festival 2023 showcased an eclectic mix of talent and flawless sound and performances.

Founded in 2010, Hangout occurs on the third weekend in May for a three-day sonic celebration. This year marked the twelfth celebration after the organizers postponed the fest in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID regulations. Hangout meshes live music enthusiasts with beach-goers, setting the stages only feet from the ocean as the sun kisses the attendees. Many believe Hangout is a top-tier festival rivaling none other than Coachella.

We dive into that and more with our TAKES on Hangout Music Festival 2023 below:

Stage Set Up

Four of the six stages nestled into the sand, encouraging attendees to kick off their shoes and run their toes through the sand or jump in the ocean as bangers blare through the open air. The two main stages, Hangout and Shein Surf Stage, sat on opposite sides of each other, with alternating sets. Fans sprinted from Paramore’s set at the Shein stage to witness the Goddess, otherwise known as SZA, at the Hangout stage on Saturday night.

On Sunday night, ragers rejoiced as Skrillex welcomed the crowd to the jungle with a rumble, and an hour later, Calvin Harris showed us exactly what we came for—a three-day unforgettable weekend featuring the hottest acts in the music scene.

Situated next to the mainstage was the Monster Beach Club, a DJ stage in a crook of the sand close to the water. Nostalgix, Moore Kismet, and Aluna packed out the stage; guests spilled out of the entrance dancing. During the sets, foam and water rained upon the dancing guests, furthering the beach party idea.

For those who wanted to take a break from the silky sand and stand on solid ground, the opposite side of the festival held the Mermaid Stage, a cutesy, smaller platform near the Hangout restaurant and shops where bedroom pop artist Jordana connected with her audience in a sweet fashion. Thundercat flexed his vocals between bassist beats to reverberate the iconic SpongeBob song, “The Krusty Krab Pizza.”

The Boom stage was the other grounded stage near the festival’s exit. The most eye-catching sets at Boom were Canadian space-bass legend, REZZ, on Friday night, John Summit’s impassioned House set at 7 P.M. on Saturday, and Kevin Gates’ Sunday set. The weekend’s activities were soon to catch up to us, but the audience stayed true to the I Don’t Get Tired belief, at least until Gates’ set concluded.

Flawless Sound Design

Every set executed unblemished sound, reaching guests that were thousands of feet from the stage. SZA mentioned that she had a slight cold and warned us of her wavering voice, yet thousands collectively engaged in a jaw-drop when the R&B powerhouse dazzled with hits like “Low” and “Ghost in the Machine.”

Pop beauty Sabrina Carpenter attributed her finest vocals during her Saturday set, but I would argue the most magnificent vocals arose from New England folk-pop rock singer, Noah Kahan. In the midst of glaring heat, Kahan enchanted audiences with stellar sonics and soul-bearing lyrics that drove audiences to pull those near them in for hugs to fight off the tears pooling in their eyes. Hangout Music Festival 2023 provided top tier sound and mesmerizing performances.

Increased Police Presence

With every good event, there is always a downside. This year, the increased police presence at Hangout caused nervousness and discomfort among many festival-goers simply for the fact that the police invaded personal space without justification. Individuals mentioned police patted them down in intimate areas when the only item they brought through the gates was a water bottle.

On the other hand, of the increased police presence, some security remained lax and didn’t search a single bag. We watched one person wait for two minutes for a security guard to take a peek in their bag before proceeding into the fest. Once through, police took notice and instructed them to go back through security and repeat the process. Hangout Music Festival 2023 saw an increased police presence which garnered mixed reactions from attendees.

We understand increased security leads to heightened safety measures, but we also believe attendees’ personal space should be well respected and regarded. 

Thanks for Hanging Out

Hangout is a unique festival, with a roller rink near a giant Ferris wheel planted in the middle of six stages. The beach spirit swivels under your skin, and even people who don’t like the beach find themselves grooving and jiving along to the sand-filled sets beside the Gulf of Mexico.

As a respite from musical activities, guests can pose for photo ops with unicorns outside a psychedelic bus, take a peek into the virtual tequila plantations tour aboard the Cuervo Express, elope at the designated wedding chapel, lounge in the hammocks, or make a music video in an AI Coca-Cola simulation. Hangout Music Festival 2023 offers a unique and immersive experience for all attendees.

Overall, Hangout entranced audiences with unbelievable performances, remarkable stages, and an unbeatable location, making Hangout Music Festival 2023 the festival to hangout at each year.