The opening day of Gulf Shores, Alabama’s Hangout Fest on Friday, May 19th was nothing short of a success. I mean, with Red Hot Chili Peppers headlining, how does it get better? Before we got to RHCP, there were amazing performances by various artists, such as Gryffin, Rezz, Two Feet, Lil Nas X, Tove Lo, and even a DJ set from Rainbow Kitten Surprise member, Harleigh Colt.
The weather was perfect and the vibes were just amazing, as it was very obvious that everyone was thrilled to be back at Hangout Fest again. People were laying by the pool, drinking, eating the amazing food offered, there were just smiles all around.
We started out the day with Tove Lo, who gave a performance with immaculate vocals. Her outfit was also perfect for a summer festival, as she was dressed in chaps and a silver iridescent bodysuit. She had the whole audience dancing. Two Feet was giving tons of energy to the crowd which was only reciprocated by fans. Even though their music style is more electronic, they gave a more rock-show vibe with their performance, as their frontman played guitar and there was also a drummer playing live. They played their two massive songs, “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” and “Go **** Yourself” towards the end of their set, which had everyone in the crowd super excited.
Gryffin put on an epic, super cinematic set. He even got up on top of the DJ platform to play guitar at one point, and one can imagine he was feeling on top of the world during that moment. He played a good mix of other artist’s songs, as well as some of his own songs, along with having a ton of pyrotechnics. His live show was very impressive, as someone who had never seen him live before. Rezz was another artist who had a really good set, with the performance focusing more on the sound than the visuals. All the fans were having a great time and jumping around during the set.
Before Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage, the audience was given an amazing, extremely cinematic performance by Lil Nas X on the Shein Stage. Lil Nas X had many props for his performance, including, but not limited to, a massive snake and giant horse for when he performed “Old Town Road”. He also had many backup dancers and played hit after hit, which the crowd went wild for.
Red Hot Chili Peppers closed out the night with an outstanding set. They opened their set with “Around The World”, a song about how beautiful life is around the world, which hit a little different as it was played live on the beach. What a beautiful moment during their set. They played a lot of classic hits, but also added some newer released songs such as “Eddie” and “Tippa My Tongue”. They had a shorter setlist, and emphasized the hard curfew as they got to the end of their set, noting that they were only allotted a little over an hour and could not fit in as many songs as they wished. Bassist Flea was phenomenal as always, especially his bass solo, which was expected, as he is one of the most notable bassists of all time. Lead singer Anthony Keidis gave an amazing performance as well, even while being in a boot. After their set was over, a handwritten version of their setlist got posted to their Instagram, which was super cool to see. Their set closed out with fireworks over the beach before “Sweet Home Alabama” began playing, signifying the end of the day. Day One was definitely one for the books!
Saturday, May 20th, may have been the best day of Hangout Fest 2023, in my personal opinion. With headliners such as Paramore and SZA, you simply cannot go wrong.
The day started off with Nashville-based indie rock band COIN, who simply never gives a bad performance. I have personally seen them many times, but this was one of the biggest crowds I have ever seen them play for, which is a huge accomplishment for them. They opened their set with “Watering a Dead Flower”, off of their recent album, Uncanny Valley. They played many hits such as “Crash My Car”, “I Want It All”, and “Talk Too Much”, where lead singer Chase Lawrence even walked through the crowd. They also gave a beautiful performance of their song “Malibu 1992”, which was really special to hear on the beach.
We also saw artists such as the beautiful blue-haired Charlotte Sands, who gave an amazing and energetic performance. She definitely should have been on a bigger stage. She opened with her hit “Tantrum”, and proceeded to play hits such as “Dress”, “Bad Day”, and “Every Guy Ever.” Fans were jumping and screaming so loudly for her and she was reciprocating their energy.
AJR gave a super interactive and amazing performance, as per usual. They even called out some people in the crowd, one of which was a guy who they said they had seen at almost every show in the South and Midwest for the past twelve years. As their set came to an end, they explained how they made and produced their song “Weak” before performing it. Overall, an amazing performance and maybe one of the best of the weekend.
Sabrina Carpenter took the Shein Stage in a beautiful silver sparkly two piece outfit, as she walked to the piano to open her set with album opener, “emails i can’t send”. She then got into hits such as “vicious” and “because i liked a boy” before closing with her smash single “nonsense”. She gave a really special intro to her song “tornado warnings”, explaining that it was based off of a time she was with a guy and they both got tornado warnings on their phones, and she took it as a sign from the universe that she should not be with that guy. She also proceeded to say that she felt as though she had to lie to her therapist during that phase of her life, so she encouraged the audience to go to therapy and make sure that their therapist is a good fit for them.
Up next was the amazing Paramore, who never fail to put on a show. Opening with “You First” off of their recent album, This Is Why (QRO review), it was obvious from the first note that this set would be wonderful. They played smash hits such as “Ain’t It Fun”, “Still Into You”, and “Misery Business”, and even brought back an old hit, “The Only Exception”, where they encouraged everyone to hold up their lighters or flashlights, creating a beautiful moment on the beach.
SZA closed out the night with an amazing set filled with choreography and amazing visuals based off of her album, SOS. She rose up from a platform that visualized water, which went perfectly with the theme from her SOS album. She played hits such as “Kill Bill” and “Kiss Me More” which the crowd went absolutely crazy for. SZA was a perfect headliner for Hangout Fest this year.
Closing out Hangout Festival 2023, we had Calvin Harris and his amazing DJ set, alongside an array of pyro, smoke, and even fireworks towards the end. He was a perfect headliner to have at this festival, as almost everyone was jumping around and dancing.
Before we got to Calvin Harris’ closing set, we had many other amazing ones, such as Yung Gravy, Skrillex, The Backseat Lovers, Ashnikko, Noah Kahan, and so many more. Yung Gravy was another perfect addition to this lineup, as everyone was pulled into his set and singing every word. The overall vibes during this set were immaculate. The Backseat Lovers also put on an amazing performance, drawing in all kinds of different audience members, even ones who had never heard of them before. But once the opening notes to their hit “Kilby Girl” began, everyone began running to the Hangout Stage to hear the song live, and the run was definitely worth it.
The Kid LAROI put on a great set as well, as he had everyone dancing and jumping and was just overall super interactive with the crowd. He made them feel super involved and not just like they were watching a concert. During his smash hit “Stay”, he even hopped off the stage and walked down the barricades, choosing people to come up on stage and dance with him during the song. He chose about 15 to 20 people, including one who had an inflatable cactus, which he ended up signing and writing a message on before the man got off stage. He also had many special moments during his set, including when he honored Juice Wrld and towards the end of his set, there was a song where he asked everyone to put their cellphones down and just be in the moment for the entirety of the song.
Noah Kahan was another amazing part of the day, as his set was perfect for the beach setting. There were many fans along the barricade who had waited there all day just for Kahan, and it was obvious how much his music moved them, as there were tears coming from the eyes of many people along the barricades once he came on stage. His performance was overall just very special and down to earth, and he even mentioned therapy a few times and encouraged audience members to go to therapy and that it is a good thing.
We also got the pleasure of seeing Ashnikko live, who never fails to put on an amazing show. Her sets are always super high energy and fun, and this one was no different. She played hits such as “Slumber Party”, “Daisy”, and “STUPID”, all of which fans went crazy for. There was even a fan on the barricade wearing Ashnikko’s iconic blue hair and horns, and Ashnikko pointed her out, saying she liked her hair, causing the fan to cry tears of joy.
Overall, Hangout Fest was nothing short of a success, as per usual. This festival is simply one of the best around and I do not think that many things can top it. Live music, on the beach…how does it get better?
-words & photos: Emily Richardson