If you know anyone who lives in the Gulf Coast vicinity, you probably know someone who's raving about the fun they're going to have at the Hangout Music Fest in Gulf Shores, AL, this weekend. With headliners like The Black Keys, Outkast, Jack Johnson, Queens of the Stone Age, Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Wiz Khalifa, Conor Oberst, and hundreds more performing right on the sand mere feet from the Gulf of Mexico, this festival is far more geared toward surfers and ocean lovers than Coachella or SXSW (the Hangout's dang logo even includes a shaka sign).
Luckily, EasternSurf.com knows a couple people attending the Hangout Fest — including Pensacola's Sterling Spencer, who will be on site throughout the weekend interviewing musicians, fans, and anyone else lucky enough to fall under the Centaur spell as he crafts some of his trademark deadpan video hilarity. We chatted with Sterling about his favorite Hangout acts, who he hopes to surf with (if a wave happens to pop up), and what events like this mean for the Gulf Coast.
ESM: This is the Hangout Music Fest's fifth year. Have you attended before, Sterling?
Sterling Spencer: I haven't gone — I've always been out of town.
ESM: Besides boasting one of the best online presences in all of surfing, how did you get hooked up to actually work for Hangout this year?
SS: My manager works with someone from the festival, and they asked me, "Do you live near Gulf Shores?" I said, "Yeah, I'm only 20 minutes away." So they asked me to produce some shorts.
ESM: So all the videos you've made in the past have prepared you for this big moment.
SS: [Laughs] Yeah. My cousin and I, who makes videos with me, said "We've been training for this — we just didn't have any idea."
ESM: What artists are you looking forward to seeing the most?
SS: So many:
- Outkast — I've been obsessed with them since I was younger and André 3000 is my hero
- The Black Keys
- Jack Johnson — he's the surf god of our nation, and hopefully we can go surfing together. There might actually be little waves, as there have been all week. That'd be cool.
- Diarrhea Planet — definitely just because they have the best band name in the world
- Portugal. The Man — They're going to be rad
- Conor Oberst — I've been a fan of his forever
ESM: We interviewed Jack Johnson a few weeks ago and he actually asked whether there'd be waves around the Hangout Fest. So if you see him, take him surfing for ESM.
SS: I will.
ESM: As a native Gulf Coaster, what does an event like Hangout Fest do for the area's cultural reputation?
SS: It's cool in the sense that this area doesn't have a name for progressive events — it's called the Redneck Riviera for a reason [laughs]. But there are cool people here who want to change that, so it's cool to see them doing something new. Plus it brings so much business to the area.
ESM: Which leads to our next question: given the impact of the BP oil spill back in 2010, how big a deal is this for local businesses?
SS: It's huge. That oil spill was so hard on everyone here. The seasons have been really bad since then, especially in Gulf Shores. So many businesses have just done terribly. So the Hangout Fest is a huge blessing.
ESM: Give us an idea of the types of interviews you'll be doing this weekend.
SS: Basically I'll be in the crowd getting the whole feel of the festival — and doing silly stuff with the bands. Hopefully people will think it's funny.
ESM: You haven't had any problems with that so far. Does this represent just another arrow in your multi-faceted career quiver?
SS: Yeah. It's cool because I was surfing all week, and that's my job, but then I get to do this and jump into a whole different world. It's so refreshing because I've been surfing my whole life. It's cool to be open-minded to different stuff like this. It prevents life from getting boring or me being stuck in a one-track mind.