Secret Stages 2012 on May 11th & 12th, took over where the first Birmingham Indie Festival left off last year, with plenty of homegrown SXSW style Buzz, this time around with a fully fledged website instead of a hard to find blog.
From Nashville’s Natural Child to Memphis’ River City Tanlines to Chattanooga’s own take on the MGMT formula, Machines Are People Too, SS 2012 had everything from vintage postcard sounds of Frank Fairfield to the Motorhead meats Black Sabbath at a Southern Bar B Que sounds of Black Tusk, most groups were part of the Southeast circuit with all points in between, with several Artists travelling from far reaches of the kingdom.
Even a coffee house was throwing down Rappers, DJ’s and Breakdancers next door to Das Haus as an add plus to the list of venues.Speaking of Das Haus, with the metal machine noise Lou Reed in a Sonic Youth Blender rock of Hail The Titans, Death Surf Punk of Kill Baby Killand the aforementioned Black Tusk taking care of business with an alpine view backdrop and the dense smell of Brats, Kraut and German Beer lingering in all four corners, this was the edge of the Abyss, where as some of the safer acts played at Rogue Tavern. Rogue, the biggest club of all featured Machines Are People Too getting everybody on their feet dancing then a few minutes later, The Dirty Streets, were throwing down Social Distortion meets Government Mule.
There was something for everybody and all ages. Baby Baby, with double the drumming pleasure, played at all ages Easy Street cranking out loud post punk. This wasn’t a bar, just a big empty hall, loud music and a table for buying Cd’s and other swag.
The second day had to contend with constant soft rain that left the vendors and the Third Man Rolling Record Store out in the cold, whereas last year, the main outdoor stage was the place to congregate, this year, everybody was scurrying for indoor digs with a few dancing in the rain at the foot of the main stage listening to blues and jazz.Metro kind of became the Americana beacon with Bloodshot Records’ Lydia Loveless and Taylor Hollingsworth’s new duo with newlywed wife, Kate Taylor, playing songs off their southern roots Fat Possum Records, Deadfingersrelease.
The greatest benefit was this was truly a pub crawl in the Loft District, which has seen a lot of changes over the last 5-10 years. It covered four square blocks where no taxis were needed to get around.Chuck Leishman, who originally had the idea for the pub crawl, who called together the roundtable that developed Secret Stages stated, “We wanted to have a festival that all these bands that play the circuit could have a platform, a place to get their music heard in one weekend. It would be great if every regional area had a festival like this.” This truly was what SXSW felt like maybe twenty years ago. There were some local corporate and media support and even a few bands on some Indie labels, but, this was a place where many bands were able to be heard by a diverse crowd. Birmingham has seen some success over the last few years, with bands like The Great Book of John and Wild Sweet Orange.
It would have been anybody’s guess that Birmingham would host the best Indie Festival in the Southeast with over 100 bands and comedians during two days in May.
Birmingham is just about the same distance between Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Mississippi and Northern Florida making it an easy 2-4 hour trip from just about anywhere in the region.
The number of venues has more than doubled in Birmingham in the last ten years.
The time was right, the place right and the vibe was right. Shine a light on Birmingham.
- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN firstname.lastname@example.org