Archives for category: Birmingham Alabama

“The high point of the weekend was booking half a dozen or more acts that had never played Birmingham and hearing from SO many festival goers that loved them.” – Travis Morgan


Tedo Stone, Secret Stages 2013,-photo - Brad Hardisty

Tedo Stone, Secret Stages 2013,-photo – Brad Hardisty

Secret Stages beat the odds by finally lifting off this sultry wet last weekend in Birmingham with a new central location down on the cobblestone Morris Avenue backed by the trains going by on the upper deck above the Miller Lite Stage with food trucks lined up selling everything from gourmet Tacos to Hawaiian Ice or Snowballs depending on what coast you are from.

 The buzz had been building with bands on the bill from Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio and points around the Southeast.

Das Haus, loud, experimental out of the box venue, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Das Haus, loud, experimental out of the box venue, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

One of the main additions over last year was an official Hip Hop venue – Matthews with a two day fest of rocking the microphone that kicked off with Mic Militia on Friday night and finished with Supastition  after midnight on Saturday or Sunday morning however you look at it.

Lazer/Wulf, Secret Stages 2013, photo _ Brad Hardisty

Lazer/Wulf, Secret Stages 2013, photo _ Brad Hardisty

 Most of the venues changed from last year with the exception of Das Haus returning with the ever permanent smell of Brats and a floor lamp that seems to always be turned on and perched a little awkward onstage which featured the loudest most punk sounds of local band The Dirty Lungs while Saturday offered more varied fare from Tedo Stone, the acoustic singer/songwriter styles of Jazzmine Garfield followed by the extreme experimental metal of Lazer/Wulf from Georgia playing in the set time of last year’s Georgia heaviness Black Tusk. It seems that Mastodon started in some fertile ground of a loud and proud scene.  This would be the perfect venue for Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream to play, okay; maybe it is a little smallish.

Silver Tongues at Pale Eddies, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Silver Tongues at Pale Eddies, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Lindsay Garrett- Volunteer Coordinator:

 “One of my favorite things this year was running into JazzMine Garfield on 2nd Ave in between her two sets while she was playing a few songs for people passing by.  She basically just stopped on a corner, sat down, and started playing.  She had fan girls taking video and snapping photos while she played her guitar and sang, totally unaffected.  And the entire time she had a smile on her face.
She’s a little gem.

 The reason this is a high point for me is because it was definitive of the Secret Stages energy.  Artists are thirsty to play for people who want to listen…  And fans feel like they have gained some sense of bonding/closeness with the musicians they love.”


JazzMine Garfield, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

JazzMine Garfield, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Jazzmine Garfield – Birmingham, Alabama

“They just saw me playing out and about and I got here with Secret Stages with Courtney.  I play anywhere and everywhere.  I will be at The Metro later and Iron Bar on August 15th.”

Most of the bigger Birmingham bands played Friday night sets like one of the longest running bands Through The Sparks, last year’s buzz band The Great Book of John on the Miller Lite Stage as well as The Grenadines who also signed to Birmingham label Communicating Vessels this last year releasing a 7 inch as well as a proper release for the well-produced first album that was available at shows over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, Model Citizen with one of the greatest songs ever to come out of Birmingham, “The Inner Fool” were nowhere to be seen this year.

Belle Adair, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Belle Adair, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Travis Morgan- Head Of Artist & Music Production:

“The high point of the weekend was booking half a dozen or more acts that had never played Birmingham and hearing from SO many festival goers that loved them.  The sweet synergy of music discovery.  We get to discover bands and then showcase them for folks in Birmingham to also discover and it’s a special bond.  Also, seeing everything coalesce was very special. Between the art installation from Joe Minter (featured in the New York Times in April), the graffiti, the amazing performances and the positive energy between bands and music fans, we soared like eagles.”

“I loved The Log Ladies, Adron, Healing Power, Amasa Hines and Ponychase.  The Great Book of John sounded great. I really liked Ante Meridian and Supastition was really solid too.  W. Stewart and Looksy performed great sets. Foreign Fields were terrific but I didn’t get to see them long enough.  Through the Sparks is (bias) one of my favorite bands of all time, so there you go.  Always good.”  

photo - Brad Hardisty

photo – Brad Hardisty

Rain was hard and heavy on Saturday afternoon and threatened to make things interesting like Saturday night last year when festival goers danced in the rain in front of the main stage, but as luck would have it, the rain stopped before things started up on night two. Although, the steam off the cobblestones didn’t stop until late into the evening leaving everybody as damp as the produce section at Publix.

Healing Power, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Healing Power, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Joey – Healing Power from Cincinnati, Ohio:

“We were invited and couldn’t turn it down. It’s an honor to be here. It’s a lot of fun.”

Wussy, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Wussy, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Matthews and M-Lounge were connected by a couple of hallways and a set of stairs that put one in the midst of a rap throw down before climbing a long staircase ending in the middle of a set by Wussy while The Parthenon (VIP Lounge) was just across the street and featured three sets each night.

Tedo Stone at Das Haus, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Tedo Stone at Das Haus, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

Tedo Stone from Atlanta, Georgia:

“We had talked to Travis back in the spring about playing and it got pro-longed and he ended up making it happen in the fall we are just stoked to be here with all our friends. I have never played Birmingham. This is our first time so we were stoked. It was an awesome crowd.”

There were a couple of secret shows which fit one of the main themes of musical discovery.  One of those sets was the final late night set at Pale Eddie’s which featured Adam Guthrie as his latest incarnation, ADAM ADAM. 

Adam Guthrie on Bajo Sexto, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Adam Guthrie on Bajo Sexto, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

As Adam was setting up, voices were asking who he was, if anybody had any idea where he was from.  It’s nice to know a well-established Birmingham guitarist who has played with everybody from Rick Carter; Heath Green to The Backrow Baptists could still find a new ear filled with intrigue and amazement. Truth be told, Adam is amazing just by his sheer ability to riff on anything from the aforementioned guitar, to his masterful Ukulele stroking, Bajo Sexto turned punk bass to playing a one stringed electric beer can.

Adam Guthrie – ADAM ADAM, Birmingham, Alabama:

Adam Guthrie, Secret Show at Pale Eddie's, Secret Stages 2013, photo- Brad Hardisty

Adam Guthrie, Secret Show at Pale Eddie’s, Secret Stages 2013, photo- Brad Hardisty

I am so proud to know Brad Hardisty. Travis and Tym, I’m not making sense. It was Travis, it was kind of a last minute thing so I called the people I knew, which were myself and Tym and I’m enjoying the camaraderie of the musicians to be honest.”

Isaac Karns of Healing Power, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Isaac Karns of Healing Power, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

The Secret Stages of 2013 found crowds of all ages and color mingling like it was a pub crawl in heaven with plenty of smiles and solid grooves especially from the last two sets at the Miller Lite Stage by the soulful alternative pop psyche of Healing Power fronted by son of Julian Assange look-a-like Isaac Karns and the last set by Amasa Hines with a full horn section.

Amasa Hines, Secret Stages 2013, photo - Brad Hardisty

Amasa Hines, Secret Stages 2013, photo – Brad Hardisty

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Caddle. The Nick, Birmingham, Alabama photo- Brad Hardisty

Caddle. The Nick, Birmingham, Alabama photo- Brad Hardisty

Caddle was set to heat up The Nick, Birmingham’s “Dirty Little Secret”, in the middle of  February Last Saturday night with a new bass player and the developing interplay with newer guitarist Gary Edmonds, blazing some serious outlaw country shred on his self-built Tele.

Gary Edmonds, Caddle photo - Brad Hardisty

Gary Edmonds, Caddle photo – Brad Hardisty

Caddle has seen a few changes for the better. The three long time members, Phillip Hyde on vocals along with Eric Watters on Guitar and Finney James on drums are seeing several years now in developing Caddle into a serious Hard Country Contender.

Three decades old stage, The Nick photo - Brad Hardisty

Three decades old stage, The Nick photo – Brad Hardisty

The Nick has to be the best room to hear a band, especially drums in the Southeast. The walls are held up by staples and concert posters. The sound system has seen everything from early Janes Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers to regional concert favorites White Animals in the early days.

Danny Everitt, The Nick photo - Brad Hardisty

Danny Everitt, The Nick photo – Brad Hardisty

Danny Everitt has been one of the main sound guys running front of house when he is not busy with any of his other projects for well over a decade. Danny without a doubt does the best front of house mixes for Rock and Roll in Birmingham. His mixes always have plenty of great rock guitar mid-range and no high end Tin Pan Alley going on.

Several bands make The Nick a regular stop in the Southeast. Especially, Atlanta bands building on their base. The Nick is known as a straight up Rock and Roll bar with no frills, although the music can be really eclectic as it was Saturday night.

DJ Chocolate, The Nick Photo - Brad Hardisty

DJ Chocolate, The Nick Photo – Brad Hardisty

DJ Chocolate got the party started mixing up pre- Thriller Michael Jackson with some old school seventies funk and soul before Outlaw Country was to take over the night.

Birmingham is a real melting pot of music ideas where southern rock, punk and reggae can share the same bill. There is that “it’s all good” attitude, if it is good.

photo - Brad Hardisty

photo – Brad Hardisty

The crowd for Caddle ranged from UAB hipsters, old school rockers to Bikers pulling up in Harleys all mixing together getting ready for Phillip Hyde’s delivery.

Phillip Hyde on the mic, photo - Brad Hardisty

Phillip Hyde on the mic, photo – Brad Hardisty

Caddle with the addition of guitarist Gary Edmonds has gone from just plain dirty southern rock about trailer parks and meth to rev’d up hard classic country kind of like Hank Williams Jr. with a Hank III attitude.

Eric Watters on guitar photo - Brad Hardisty

Eric Watters on guitar photo – Brad Hardisty

Eric Watters and Gary were intertwining a lot of well thought out guitar parts creating a lot of air guitar and fist pumping in the crowd. Phillip is known for some real out-there monologues about outsiders and drinking and he was on point Saturday night.

photo - Brad Hardisty

photo – Brad Hardisty

Caddle did real well back in 2008 when they did The Billy Block Show back in 2008 at Cadillac Ranch but now the guitar playing is up several notches. True country guitarists like Brent Mason and Pete Anderson can mix it up with deft players like Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai in their own way and now Caddle really is becoming a powerhouse country guitar outfit that could rival anything coming out of Nashville today.

Speaking of Nashville today, we all talk about how country now is either going for Bon Jovi, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffet  or AC/DC. Well, this could be good timing for the Outlaw biker band from Birmingham.  It may be time for a strong guitar sound that sits somewhere between The Black Crowes and Dwight Yoakum’s band to hit mainstream country radio upside the head.

It’s easy to categorize Caddle as Southern Rock, but, their sound is not looking back, Caddle is all about working class – what – is – going – on – right – now vibe. It’s a Saturday night, pull out ten bucks and have a cold one type vibe. An easy smile and cross culture crowd.

photo - Brad Hardisty

photo – Brad Hardisty

When Caddle sticks to the strength of their original material, it works extremely well.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

2010, Corb Lund, Hayes Carll, Lucinda Willianms, Hayes’ parents.

September used to be back to school month, now that school starts early, September is not only when the CMA’s hit Nashville, but, when the world comes for Americana, Bluegrass and where Next Big Nashville morphed into Soundland and moved to October.

While Nashville may be known for the CMA’s , Eric Church and Taylor Swift, it is also known for what Rolling Stone called the “coolest music festival in the world”, The Americana Music Festival hits the city for the ultimate pub crawl from September 12th-15th.

Dan Baird with Brad, 2010, Cannery Ballroom, Stones Tribute

Past years have seen everybody from Don Was to Robert Plant to Nashville’s Own, Justin Townes Earle put on some great showcases.  Last years’ awards show mashed up Gregg Allman, Robert Plant with The Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars and Mumford and Sons (sorry, the name reminds me of Sanford and Son). In fact, it seemed like a hybrid MTV awards show where music mattered and all sugar pop was left at the end caps in Wal Mart.

This year proves to be no exception, some notable sets will be Memphis night at The Rutledge featuring sets by Jim Lauderdale and the Mississippi All-Stars, okay, yes, I’ll say it again, Jim Lauderdale and The Mississippi All-Stars also a late set featuring an all-star jam playing the music of Big Star.

For those with a traditional view of what is “Americana”, Corb Lund will be at Mercy Lounge this Wednesday followed by a tribute to the late Levon Helm. In fact the line-up seems to be all inclusive with The Wallflowers, Mindy Smith, Chris Scruggs, Rodney Crowell among others playing all over the place for several nights.

As far as Americana goes, the easiest party route is to hang between Mercy Lounge and The Cannery Ballroom with an occasional run to The Basement for some harder to find sets.

Don Was, photo – Brad Hardisty

The problem is, this year, there are some great line-ups at The Rutledge and the Station Inn that will make that shuttle route a little difficult and may necessitate borrowing somebody’s 20-speed bike to get around each night.

Peelander-Z at Exit/In, NBN 2010 – photo – Brad Hardisty

The awards show at the end of the event, always proves to be a magical evening at The Ryman. This year should be no different. I am rooting for Alabama Shakes in the Emerging Artist category as well as Jason Isbell (Alabama represent!) & The 400 Unit with Album of the Year, Here We Rest.

The Dillards, IBMA 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

Not to be outdone, IBMA’s World of Bluegrass Week runs from 24th-30th at, for convenience, The Nashville Convention Center and Renaissance Hotel. The IBMA Convention is not just about showcases, but, people are encouraged to carry around their guitars, fiddles, mandolins  and join in the jam sessions that run almost till the sun comes up every night.

You could say Ricky Skaggs is our local Bluegrass patron Saint, with yearly residencies at The Ryman and a new album, Music to My Ears coming out this month, but, there are many new young artists playing traditional bluegrass as well as pulling in some modern ideas and pre-war non-bluegrass styles.

This is the real rebellion. While the music industry is finding a million ways to make computers sing and dance and auto-tune any Disney character into stardom, both the Americana Music Festival and the IBMA World of Bluegrass celebrate real musicianship, communal collaboration and a reason for a Luthier to keep honing his skills in search of the perfect tone wood.

This recipe continues to build both communities with younger generations every year.

After all, how many times can the music business reinvent the 70’s and the 80’s?

Mike Farris hanging at Mercy Lounge, Americana 2010, photo – Brad Hardisty

So, while commercial Country is now going to be shown every week in the night time soap, Nashville, basically re-spinning the movie Country Strong, “Americana,” which can claim anything from pre-war anthems to Red Dirt scene country and Bluegrass, New Grass and all its modern heirs are really the new cool. These two celebrations are really the underground cool.

As far as Soundland? What happened? Well, it’s now on October 6th and after a peak year three years ago that featured major music business players talking about the next generation of music delivery and several days of new music, it is now one day down by the river with bands that already play Lollapalooza and other big festivals.

Wanda Jackson signing autographs at Mercy Lounge after Jack White produced album showcase, Americana 2010.

There are only a few locals, when Nashville could really do a Next Big Nashville with such a burgeoning Indie Rock and other type Music Scene, we get Soundland with just a couple of token Nashvillians, PUJOL and Nikki Lane.  I guess we are going for national respect and now start-ups like Secret Stages in Birmingham are filling in the gap. Can I just say…huh?

– Brad Hardisty, Nashviille, TN


Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Mercy Lounge – Photo/ Brad Hardisty

Thursday night would mark three years since the first time I saw Jason Isbell (former Drive-By Truckers) and his then “new” band, The 400 Unit in 2009.  Jason was at Mercy Lounge last night at what he called his first “hometown” gig, I might be wrong, but, I think he said since he moved here.

Whether or not that is correct, Jason was playing a Nashville “insider” guitar, a session guy’s new secret weapon, a Duesenberg Gold Top with the futuristic looking German engineered vibrato arm. The retro looking euro-high tech guitars were first popularized by Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) but are making their way into Nashville via Rock Block Guitars in a big way.

Jason has always been known for tasty guitar licks, but, he has really developed some deft country licks without going pure Brent Mason. It still has that Muscle Shoals “where Soul meets Country thang” going on.

I was excited to see where he was at since hearing his new project back in 2009. Back then, it was like he was excited to kind of graft in the family tree of Muscle Shoals legends with something akin to The Band or The Heartbreakers (Tom Petty not Johnny Thunders) but now, three albums in and four years on the road, The 400 Unit (named after the former Psychiatric Ward at Florence, Alabama’s Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital) is a crackerjack five piece band, tight and lucid like the heir apparent to The Decoys, that features classic Muscle Shoals players, David Hood, Scott Boyer, Kelvin Holly and sometimes even Spooner Oldham on keys.

Jason has put a lot of weight on his shoulders by putting himself squarely in the middle of a heavy tradition with writers and players like Eddie Hinton, Dan Penn and Donnie Fritts. I have to say it is working out much better than the first time I heard him.  The set was great, the tone, the crowd and the band. I’m glad that he is doing what he is doing. He has refined the dynamics and is now digging a little deeper than the Gibson Les Paul into a Fender thing.

In fact, he pulled a 1970’s era classic Muscle Shoals tune out of his hat as well as a little “Stone Free” on the bridge of the last song before the encores. There was even an ounce of continuity or deja vu for me between that 2009 set at The State Room in Salt Lake City and the one in Nashville the other night.

Justin Townes Earle, The State Room, Salt Lake City, 2009 – Photo / Brad Hardisty

Justin Townes Earle opened for Jason Isbell back on that tour as he was taking off with The Good Life   then Jason Isbell played on Justin’s Harlem River Blues and  Justin was their last night for Jason’s set just catching it from the back.  It’s hard to miss Justin, he’s a tall presence, back then, he had a little Hank Williams style going on, now, it was an overcoat and fedora flair.

Hey, but, let’s get back to Jason. The Country music business is going about creating their own brand of country while there is this parallel universe where most of the Country Artists out of Texas, as well as newcomers, the august, and independent folks like Adam Hood and Jason Isbell pack them in when they come to Nashville.

Jason is some country, some soul and some heart wrenching lyrics, in reality, it’s all about Alabama, with a nod to Hank Williams-style sad lyrics, Duane Allman style ( Jason rocked on this, sometimes with a slide on two different fingers)slide guitar and a country boy from Greenhill, Alabama telling life stories that makes this worth listening too.  He has some solid fans in Nashville.

Dead Fingers, Mercy Lounge, 2012 – Photo / Brad Hardisty

Openers, Dead Fingers, Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor from Birmingham, Alabama got the invite and as Taylor said, “Alabama, represent!” Taylor has some of his own style going on, incorporating some Mississippi Hill Country Blues and rawhide Country into some Indie folk goings on.

Kate sang probably the strongest set I have heard her do so far; a real standout and an accomplishment at six months pregnant.  Kate has a great mix of Emmylou Harris and sixties vibe queens like Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane of Spank & Our Gang somewhere in that voce bella.

Dead Fingers were just at The Basement two weeks ago. Nashville is looking forward to hearing some more tracks in the future. You could say they are Birmingham’s Civil Wars, but, that would put them too much into a box after all the true Mississippi connections Taylor has made as well as his work with Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band.

Taylor’s slide playing was a standout last night. One of the fun things about Taylor’s playing is when you know his songs, you know when he is experimenting or seeing if the band will go wherever he wanders off too. He didn’t too much of that last night, but, he still looked like he was having fun and there were plenty of Nashvillians and probably some Bowling Green patrons wandering south for the night in the audience when they went on at 9 PM. 

Great Alabama-centric night at Mercy Lounge!

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN


On an unusually hot June night, Dead Fingers from Birmingham, Alabama, played the Basement underneath Grimeys New and Preloved Music, in a stripped down Trio with “really married” Taylor Hollingsworth and Kate Taylor backed by minimalist drums of Alan Rosser, as part of their mini-tour last Sunday the 24th.

Dead Fingers Opened up with the classic Taylor song, “Bonnie and Clyde” from his 2005 Brash Music release, Tragic City,  before going into the line up from the first Dead Fingers – Fat Possum release.

Playing to an intimate crowd including some friends who made the drive from Birmingham, Kate and Taylor matched song for song on “Closet Full Of Bones”, “Another Planet” with the different blend of almost Spanky & Our Gang meets southern Americana, Dead Fingers managed to break down a lot of barriers between styles and periods to create their own matchbox of sound.

Taylor stuck mainly to finger picking almost Piedmont style most of the night going from the bluesy slide of “Lost In Mississippi” to primitive western a la Rose Maddox and The Maddox Brothers rather than the current Fleetwood Mac radio country for “On My Way.”

There was a hint of classic Taylor Hollingsworth writing when going into “Against The River” riffing.

Kate and Taylor looked real comfortable together as well as baby bump makes three, Taylor and Kate, who have been married for a while now, are expecting a girl towards the end of the year.

It looks like the child will have music in her DNA taking in the tour from the stage, listening to musical vibrations.

Kate comes from a big Birmingham musical family, with sister Maria Taylor , an artist on Conor Oberst’s  Saddle Creek Records , as well as brother Macey Taylor who has played Bass for Maria, Taylor, Conor Oberst and several other bands and music projects.

Kate is no stranger to the stage, having played in Maria Taylor’s touring band on drums as well as other instruments and supporting vocals.   

Mystic Valley Band at Coachella 2009, Macey on bass, Taylor on Acoustic

Macey and Taylor both played in the two album project that Conor Oberst ended up putting together, The Mystic Valley Band where Taylor sang at least one of his own originals at every tour stop.  They ended up playing some big shows in 2009 including Coachella. Following that project, Taylor released the acoustic project, Life With A Slow Ear, Team Love Records in 2009.

Dead Fingers became the project as Kate and Taylor started taking life on together as a couple.

Kate’s brother Macey at Coachella / Photo- Brad Hardisty

Taylor, even in the stripped down mode, showed plenty of flash, using a harmonizer pedal to get some cool neo-pedal steel type leads going on the country material, and some intense slide work through the night.

Taylor Hollingsworth singing “Air Mattress” at Coachella 2009 / Photo – Brad Hardisty

Dead Fingers included a new song in the set that will be on the next release which they are scheduled to begin recording in the near future.

The duo shows great depth and versatility in their songwriting able to take off in different ways which especially works well in Nashville where, cult classic country, blues and roots rock are part of the whole Indie scene.

Dead Fingers will be back in Nashville on July 12th at The Mercy Lounge opening up for Jason Isbell (formerly of  The Drive-By Truckers) & The 400 Unit. Definitely a lot of Alabama in that show.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN