HIGHLIGHT: Great mix of local and regional indie acts sharing stages.
Secret Stages 2nd annual event kicked off the weekend of May 11th & 12th in Birmingham, Alabama, attracting an even wider range of artists from all over the United States. Last year’s inaugural event, which took the place of the now defunct City Stages, turned out to be the indie rock party of the year in the Southeast with thousands of fans showing up through a simple blog and word of mouth.
This year, the organizers, a group of local music event entrepreneurs and musicians, were a little more prepared with local business sponsorships and support to defray some of the costs, along with support of the local independent press. The two-day event is basically a pub and hall crawl covering four square blocks of the Historic Loft District of downtown Birmingham. Birmingham has developed its own scene, with recent indie success including Maria Taylor, Taylor Hollingsworth, who played with Conor Oberst in The Mystic Valley Band and now has a band with wife Kate Taylor called Dead Fingers, and also The Great Book of John.
MGMT-inspired Machines Are People Too (pictured), from Chattanooga, TN, put on a great set at Rogue Tavern, getting the people dancing. Rogue Tavern had the largest indoor stage, which came in handy when light rain fell all on Sunday night. There was an outdoor stage and some ventured out to dance in the rain Sunday night just as the Third Man Rolling Records Store truck pulled away, heading back up to headquarters in Nashville.
Das Haus, the Oktoberfest headquarters in Birmingham, smelled like Brats n’ Kraut, and was the punk and heavy rock stage for the night with everything from death/surf/punk band, Kill Baby Kill from Anniston, Alabama to Motörhead-meets-Black Sabbath at a Southern BBQ in Savannah, GA’s sons, Black Tusk, to the ambient noise rock of Hail the Titans from Montgomery, AL.
Metro Bar seemed to be more about roots and Americana with stand-out Lydia Loveless (Columbus, OH) taking off where Loretta Lynn and LA’s Lone Justice left off. Birmingham’s own Dead Fingers played a stripped-down set of Mississippi hill country blues meets Alabama punk-country.
Secret Stages succeeded in having more depth in regional and national indie acts than the recent Musicland (aka Next Big Nashville) and had the out-of-the-box feel that SXSW had 15-20 years ago. Chuck Leishman, who originally had the idea of a pub-crawl and called together a roundtable that developed Secret Stages says, “We wanted to have a festival where 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.”
Where: Birmingham, AL
When: May 11-12, 2012
photo by Thomas B. Diasio