Posts Tagged ‘ Secret Stages ’

Secret Stages 2012

One week from today, Secret Stages kicks off its second year in downtown Birmingham, AL, just a couple of hours away from Atlanta via I-20.  Just like last year, the lineup pulls together carefully curated bands from all over the Southeast, with a few wild cards thrown into the mix, too.  This year’s big name is cultishly adored Merge institution Lambchop, an appropriate headliner for a festival that tends to feature a lot of skewed americana.  Other names of note are Savannah metal trio Black Tusk, Florida electro-poppers Sunbears!, Memphis rapper Cities Aviv, and warped noise rockers Dope Body from Baltimore.

The rest of the lineup is all over the place, ranging from indie rock to punk to jazz to folk.  Hip hop and the avant garde are making particularly strong showings this year, too.  Atlanta will be represented by Lucy Dreams, Brainworlds, Social Studies, Arablak, Baby Baby, Bare Essentials, and Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel, a surprisingly eclectic group that should give you some idea of the breadth of the lineup.

This festival is one of my favorite regional events.  Most of these bands have yet to break out of their respective local scenes, but the lineup is largely dud free.  It’s a great chance to wander around and discover a bunch of new music.  And it’s cheap.  Weekend passes will only set you back $25, and for $60 you can go VIP, which includes free food and drinks.  Definitely worth the trip to Birmingham.

Check out the full lineup after the jump.

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[PICS] Secret Stages Music Festival

Howlies

Noot d' Noot

Check out pictures of URI, Noot d’ Noot, Oryx and Crake, Futurebirds, Skewby, and Jack Oblivian after the jump.

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[LIVE REVIEW] Secret Stages Music Festival in Birimingham, AL

Noot d' Noot

There were a number of unknowns surrounding the first-ever Secret Stages music festival in Birmingham, AL.  I knew it had a good lineup, but I didn’t know how it would function as a festival.  Would it feel like a unified event, or just a bunch of loosely connected shows taking place during the same weekend?  Would each individual venue stick to their schedule?  Would anybody show up?

Luckily, the answers to those questions were good ones.  Secret Stages definitely felt like an interconnected festival.  There was a central, blocked off area in downtown Birmingham that served as the main hub, with vendors, an outdoor stage, and several of the participating venues all situated around the same city block.  All of the other venues were nearby, too, so it never took more than few minutes to get from one place to another.  Furthermore, they all had prominent Secret Stages placards displaying their schedule out front, and they miraculously stuck to that schedule for most of the weekend.   There were a couple of logistical issues that I’ll talk about later, but for the most part the festival was run smoothly.

Plus, the music was just great.  Almost all of the lineup was composed of emerging bands from the Southeast, and the organizers had clearly done their homework.  In this case, “emerging” never meant “your friend’s brother’s bar band that plays locally 3 times a year.”  There were a ton of genuinely talented bands that look like they have great things on the horizon.

So, how was the attendance?  I would say it was about what I expected.  When the biggest names in your lineup are The Love Language, G-Side, and Dawes, you’re not going to be drawing massive crowds.  This festival is a celebration of under-the-radar bands, so they’re catering to a smaller crowd of music lovers willing to seek out the unfamiliar, and I would say they were successful in drawing in that crowd.  The club shows all seemed like they were more well-attended than they would have been under non-festival circumstances.  I think a lot of bands probably played to crowds 2 or 3 times the size of what they would have drawn had they booked an unrelated show on another weekend.  That’s especially impressive when you consider the fact that there was a ton of scheduling overlap among the 11 stages.

Day by day breakdown of what I saw below.

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[VIDEO] Howlies at Secret Stages

I had a great time this weekend at Secret Stages in Birmingham.  I’ll have a more in-depth review up tomorrow, but for now here’s a video of Howlies performing at the festival.

Secret Stages is a regional music festival worth your $25

One of my favorite things about music festivals is the thrill of discovery.  It’s somewhere between unlikely and impossible that the average festival-goer is familiar with every single act on any given lineup, so encountering new music is almost inevitable.  Even if you plan your schedule around tried and true favorites, you’ll probably end up hearing something unfamiliar along the way.

Discovery seems to be one of the driving forces behind Birmingham, AL’s Secret Stages, a new walking festival that will feature emerging bands from all across the Southeast.  There are a handful of acts with considerable national recognition (Dawes, The Love Language, and G-Side, among others), but most of the lineup is made up of bands looking to make the move from local to regional to national.  The festival was booked with the intention of showcasing some of the most promising under-the-radar bands in the region.  “We literally went through every state in the Southeast and handpicked our favorites,” says festival organizer Travis Morgan.

The Atlanta bands making the trip this year definitely back up those claims.  We will be represented by Noot d’ Noot, Howlies, Oryx and Crake, The Booze, and The Biters, all of whom have received a strong reception in their respective local scenes and seem poised for more recognition outside of Atlanta.  The same can be said for Athens’ Futurebirds, Venice is Sinking, and Madeline.  For me, Secret Stages’ biggest draw is the chance to discover these bands’ counterparts from Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, and beyond.  It’s a chance to hear some of the best stuff from other regional music scenes.  And it’s cheap – weekend passes are only $25.  VIP passes guaranteeing priority entry to venues are $55, and that also gets you access to a VIP area with complimentary food and booze.  That should pay for itself.

The two day festival will take place across six different venues and one outdoor stage in downtown Birmingham.  Morgan says the schedule is being put together “strategically,” with bands assigned to appropriately sized venues and not necessarily grouped by hometown or genre, a scenario that seems ideal for audience cross-polination.  Show up to support some hometown heroes, then stick around to see something new.

When asked about future plans for Secret Stages, Morgan stresses that the festival wants to maintain its regional focus.  The festival isn’t just trying to replicate the success of SXSW or CMJ: “I’ve definitely been to both events and they certainly have made an impact on me.  I know they both started out very small like Secret Stages, but our ambitions are not to necessarily grow to the size of those festivals.”  The focus will remain on putting together a quality festival with the best acts the region has to offer.  Those are modest ambitions, but that’s for the best.  If the festival got too big, it would be at the expense of what makes it unique.

Some of the other lineup highlights are Crooked Fingers, Thomas Function, Wooden Wand, Glossary, Jack Oblivian, William Tyler, Jacuzzi Boys, Pujol, and The Deloreans.  The full current lineup can be found after the jump (there are still more acts to be announced).  There will be comedians performing, too.  More information can be found on Secret Stages’ website, and tickets can be purchased here.

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