If you hang around the South, you’ll know that Birmingham, Alabama is home to one of the hottest new music scenes in the country. While Birmingham has both developed and attracted top artists, and boasts a vibrant roster of local venues, a serious void has existed in Birmingham’s music history that has only recently been filled.
Sloss Fest, held in downtown Birmingham on July 18 & 19, was the first music festival to capture the heart of the Magic City since the now-retired City Stages, which closed shop in 2009 after reporting massive amounts of debt.
While Sloss was undoubtedly smaller in scope than City Stages, which boasted over 150 performers on up to 13 stages at its peak, Sloss garnered both homegrown praise and national attention for its impressive lineup, killer branding, and unique, historic venue.
Featuring 33 artists on 3 stages over 2 days, Sloss Fest attracted over 25,000 music lovers from around the country. Produced by Red Mountain Entertainment, in conjunction with Venue Management and AC Entertainment (the masterminds behind Bonnaroo), the festival was dominated by alternative genre bands like Cage the Elephant and headliner Modest Mouse.
There was also solid representation from a variety of other genres, including rapper Tyler, The Creator, “instrumental livetronica” duo Big Gigantic, and bluegrass rockers like Judah the Lion and The Avett Brothers.
Take a look at the venue, artists, and event atmosphere that made Sloss Fest the perfect catalyst to propel Birmingham’s music scene to the next level.
Despite temperatures in the high 90’s exacerbated by the presence of massive blast furnaces, Sloss Furnaces was the perfect stage to host Birmingham’s new music festival.
A fully operational iron-producing blast furnace from the late 1800’s to 1971, Sloss Furnaces is currently the only blast furnace to be preserved and listed on the National Historic Register.
Sloss Furnaces hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from concerts to weddings, in addition to the popular Sloss Fright Furnace during Halloween. The site is also a working museum, and offers free guided and self-guided tours. Sloss is fascinating to explore, and it’s definitely worth a visit to learn more about the role the furnaces have had in shaping the city of Birmingham.
During Sloss Fest, three stages were set up around the site: Blast, Steam, and Shed. The event was well set up and well executed, allowing for easy traffic flow around the three stages and throughout the venue.
A large field separated the Blast and Steam stages, with a section of trees for people to hang up their ENOs. A short walk away was the Shed stage, a covered pavilion that created a more intimate concert atmosphere.
Located near the Shed stage was a series of vendors, from screenprinters to artists selling handcrafted jewelry. Tents with a variety of food options, as well as a beer garden, surrounded the small “lake” adjacent to the stage.
In perhaps one of the most fitting activities of the weekend, the Sloss Metal Arts Program demonstrated live iron pourings throughout the event, allowing guests to create their own custom iron mold for a small fee.
In a surprising twist to the weekend, we got access to “Iron” tents located around the venue. These tents provided absolutely glorious air conditioning, beer and wine, and funky decor from local Birmingham artists.
Out of the 33 bands that performed at Sloss Fest, there were about 4-5 that I really wanted to see when the lineup was announced. Despite a lack of name recognition for some of the smaller bands, I discovered some great artists at the event, and walked away with a much fuller Spotify playlist.
Here are my favorite artists from each of the 2 days of Sloss Fest.
Day 1- Saturday, July 18th
Cage the Elephant
One of my favorite bands that played at Sloss- they had an amazing stage presence, and lead singer Matt Shultz captivated the audience with crazy dancing and a stage dive.
Young the Giant
A solid set from YTG, opening with “Eros” and playing crowd favorites like “Cough Syrup” and “My Body.”
The electronic duo played their set in the Shed stage, an incredible covered space that was great for the raucous house-style music.
Thank you Birmingham!! 👊🏻 @slossfest #SlossFestival 📷:@riceandi A photo posted by Big Gigantic (@biggigantic) on
Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas
This funky group from Detroit is led by singer Jessica Hernandez, with a powerhouse voice and infectious stage moves.
Playing Sloss as their first music festival, and without a label, Lany impressed in the Shed Stage with chill beats and grateful, humble musicians.
HI FROM 2PM IN BIRMINGHAM AT OUR FIRST FESTIVAL EVER <3 A photo posted by LANY (@thisislany) on
Day 2- Sunday, July 19th
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
A fun, soulful set from the uber talented Birmingham natives. Despite having to cancel an earlier performance due to voice problems, lead singer Paul Janeway sounded flawless. One of my favorites of the weekend!
The Avett Brothers
The last act of the weekend, Avett’s set was heavy in bluegrass, reminiscent of an Old Crow/Mumford & Sons mix.
The Avett Brothers perform at @slossfest @marycfehr #instagrambham #musicbham #slossfest #avettbrothers A photo posted by Mary Catherine Fehr (@marycfehr) on
Judah and the Lion
A new find from the weekend, JATL had a folky sound and catchy, sing-a-long crowd pleasers
While I recently saw a free Milo Greene show in Atlanta, they killed their set with the great acoustics in the Shed Stage
Milo Greene Tour rolls on. #Slossfest in Birmingham yesterday. New Orleans, Tomorrow. 🚐💨 #milogreene #truthcustomdrums #trxcymbals 📷@dawsonheringer A photo posted by Curtis (@tronaldy) on
Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear
Despite first hearing of this band at Sloss, this mother-son team was entertaining, lively, and a little bit sassy
With the introduction of a major music festival, Birmingham has established itself as a serious player in the music world, both around the South and nationwide. The excitement surrounding Sloss Fest prior to the event was palpable, and it was great to see the city of Birmingham come together to support such an incredible cultural advancement in this historically conservative, slow-to-adopt-progress city.
While the weekend was sweaty, sticky, and exhausting, the great lineup, historic backdrop, and community support made me proud to attend Birmingham’s inaugural Sloss Fest.
The Future of Sloss Fest
Missed Sloss Fest this year? Not to worry- Red Mountain Entertainment has already confirmed that Sloss will be back in 2016.
If you want to see more of the action, check out the recap videos for each day of the festival.
Thanks to Sloss Fest and the city of Birmingham for an incredible weekend of art and music. Sloss on!