The Steel City. The Magic City. The city where University of Alabama students drive 45 minutes to do some decent shopping. Call it whatever name you want, but despite some setbacks and preconceived notions, Birmingham, Alabama is quickly becoming a cultural force to be reckoned with.
Over the last 5 years of living in Alabama, Birmingham has exploded with restaurants, bars, art galleries, and local shops. I remember visiting Avondale Brewery almost 4 years ago in a run-down, industrial part of town; now, Avondale is a destination, with restaurants Melt and Post Office Pies, as well as super-cool bar/lounge Parkside. A perfect Saturday in Birmingham now involves grabbing a brew at Good People, checking out a Barons game at Regions Field, then taking a walk at Railroad Park, all of which didn’t even exist a few years ago.
When looking at all the progress, a little-recognized catalyst to the Birmingham success story stems from the development of a robust, rapidly growing music scene. I was recently reading a fantastic article on AL.com asking the question “is Birmingham the new Music City?” which really got me thinking about the music culture that has been fostered over the past 3-5 years.
With multi-purpose venues like Iron City, WorkPlay, and the Alabama Theater, as well as smaller, dedicated venues like (the unfortunately recently closed) Bottletree Cafe, Birmingham has consistently played host to local and lesser-known artists and helped launched careers, including that of the Birmingham-based band St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
Saturn, a brand-new music venue in Birmingham, is opening at the beginning of May in Avondale, and they’ve just released their summer music lineup of concerts. One of my favorite bands, Houndmouth (check out my review of their concert in Atlanta!) will be playing on my birthday at Saturn (tickets to the show are an acceptable birthday gift). This is definitely a venue to watch, especially after the closing of Bottletree, and will continue to bring more visitors to the Avondale area of town.
While venues are definitely a huge part of the musical fabric of the city, the introduction of Birmingham’s first large-scale music festival, Sloss Fest, has taken the city by storm.
Taking place on July 18 and 19, Sloss Fest will be held at Sloss Furnace, a National Historic Landmark right outside of downtown Birmingham that produced iron for almost 90 years. The outdoor space is industrial and just the right mix of run-down, creepy, and ultra-hip, making it the perfect spot to introduce Birmingham as a music destination to rival those of Nashville, Memphis, and Austin.
Check out the full lineup for Sloss Fest below.
Also check out the hype video for the festival below. It makes me excited every time I watch it; the background song is Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant, one of the artists playing at the festival.
You can buy your tickets to Sloss and check out their website by clicking here. Tickets are at tiered pricing based on availability, and are currently at about $150 for 2 days of music (including fees); payment plans are also available.