Any doubts about the vitality of Birmingham’s music scene should be put to rest at this point. This July has been packed with music- our nightly fare, a few heated battles of the bands, and some great big festivals each weekend. It’s been a great month, and it’s all lead up to the grand finale: Secret Stages.
The music discovery festival returns on July 31 and August 1. For two nights, Birmingham’s historic Loft District will echo with new sounds- that’s 60 bands worth of original music.
Secret Stages brings in the next big bands from around the U.S. and offers plenty of stage time to local imminent acts, a refreshing combination of unexpected and future favorites.
“If you’ve ever wanted to step out of your comfort zone in a really safe way and catch a certain style of music, this is your chance!” says Head Music Curator Travis Morgan. “If you’ve never seen a punk rock show, a real country artist, or hip hop, or avant-garde jazz live, this is a perfect opportunity.”
Secret Stages prides itself on introducing audiences to something new, expanding their musical horizons. However, there are a couple of returning acts from previous years- Brass Bed from Lafayette, Louisiana and Birmingham’s Trough the Sparks, who will release a new album this year with Communicating Vessels.
The musicians will reap exposure at an incredible level. The industry is well represented, with journalists, photographers, engineers, managers, and more coming into the city to see what’s coming up. “It’s an exciting time and bands have a lot more options for exposure on a much broader level than if they were playing a normal show in town,” says Morgan.
Some may hear the name and recall the old City Stages festival of years past. In the old days, the outdoor festival would bring in a few big names, names you’ve heard, songs you know. Secret Stages heads in a different direction, however, introducing Birmingham to a flood of up-and-coming acts. These are the musicians you may not have heard yet, but will soon brag about seeing when they break out.
“Our booking team scours the region and the country for the best undiscovered bands,” says Morgan. “These are bands that are amazing, yet under the radar, and many of them will be on common folk’s radars in 2-3 years.”
Morgan and company have a strong track record of picking winners. Secret Stages alumni include the like of St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, Banditos, Wray, The Green Seed, and Shaheed and DJ Supreme, local bands done good.
The festival is now in its fifth year and has consistently brought a flood of music lovers into the Loft District. Local venues and other businesses have enjoyed the two night spike in foot traffic. “They really seem to appreciate and facilitate what we do,” says Festival Director Jon Poor.
Secret Stages offers a ton of great music and access to see downtown in rare form. The surprisingly low price of admission gives you two full nights of action, but what about the VIP pass? That’ll get you into the VIP lounge, complete with free catering by Carrigan’s, Savoie, Lucy’s and the brand new BYOB. The lounge also provides free wine, liquor, and Good People brews. There will be exclusive sets in the lounge each night.
The sheer variety of music and venues in walking distance of each other make the festival among the city’s most unique entertainment events. Listeners can enter any venue as they please, sampling an auditory smorgasbord. If the music isn’t their cup of tea, they’re free to explore the festival, searching for the right sound. There’s something for everyone.
Since Secret Stages re-imagined what a downtown music festival could be five years ago, the Magic City’s music scene has responded with more bands, more venues, and an enthusiastic following. Birmingham’s creative culture has been a long time in the making, and events like Secret Stages help spur the interest in our artistic endeavors. It’s part of a tremendous wave of progress with new additions like Cask & Drum, Sloss Fest, Iron City, and Saturn all rushing in.
“Art and music spark ideas in people,” says Morgan. “Because of that many creative types being in one place at the same time, I think a lot of ideas are born. These things are super important for improving Birmingham.”
The festival kicks off with The Burning Peppermints on the Birmingham Mountain Radio Stage at 7 p.m. It all happens downtown, between Morris Ave. and 2nd Ave. N. between 24th and 22nd Streets.
For the music line up, tickets, and more, visit their website.