Tonight’s the night! Secret Stages returns this evening, turning downtown Birmingham into a sprawling walkable music festival. Over the course of two nights, 60 bands from near and far will play on seven stages. You’ll hear some of the best music that the Magic City has to offer, plus up-and-coming acts that you can brag about seeing before they break out.
If you’ve attended Secret Stages before, you have an idea of what to expect. Enormous variety, excellent talent, and plenty of spectacle. That’s about as specific as you should get. The rest is a surprise. Last year had plenty of those, and the good folks behind the festival hope to keep that momentum going. “In a lot of ways last year was the best year yet,” says festival co-founder/director Jon Poor. “Our sales and attendance grew and the buzz we felt was incredible.”
Six years running, the festival has grown and evolved, exposing music lovers to a galaxy of artists and genres in rapid succession. It takes an open mind and a desire to hear something new, which the festival is specifically designed to deliver. “It’s grown in increments and our perception has been that each year people understand what we’re about more,” says Poor.
We’ll see local rock like Future Elevators, who surprised everyone with a secret set at Rogue Tavern last year. We’ll have heaps of hip-hop courtesy of Lobotomix, from old-school boom-bap to modern sample-based mixes. And we’ll have an entire season’s worth of touring acts playing right next door. The open-air stage is back this year, and it’s an all-ages option. In fact, if you’re under 21, several venues on 2nd Avenue N will be open to listeners 18+. While you’re walking from venue to venue, take a moment to admire the 60-foot graffiti wall.
Spring for the VIP pass and treat yourself to the consistently worth-it VIP room at the Parthenon. The central venue is perfect for dipping out of the heat and quenching your thirst with complimentary Southern Prohibition beer, FlipFlop wines, or Redmont Distilling vodka and gin… or water if you like. In case you work up an appetite, catering comes courtesy of Carrigan’s, Hattie B’s, Slice, Sitar, Chai, El Barrio, BYOB and more. Of course, there will be music. Three secret sets per night, in fact.
Even if you’re attending/playing shows every night, you’re bound to come across something that resonates like new. There’s a reason Secret Stages has become the Birmingham music scene’s Christmas morning. “Birmingham has a plentiful music scene with many represented genres, however, Secret Stages does shine a light on many genres and artists that deserve more attention,” says co-founder/music curator Travis Morgan. “Electronic, experimental/avant-garde, hip hop, classic country, instrumental, and many other sub genres of rock. We strive to bring adventurous, progressive and creative music and even genres that haven’t been introduced yet.”
While the main event begins tonight, Secret Stages kicked off the festivities earlier this week in observance of Willie Perry Day at Old Car Heaven. Members of the local scene came together to play some music in honor of Birmingham’s own Good Samaritan. “Lee Shook has spearheaded a lot of the effort with regards to Willie Perry,” says Poor. “He’s been a friend and confidante of the festival for a long time. We knew we wanted to be a part of what Lee was doing and the timing for Willie Perry just worked out.”
This year, Secret Stages has teamed with Sidewalk Film Festival to screen a couple of music documentaries: The Sad & Beautiful World of Sparklehorse, and Burn to Shine 6: Atlanta.
For details, tickets, and the full artist lineup, check out their website.