It’s clear the festival organizers have become well-versed in the needs of festival-goers. Amenities like a cell phone charging station and an Ono Ice cart were added perks for attendees, and the bands went on and off like clockwork. The only flaw in Secret Stages’ planning was that many out-of-state bands that were scheduled before 9:00 p.m. suffered from a low turnout. Despite this, it appears Secret Stages is becoming a more streamlined and high profile festival.
Secret Stages also added an artistic dimension to this years activities, in the form of collaborative street art pieces, and the “Instrumenthead” installation near Urban Standard. “Instrumenthead” is a photography project by Michael Weintrob. It features musicians posing with instruments placed in front of their faces, and his subjects include names such as Matisyahu and Scott Avett.
This year’s Secret Stages had only six venues and a VIP lounge, giving the festival a close-knit atmosphere. Several venues, including Michael’s, The M Lounge, and Easy Street were clustered together on Morris Avenue and 1st Avenue. These venues had an unpolished feel, and were perfect for punk, rock, and hip hop shows.
A three minute walk away on 2nd Avenue were Pale Eddie’s, Rogue Tavern, and Das Haus. With exception of the Das Haus, a German heritage hall, these venues were geared toward professionals and had an abundance of exposed brick and craft beers. All of the venues, with the exception of Pale Eddie’s, were large enough to hold big crowds, and it was easy to see four bands play within the span of ten minutes because the venues were nestled so closely together.
The continued success of Secret Stages demonstrates the passion many Birmingham residents have for new music. Unlike a traditional music festival, where concert-goers rush from big name act to big name act, Secret Stages is about discovery. It’s a festival where you go to see bands you’ve never heard of and listen to music that can’t be pinned to a genre. This festival allows concert-goers to see a band that will be featured on SNL in a few months with fifteen other people.
Here are four such standouts:
Buke & Gase
Named after the baritone ukulele played by Arone Dyer and the guitar/bass combo played by Aron Sanchez, this Brooklyn-based musical duo sounds like a seven-piece band. They achieve countless layers of sound by using all of their limbs to play DIY instruments like the “toeborine.” Their sound is difficult to categorize and effortlessly hypnotic. Dyer’s unearthly vocals tie together their complex melodies.
To find out more: http://www.bukeandgase.com/
The Burning Peppermints
A well-loved Birmingham band whose chief prerogative seems to be to make as much noise and have as much fun as possible. A combination of garage rock and punk, this young band has a burgeoning local following drawn to their raucous energy and never-ending guitar riffs.
Check it out here: https://theburningpeppermints.bandcamp.com/
Landlady, out of Brooklyn, captivated their audience and delivered an energizing and outstanding performance. Frontman Adam Schatz’s distinctive, aching voice makes each song feel like a forgotten classic.The band flawlessly jumps between countless melodies so every song is a collection of auditory surprises. Landlady’s music falls between pop and rock and something entirely new.
For more info: http://www.landladyland.com/
From Little Rock, Arkansas, this was a band that no one saw coming. Photographers began to linger with their cameras, reluctantly to dash to the next band as a crowd gathered. Swampbird performed atmospheric alternative country, with a hint of the blues. With heartrending, skillfully composed lyrics, their songs are an invigorating take on classic country themes.
Check them out at: https://swampbird.bandcamp.com/