It was 1989 when City Stages first shut down a few blocks in the center of Birmingham, AL. Though my memory is fuzzy and it may actually have been the next year, I like to think I was there. Whether it was the inaugural event or the 3rd annual, I hold dear the memories from my first trip to the festival in Linn Park with a friend’s family. Somewhere in the preteen chapter of my mind, I remember giant, insulated HealthSouth water bottles and an area where Birmingham Water Works would fill that bottle up as often as you returned. I remember Frisbees flying and of course, a soundtrack of songs – mainly bluegrass and blues.
The 20 years since have undoubtedly seen a great deal of change. The slow simmering rate of progress in this southern city makes it easy for anything else to change faster. Technology, the music industry, and even the creative strides of the musicians sometimes seem lightning years ahead of a normal day on these streets. But, for 3 days in June, the turtle that Birmingham can be catches up with the hare.
I haven’t made it to City Stages every year, but I go as often as I can regardless of the number of familiar names on the lineup. For me a music festival is about enjoying live music and discovering something new (or at least new to me). I love live music because it cannot be replicated. As an audience member, I’m invited to be part of a unique artistic moment. And in this digital age where everything can be cut, paste, shared, reprinted, and recycled, it’s nice to know that some things are still inimitable. Discovering a new artist or even an affinity for a new genre, just adds a layer to the entire experience.
The poster campaign for City Stages this year has said many things. My two favorites, though, really do communicate both the serious and the silly reasons I love this festival.
Here are some of the artists I’m most excited about (for many different reasons). If I’ve missed someone, post a comment and tell me. I don’t want to miss anything I don’t have to.
Act of Congress. Great Book of John. Indigo Girls. Wild Sweet Orange. Abram & Sarah. Brandon Young. Zee Avi. Erin McCarley. Hightide Blues. Eric Hutchinson. Mat Kearney. Jonny Lang. Courtney Jaye. needtobreathe. En Vogue. Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Buy a weekend pass. Listen to old favorites and new finds. People-watch to your heart’s content. And maybe eat some funnel cake. I’ll see you there!