Friday, May 4, 2012

Secret Stages is Close

By Lee Waites

Secret Stages has finalized their schedule for this year. If you live in Birmingham, chances are you've heard of, and maybe been to, Secret Stages. It's basically a big block party. After last year's event I listened carefully to what people had to say. It was overwhelmingly positive. The few critical things I heard I chalk up to managing expectations.

What you don't have here is a giant festival. I don't think that was ever the goal. The merchants on the block in question are already well known for putting on good music, they already have a dedicated customer base. So what's the difference between any given weekend and Secret Stages? Is there enough of a difference to justify spending the exorbitant amount of $25 for a weekend pass? Of course there is Grandma!

First off...$25 to see this lineup is a crazy good deal. There are way too many to list. From what I can see there are around 80 musical acts and 11 comedians, not to mention the other opportunities such as  Third Man Rolling Record Store,  brought to you by Jack White, of The White Stripes (and other stuff). The Third Man Records Rolling Record Store is the newest concept to come from the mind of White, who began the Third Man label and store in Nashville two years ago. The store is located inside a large yellow truck, and will not only feature for-sale records, but turntables, a microphone and a state-of-the-art sound system so that the mobile store can also host live shows.

As far as the spirit of the thing, Secret Stages has gone out of their way to present positivity:
  •  20% of profits goes to  Scrollworks, a local group providing musical opportunities to children. 
  • They are including a free outdoor stage for those who spent all their money on doughnuts... or online porn.  Just go sit and listen. 

So, back to managing expectations. Maybe the lineup isn't for you. That's OK. Nothing can be everything to everybody. Secret Stages is very clear about what their goal is. It's a Pop thing of it's own kind. They are trying to deliver to Birmingham, bands that they believe are trending up, bands they think are the next thing in music. They have included some local acts that they feel are of note as well. 

If anything there's an artsy "hipster" leaning to the lineup, with  a side order of Hip Hop and a dash of Bluegrassy Folk, or Folky Bluegrass. A few of the bands seem on the verge of opening up to something hard and heavy, but manage to maintain control over that urge. Although there is the occasional quirky romp, a consistent component of bands in the line-up seems to be a focus on lyrical ingenuity, a quest for artistic balance of expression and a yearning for deep.  If these are qualities that turn you off then your 25 bucks would be better spent on some burgers and a trip to the fair. There are some very talented acts playing. I hope I don't offend the workers at the State Fair...but I'm going to spend the money to go to Secret Stages. It's also great to see so many of our local bands jumping into the mix. Our area has produced some great musicians and beautiful crooners.         

Secret Stages will be held on May 11 and 12 in the Historic Loft District of downtown Birmingham.

Secret Stages’ Main Stage (2nd Ave. N. and 24th St. N.) is completely free to the public


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