With 50 bands scattered over five different stages and only 12 hours total to catch as many as you can, the lineup for Secret Stages is beyond intimidating, but that made it all the more exhilarating to finally jot down an attack plan for the incredibly dense little “music discovery festival” in Birmingham, Ala. this past weekend (Aug. 2-3). Every single artist in attendance had something incredible to offer, and it seemed like a crime to have to choose one over the other.
However, the density works in Secret Stages’ favor. Once you finally have the opportunity to really parse through all of the artists, you start to catch details you missed when initially skimming the lineup. The festival doesn’t limit itself to any particular genre: You have Lambda Celsius (?°C ) playing “elf house and synth blop music”, local rap group K.L.U.B Monsta swapping verses and Sad Baxter belting out sludgy sugar punk. These wildly different acts often share a stage, the sets are short and the down-time is minimal. At one point, I was grooving along with Easter Island, and not 15 minutes later john.AVERAGE had taken the stage with his nerdy bombastic raps. I loved it. For Secret Stages, discovery is the name of the game, and the festival was structured perfectly for just that.
They Call Me Sauce by Andi Rice
Secret Stages, in several ways, is unlike most other music festivals. It feels more like a block party thrown together by music enthusiasts. Only one of their five stages is outdoors, and the lineup doesn’t rely on gargantuan headliners. A DJ and a projector on the side of a brick building herald your arrival in the city’s Avondale neighborhood, food lines the streets, drinks abound and each of the venues are a short skip across the street. You catch a breath during all of the action by taking a step outside, rather than finding a makeshift weekend shelter. If the weather been less favorable, the threat of rain would’ve been reduced to a mild inconvenience, rather than an event-halting occurrence.
Preston Lovinggood by David A. Smith
Finally, Secret Stages is a celebration of the South. All of food is made with love, the drinks are plentiful and cheap, and the overwhelming majority of the bands came from states neighboring Alabama. Every act from further north traveling to Secret Stages to play their first show in Alabama commented on the especially warm reception of the crowd, and each of the smaller venues’ proximity to the stage. It all made for two nights’ worth of intimate and energetic music that I would love to see again.
Faye Webster by Emondre Johnson