The 2nd annual Sloss Music and Arts Festival took place in Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend attracting artists, fans and musicians from all over to spend a couple of days celebrating live music. It was a great event which featured headliners like Ray Lamontagne, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Ryan Adams and The Flaming Lips. The typical Alabama summer heat didn’t seem to bother too many people as the festival grounds filled up early each day. A rain storm on Sunday afternoon delayed the music for an hour or so but again, that really didn’t seem to get a whole lot of people down.
Even though there were a couple of rainbows due to the rain, Slossfest is not your typical music festival that is set in some majestic patch of woods or on a rolling meadow. At Sloss, the giant metal shed, the larger than life blast furnace and the rusted-in-place earth moving equipment all remind you of Birmingham’s industrial past and what gave the Iron City its nickname.
A theme began to develop during day 1 starting with the lead singer of The Seratones, AJ Haynes, and continued with Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable. They both showed that this year’s Slossfest was the year of the rock goddess. Hanna Cooper, (Grouplove) Cary Ann Hearst (Shovels and Rope), Jessica Maros (Escondido) and last but certainly not least is Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso all carried the torch and made the festival for me personally.
The Flaming Lips experience can be best described as a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. With their confetti, giant balloons and inflatable onstage characters it is the set that everyone is still buzzing about. Playing their staples like “Yoshimi” and “Do you Realize” and even a cover “Space Oddity” they proved why you can’t pass up a Lips show when they come to town.
The set that I was the most excited to see was The Burning Peppermints from Birmingham; and they did not disappoint. Just formed about a year ago, their steady rise has gathered momentum and notoriety. Opening for St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ secret show at Saturn earlier this year brought their name to the forefront of the local music scene and has their future headed in the right direction.
The most surprising set probably goes to The Struts who had to wait an hour before taking control of the Shed stage. Lead singer Luke Spiller oozes rock and roll. Not sure if it is the 80’s hair band look or his on-stage presence but there is no question that Spiller was put on this earth to front a rock and roll band. As soon as they were cleared to take the stage after the rain they had complete control of the music hungry fans who were singing along with their big hit “Could Have Been Me”.
To see Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals in any setting is a treat but to get the chance to see him and his talented band perform in a festival setting was something special. His calming voice and positive message resonated through the festival grounds and made it ok to “Burn One Down”.
After the dust settles, the sore muscles heal and the ringing in your ears goes away, it’s easy to think back and reminisce. All of the friends and family members coming together, dancing, laughing. Sure, there were a couple of setbacks with the weather but based on the amount of happiness and joy that was produced, this past weekend was a full success for the Slossfest staff.