The inaugural Sloss Music and Arts Festival in Birmingham, Alabama at the historic Sloss Furnaces, closed down it’s second and last day with some of the best sets of the weekend including hometown heroes St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires. Things got a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, and little bit wild providing something for all the music loving fans that flocked to Birmingham.
While there is always a few things to improve upon (see Day 1 review), all in all, this festival was a smashing success for it’s first year. We can’t wait to see what Sloss Fest has in store for the future. On to the music….
St. Paul and the Broken Bones
– Imagine being a little soul band from Birmingham, Alabama who’s built their reputation behind it’s live shows the last few years and just released their debut album last year. Imagine yourself fresh off of a few opening dates for rock ‘n’ roll legends, the Rolling Stones. Imagine coming back to your hometown to play the inaugural year of a killer new festival just as the hype for your band has continued to build into mammoth levels. Now just imagine coming down with a throat infection right before you are supposed to play your hometown festival.
What did Paul Janeway and his band St. Paul and the Broken Bones do? They delivered one of the best damn sets of the whole festival only confirming to their Birmingham friends, family, and early supporters what those people have been screaming about for a while. There’s no doubt this band proved what the hype is all about to all the festival goers in attendance.
After canceling their show the night before in order to rest up Janeway’s throat and play their hometown show at Sloss, the band came out with no Janeway, just the rhythm section jamming on. After showing off the horns, Janeway finally made his way to the stage to a huge roar from the audience. From that point on St. Paul and the Broken Bones let loose on Birmingham. Janeway, the epitome of a true southern gentlemen with that perfect southern drawl, showed no signs of sickness, there was only that moment. Paul mentioned that he had been singing since he was 4 years old at a church in Chelsea (suburb of Birmingham) and that for a song per show, he is going to take you to church, “say amen.” The crowd said “amen” back and we all participated in the gospel. Janeway danced, sang, posed and pretty much gave every ounce of energy and passion deep within his soul, working the crowd from side to side. Who knows, maybe even Mick Jagger picked up a few pointers from Paul Janeway….
– Sturgill Simpson is probably the best thing going in country music today. The sweaty Alabama crowd sure showed their appreciation for real country music by packing out in front of the Steam Stage for Sturgill’s set, quite possibly the most attended set for the weekend. Sturgill and his extremely talented band didn’t disappoint.
Sturgill Simpson’s voice is a force to be reckoned with. It’s just so big and commanding that the crowd found themselves singing along to every word, lost in the moment. And no moment was too big for Sturgill. Combine that with Sturgill’s mega talented guitarist, Estonian Laur Joamets (otherwise known as Lil Jo), providing rocking riffs and solos, or heavenly slide, and you couldn’t help but be hooked on this set. This one was for the ages, and whether a current or new fan, the Sloss Fest crowd new they were watching something special.
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires
– Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires are a southern rock ‘n’ roll band from right there in Birmingham, Al who released their latest album, 2014’s Dereconstructed, via legendary indie label Sub Pop. The hype for The Glory Fires has been building for years around the south behind legendary rock ‘n’ roll shows. Putting that Sub Pop stamp of approval next to their name only adds credence to this band as a national force. Sloss Fest was their time to shine on the big stage to their hometown fans that have been waiting on the rest of the country to catch up. And one thing great about this band, they aren’t afraid to show who they are, including Lee himself wearing an Auburn hat and yelling back “War Damn Eagle” to one half of the audience, which in these parts is drawing a line in the dirt.
These guys are what rock ‘n’ roll is all about. They put it all into the performance, pouring out ounces of sweat on stage, whether it was Birmingham or Alaska, you get nothing but it all. With slashing guitars, huge drums, and spit flying everywhere, the crowd feels every bit of the energy. But what separates them from just any old southern rock band is when you really listen to the lyrics. Lee himself is a highly intellectual person that always has a thought provoking message behind his words. And he is sure to give you small quips of inside knowledge about these songs when the guitars are off as they prepare for the next song, referring to one song as “about swimming in the Cahaba River as a political act”, or the song about “growing up living with my grandmother in a different place of different people all working together to create a vibrant community.” One of the best things about this set was that besides Lee’s banter between songs, we also got a rare solo moment from Lee himself, only his electric guitar and his voice. This unique moment provided an extra glimpse into what an incredible artist he is, showing an outstanding voice and his superior songwriting typically hidden more behind the thrashing guitars.
Most Insane Crowd:
Tyler, the Creator
– We didn’t get to stay for his whole set, as we had to head over to catch some of The Avett Brothers before heading back to Atlanta, but what we got in the tightly squeezed enclosed area of The Shed stage from Tyler, the Creator was one of the wildest sets we saw at Sloss Fest. Tyler kept the crowd giddy while waiting for him and his crew to finally come on stage. The crowd chanted “Tyler, Tyler, Tyler” up until he came out. From there chaos ensued. We aren’t sure Birmingham has even been done like that, or will anytime soon. The set began with a head of lettuce coming towards Tyler, and Tyler spotting it, calling for the lettuce, before grabbing it and chunking it back immediately into the crowd, dissipating along the way, and the shout “I don’t want the fucking lettuce.” And every hand in the place was immediately thrown into the air until Tyler, the Creator dropped his very last verse.
Judah & the Lion
– Judah & the Lion are a Nashville indie folk pop band that refuses to let any member of their audience leave without falling in love with them live. One part family band, one part Mumford, one part boy band (those choreographed dance moves had to be put together by a professional, or maybe it was just a mirror), one part cover band, and maybe one part rapper, they suck you in with their energy on stage and the smiles on their face, having the times of their lives up there. Judah & the Lion like to throw in a little hip hop beat and said they wanna make folk music that you can grind to (even though it may have been a little sweaty for that). With their originals mixed in with a some hip hop covers, including Ignition by R. Kelly, it was obvious these cats like to have fun with their fans. Throw in a little Starship “We Built This City” with the full on choreographed dance moves, Judah and the Lion ensured that even the most skeptical of observers couldn’t walk away without a smile.
The Avett Brothers
– The Avett Brothers headline multiple festivals and outdoor venues for a reason, they are always a great show live. Sloss Fest was no different. The Avett Brothers always bring to the table songs the crowd can sing a long and dance to, alongside just being a great group of musicians. They put the cap on a great festival late Sunday night with a 21 song set that included crowd favorites like “I and Love and You”, “Kick Drum Heart”, and “Paranoia in Bb Major.”
– Manchester Orchestra made the long trek to Birmingham from their hometown of Atlanta for an enthusiastic crowd waiting on them at Sloss Fest. Starting with “Pride”, the band played a career spanning hour long set that included other crowd favorites like “Shake It Out” and “I’ve Got Friends”. Andy Hull and the band are consistently great, belting out the songs and rocking old and new fans alike.
– The California indie folk pop sensations, Milo Greene brought their A game (and harmonies) to Sloss including a raspy cover of Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” much to the crowd’s pleasure.
The New Pornographers
– These Canadians weren’t quite prepared for the July Alabama heat but The New Pornographers weren’t afraid to get the crowd all sweaty, dancing, singing along to their harmonies. Set highlights included the likes of “Sing Me Spanish Techno”, “The Laws Have Changed”, “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”, and set closer “Mass Romantic”.
– Blank Range is another in a growing list of strong rock ‘n’ roll bands coming out of Nashville these days. These guys kicked off Sunday with a thrilling set of their southern rock, fired up from the beginning, hitting every chord with purpose.
More Photos from Sloss Fest Day 2: