Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Sloss Fest Boasts Variety of Artists; Music, Food, Art Exhibits Included in Two-Day Event

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Sloss Fest Boasts Variety of Artists; Music, Food, Art Exhibits Included in Two-Day Event

Article excerpt

Old-school soul, indie rock, progressive folk, rap, funk, country and more will resound amidst the heavy metal of Sloss Furnaces this weekend, as the inaugural Sloss Fest Music & Arts Festival debuts Saturday and Sunday.

Headliners including Primus, Avett Brothers, First Aid Kit, Big Gigantic, Cage the Elephant, Tyler the Creator, the New Pornographers and St. Paul & the Broken Bones will fill the Blast, Steam and Shed stages with singer-songwriters, electronica artists and more, beginning at 1:30 p.m. both days, and running until about 11:30.

The event also encompasses visual art exhibits and demonstrations (including a hands-on iron pouring), a craft beer garden, with food and other vendors. Cooling stations with water refills and misting tents will be around to help beat the heat.

It all happens at the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, the only 20th-century blast furnace in the U.S. being maintained as a historic industrial site. Col. James Withers Sloss and an L&N Railroad investment of $30 million built the furnace, which began operation in 1882, crucial to Birmingham's then-thriving steel industry. Beginning in the 1970s, city money stablized the historic structures. In 1981, the furnaces earned National Historic Landmark designation. In 1983, the city began operations as a museum, showcasing two 400-ton blast furnaces and dozens of other structures. It's been used as a theater, concert venue, conference and workshop site, and an annual haunted house for many of the years since.

Birmingham's Red Mountain Entertainment, which booked the festival and also books Tuscaloosa's Amphitheater, hopes this will turn this into a yearly tradition.

"The bands love the historical and industrial vibe of Sloss Furnaces," said Jill Wheeler, a RME promoter. "Summer is really known as festival season, with fans having the flexibility to travel. Plus, when you live in Alabama, you are well aware of how people spend their Saturdays in the fall."

Previous outdoor music festivals have seen their day come and go. The once-powerful City Stages, sprawling over three days and several downtown Magic City blocks, collapsed under the weight of debt in 2009. The old Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil, which grew from a backyard party in 1986 to a two-day ticketed downtown festival with multiple nationally known headliners, fell in 2013 back to one day, and for 2014 and this summer, became Schaeffer Eye Center CityFest, a free one-day event, Aug. 1 this year, focusing more on local and regional bands.

RME's director of marketing, Betsy Kiser, noted that summer's still a hot time for music festivals around the country.

"Bonnaroo, Forecastle, Shakey Knees, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Firefly Music Festival, Music Midtown and many more," she said. "The business is strong and we felt like the timing was right for Birmingham to have a premier festival to call our own."

Charlottesville, Va.'s Starr Hill Brewery, winner of 21 festival awards, is partnering with Birmingham's Trim Tab Brewery to produce a limited edition Sloss Fest beer. It will be a two-row, crystal, honey malt called The Siren of Sloss. William Donaldson, brand manager for Starr Hill Brewery, explained the beer as a single- hopped witbier (Belgian-style ale) with honey.

"It is going to be a light and summery collaboration of styles," said Donaldson. "The brewery builds a bridge between cultures of the south. Putting Sloss in a central location gives respect to the history."

T. Hardy Morris (1:30 p.m., Steam Stage): With his band, Morris of Athens, Ga., released an album June 23, "Hardy and the Hardknocks: Drownin' on a Mountaintop."

LANY: (1:45, Shed Stage) Los Angeles-based band released the album "I Loved You" June 9.

Paul Thorn (2:15, Blast Stage): Singer-songwriter mixing blues and rock. His 2012 album, "What the Hell Is Going On," was the number 12 Most Played Album on the AMA charts for that year. …

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