Underdogs Above Ground: An Examination of Secret Stages – History, Mission, and Aspirations for the Future

What is it about going an impromptu road trip that excites each of us deep within the depths of our spirit? Maybe it’s the open road? Or maybe it’s the endless possibility and adventure that lies ahead? Much like a frenetic and exhilarating unplanned road-trip, Birmingham’s own Secret Stages music festival is that place of excitement that we often get within our spirit after seeing uncharted roads and attractions for the first time. Only Secret Stages is a purveyor of amazing music.

Secret Stages is a unique annual two-day walking music festival founded in 2011 that is hosted in downtown Birmingham, Alabama every first weekend of August over a two block area near local restaurants, bars, shops, and parks. Festival attendees embark a musical discovery journey that includes over 60 up-and-coming bands and artists from various genres of music gracing the stages of local Birmingham spots. In a two day span, your subject to hearing everything from acoustic, alternative country, alt rock, Americana, blues, folk, folk rock, funk, hip hop, indie, jazz, metal, pop, punk, rock, singer/songwriter, southern rock, and so much more.

Secret Stages is hands down one of the must-see events in the Southeastern region of the country that every music enthusiast should make plans to attend. This year’s line-up is comprised of artists from all across the nation from various genres of music! Past artists include the following: St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Shovels & Rope, G-Side, Robert Ellis, Jacuzzi Boys, Banditos, Fly Golden Eagle, Lambchop, Hiss Golden Messenger, Futurebirds, Belle Adair, Barton Carroll, Pujol, Ponychase, Shonna Tucker and Ear Candy and many more.

Check out my Q & A Interview with Sam George, one of the creative forces behind Secret Stages below:


Q & A interview with Sam George of Secret Stages

How did Secret Stages begin? What inspired the conception of it? Did any other festivals or creative events influence the founding of Secret Stages?

  • We formed Secret Stages in the wake of the collapse of City Stages. We felt that City Stages had become bloated and unrepresentative of the spirit of Birmingham in it’s waning years, and that a fest that focused more on up and coming artists, while showcasing many of the great venues that already exist here would be a better fit.

How do you personally define the mission of Secret Stages?

  • For me, Secret Stages is about spreading the particular joy of finding your new favorite band, and of getting to see that band in an intimate setting before they break out and start playing the larger venues in town to hundreds or thousands of people.

Do you feel like Secret Stages has done a great job of exposing people in the Greater Birmingham area and beyond to quality artists on the rise?

  • I certainly do! Every year there have been artists that we’ve booked that have gone on to acclaim. Dawes, Shovels and Rope, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Hiss Golden Messenger and more!

What has been the most challenging thing that the Secret Stages team has faced as a creative unit and has it grown as a result?

  • The most challenging thing has to been to get people to come out for an event featuring artists they don’t know. People are accustomed to paying for festivals where they already know and love the artists, but as we’ve built a reputation for bringing quality up-and-comers to Birmingham, people have begun to trust that he you come to Secret Stages, you’re going to see amazing stuff, even if you’ve never heard of it before.

Do you feel that people are very familiar with Secret Stages at this point – five years after its founding?

  • We definitely have a following, but because of the nature of our lineup, there’s always more work to be done spreading the word!

What audience do you generally appeal to and who’s been the number one supporter of Secret Stages since day one?

  • That’s one of the great things about our fest, it appeals to such a wide variety of music -lovers. We have so many genre’s, from metal to jazz, from electronic to hip-hop. If you like any kind music, there will be something awesome for you to discover at our fest.

What is Secret Stages ultimate aspiration for the future?

  • We’d like to grow slowly out from our center. Though our lineup is huge, we only bring a fraction of the amazing talent available to us. As interest in exploring new music increases, we’d like to continue to expand what we have on offer.

Who’s your favorite artist in the 2015 Secret Stages line-up and why?

  • Hehe, unfair! So many! I’m a big fan of Landlady from Brooklyn, catchy yet complex art-rock.

Where do you see Secret Stages in the next five years?

  • Still doing our thing. Happier, wiser, older.

How can people get involved, support, or sponsor the efforts of Secret Stages?

Until the Next Post,
Note: All of the images used in this feature story belong to Secret Stages.


Weekly Wanderlust in Bham: Event Picks for 4/23/15-4/30/15

Welcome to the Weekly Wanderlust List! It features information about exciting, creative, yummy, and innovative happenings in the Greater Birmingham, Alabama community each week.  This week’s Weekly Wanderlust in Bham spotlights a multitude of events in Birmingham. Each unique event offers an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the community, support a local cause or business, engage with the fabulous citizens of our City, or enjoy an evening of fun. This week features the following events:

  • Magic City Art Connection
  • Ruffner Mountain’s Fourth Friday Music Series: Verdure
  • Corks & Chefs
  • Yoga on the Green
  • Birmingham Get Up!
  • Magic City Sweet Ice: GRAND OPENING!
  • Kreplach & Dim Sum – Yes, There are Jews in China
  • 6th Annual Dining Out For Life® Event



Magic City Art Connection


10154169_10152780143324097_2092605576191814733_nThe Magic City Art Connection will be held between April 24-25 from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., April 26 from 10 a.m. – 5  p.m. The event spotlights hundreds of artists and offer an opportunity for people to purchase their work. In addition, the following takes place over the course of the event: Corks & Chefs (a food & wine tasting experience), interactive art workshops for children, live music and performances on stage, art installations, pop-up cafes, and much more.

  • Where: Linn Park, at the central entrance points – Rev Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd (8th Ave N) or at 6th Ave N & 20th Street
  • Cost: Adults $5, Kids 12 & under free (Corks & Chefs requires extra ticket)
  • Website: www.magiccityart.com
  • Contact: (205) 595-6306


Ruffner Mountain’s Fourth Friday Music Series: Verdure


On  Friday, April 24th, Ruffner Mountain’s Fourth Friday Music Series will feature the music of Verdure! Verdure is an eclectic music outfit that the band’s front man, singer-songwriter, Chris K. Davidson describes as , “a layered, harmony-driven collection of songs that combines dashes of Ben Folds, acoustic Guster, and the Head and the Heart while fully maintaining their unique sonic identity.” Check out Verdure on the web at www.verduremusic.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/VerdureMusic. The BYOB show will take place at the Tree House and you can also bring food. Tickets are $10.00.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:00 p.m.

  • When: April 24 at 7 p.m.
  • Where: Ruffner Mountain Preserve, 1214 81st St S, Birmingham, Alabama
  • Cost: $ 10.00
  • Website: Ticket Link
  • Contact: (205) 833-8264

Corks & Chefs


The 18th annual Corks & Chefs will be presented by Kinetic Communications during the  three day Magic City Art Connection.  Corks & Chefs is the place where art, food, beer + wine meet. the event features delicious cuisine from many of Birmingham’s favorite restaurants. Over 8 talented chefs, 75 wines, craft beers, coffee, and tea are showcased each day of the event. A new tasting BBVA Compass VIP Lounge for VIP ticket holders will have exclusive offerings including a special food tasting with World’s Best Pastry Chef, Jordi Roca of World Famous El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain,  additional select wines, craft beer and champagne to taste, lounge seating, and private al fresco dining.

  • When: April 25-26, 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
  • Where: Linn Park, at the central entrance points – Rev Abraham Woods, Jr. Blvd (8th Ave N) or at 6th Ave N & 20th Street
  • Cost: $35.00 – $125.00 in advance
  • Website: www.magiccityart.com/corks-chefs/order-tickets
  • Contact: (205) 595-6306

Birmingham Get Up


The second annual Birmingham Get Up will take place on April 25 at 5 p.m.The event will be a festive night of music, food, drink, and plenty of  fun to benefit The Red Barn’s programs. There will be food from local vendors and beer from Good People and Druid City. The music line-up includes the following: Dead Fingers at 5 p.m., Trouble the Waters at 6 p.m., The Golden Monica at 7 p.m., and Banditos at 8 p.m.

Yoga on the Green


This is a beginners friendly Railroad Park Yoga Class sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama. The class is free. However, all attendees will need to sign in and complete a wavier with the park staff.  The park also has clean yoga mats for you to borrow if you do not own personal gear. The following other free classes are offered each week at Railroad Park as well: Jazzercise® on Mondays at 6:00 p.m., Bootcamp on Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m., Zumba on Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m., and Happy Feet Fridays on Fridays at 6:00 p.m.

Magic City Sweet Ice: GRAND OPENING!


Magic City Sweet Ice is inviting the city to celebrate the Grand Opening of their store in West Homewood! The grand opening event will feature food, drinks, and door prizes!  Check out the company’s website magiccitysweetice.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mcsweetice.

  • When: April 25 at 12.00 p.m.
  • Where:  715 Oak Grove Rd, Birmingham, AL
  • Cost: Free
  • Website: RSVP
  • Contact:  (205) 907-2125

Kreplach & Dim Sum – Yes, There are Jews in China

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This event features Robyn Helzner who shares stories, photos, video and music to explore the extraordinary history of the Jewish communities in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Kaifeng; and traces their emergence as the fastest growing Jewish region in the world. This event is open to the public for free, but RSVP is required. Acclaimed for her concerts and recordings of Jewish music, Helzner officiated at the first Bar Mitzvah celebrated in Beijing, China, and served as the Cantor for the United  Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong. In addition, this event will also feature the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai exhibit.  It tells the stories of the difficulties faced by Jewish refugees on their journey to and from Shanghai in the 1930s and 40s, as well as their adaptation to the city and friendship with the Chinese people.  This exhibit has been put together by the American Jewish Committee and the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum. Reception featuring Jewish and Kosher Chinese including Kreplach, Dim Sum, Rugalach, Burekas, and Egg Rolls.

  • When: April 25-26, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Where: Levite Jewish Community Center of Birmingham, 3960 Montclair Road, Birmingham, AL
  • Cost: This event is free of charge, but registration is required. Please click here to RSVP.
  • Website: www.bic-al.org
  • Contact: 205-252-7652

Hope For Autumn Crawfish Boil

The Hope for Autumn Foundation Crawfish Boil is an event that features music, food, and fun. In addition, live music will provided by Rollin in the Hay and Downright. Proceeds from the event benefit area families battling childhood cancer and the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorder’s Developmental Therapeutics Program which seeks to find new treatments for children with difficult to treat cancer. The menu will include crawfish cooked by Louisiana native John Hein, hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids, soda, water, and gives you the option to bring your own adult beverages. The children activities features various games, bounce houses, face painting, and balloon artists.

  • When: April 25, 3 p.m. –  p.m.
  • Where: Main Green of Ross Bridge, 4000 Grand Ave, Birmingham, AL
  • Cost: $30.00 – $35.00
  • Website: www.hopeforautumnfoundation.org
  • Contact: (954) 410-8362

6th Annual Dining Out For Life®


On Thursday, April 30th, help support AIDS Alabama’s 6th Annual Dining Out For Life event by simply enjoying a meal at one of your favorite local restaurants in Birmingham. Each of the participating restaurants will donate a minimum of 25% (upwards to 100%) of your bill to help fight against HIV and AIDS. Some of these restaurants include: Bottle & Bone, Post Office Pies, The J. Clyde, Urban Standard, The Grill at Iron City, and many more!  To learn more about AIDS Alabama, its mission, and services visit www.aidsalabama.org

  • When: April 30
  • Where: at participating restaurants in Birmingham, AL
  • Cost: Nothing extra, just enjoy a meal at a participating local restaurant
  • Website: Find the complete list of participating restaurants at www.diningoutforlife.com/birmingham/restaurants
  • Contact: (954) 410-8362


Until the Next Post,