Spring means music festivals.

by John D

Well, the music festival season is in full swing. Bonnaroo (June 13–16) announced their official line up, the Hangout (May 17–19) released the second part of the line–up, with the addition of Stevie Wonder as one of the headliners. Then there is the the new Shaky Knees Festival in Atlanta (May 4–May 5) which will be going up against the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis (May 3–May 5). The last two have incredibly strong line ups and the ultimate question is which line up is better, i.e. which one do you want to go to more. Of course, when you factor in the cost of heading to a festival it sometimes boils down to which one festival can I afford to attend?

Maybe you are like me, where attending a festival this year is out of the question, whether it is fiscal or scheduling constraints that will be sidelining you this year. (Note to friends: It is common knowledge that one should not get married during college football season in Alabama—maybe this should I apply to the festival season too… hint, hint).

The good news for you is that the shows coming to Birmingham in the next month or so are top notch. Several shows have already sold out and did so incredibly fast (Dave Matthews Band, two nights of The Alabama Shakes, Band Of Horses and a few more that will be sold out by the time you read this). So, instead of talking about the sold out shows, here are some of the shows still on sale that you can get tickets for right now.

Needtobreathe (4/5 @Boutwell Auditorium) w/ Special Guests Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors. Needtobreathe is a draw on their own with their alternative radio friendly rock but the inclusion of Drew Holcomb is going to be the icing on the cake for this show. Drew, wife Ellie, and The Neighbors, tour tirelessly (even more impressive with the fact that Drew and Ellie have an infant daughter) and are some of the hardest working, and nicest, folks out there. It doesn’t hurt that Drew and Ellie produce amazing harmonies.

Ivan and Alyosha (4/11 @ The Bottletree Cafe) with Fort Atlantic. Seattle folk rockers Ivan and Alyosha (the name coming from characters from “The Brothers Karamazov”) stop in Birmingham as they are on the rise. Their single “Running For Cover” is incredibly catchy and is a just one great cut from the new album All the Times We Had. Joining Ivan and Alyosha is Fort Atlantic (Jon Black), who until recently, called Birmingham home. Fort Atlantic, a side project that become Black’s focus, is another example of the do-it-yourself ethic that is working in the music business today. This show will sell well with just Fort Atlantic but with Ivan and Alyosha is sure to sell out.

Rusted Root (4/12 @ Iron City). Rusted Root? Yes, Rusted Root. Still not ringing a bell? Just think of “Send Me On My Way” from the early 90s. Yep, now you know. The band has been at it for over 20 years, and is currently six albums in. Their music takes the kitchen sink approach (as in they put everything into the mix; rock, folk, world, reggae, etc…) but the live shows are marked by a heavy reliance on percussion rhythms and just about every member contributing vocals. This is the first big show at Iron City, Birmingham’s newest, and most talked about, venue. This will give many a chance to explore the new venue and experience one of the most extensive sound systems in Birmingham; after taking a tour recently I was amazed at the the thought and effort (and money) the owners put into the sound system (which is the most important piece of the live music puzzle).

Son Volt (4/16 @ WorkPlay). If Uncle Tupelo (founding Son Volt member Jay Farrar and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy first band) was the progenitor of alt-country, then Son Volt is the next generation. Son Volt’s biggest hit was “Drown” but the band has not rested on the laurels and milked the song, instead they have continued to progress. The band is touring to promote their newest release, Honky Tonk, which continues to explore and push the boundaries of Americana. The album is not dark, but is definitely melancholic while a strong effort from a band that has been around for almost 20 years.

Notable Shows

Frightened Rabbit (4/11 @ WorkPlay). Scottish Rockers bring their sound (and new album Pedestrian Verse) to town.

Aaron Neville (4/13 @ The Alys Stephens). Grammy Winning R & B singer Neville performs his newest album My True Story. Although the album is all covers Neville puts his own spin on classic tunes from the Doo Wop Era of of the late 50s and early sixties). The Alys Stephens is the perfect venue for this show.

The Wallflowers (5/4 @ WorkPlay). Jakob Dylan’s band hits the road to support their new album Glad All Over but will surely revisit tracks from the biggest selling album Bringing Down The Horse.

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