Category: DIY

Tuscaloosa’s DIY scene in full effect this summer

This past Saturday, August 2nd, DIY Tuscaloosa and Stand-Up Tuscaloosa, hosted by RJ Marchand, joined forces to host a show at a new DIY house.

One of the house residents, James Hale, had expressed interest in having shows at his house a few months ago. He advertised having a big back yard and a thirst for more house shows in Tuscaloosa.

Upon first meeting with him to check out the space, I was taken aback at how potentially ideal the location could be. The backyard was huge and fenced in, with a big grill on an elevated porch, which was partially screened in. There was also parking in the yard and on the street. So long as we cleared it with the neighbors and adhered to the area’s 9pm noise ordinance, I didn’t foresee any reason for it to get shut down.

The evening of entertainment kicked off with the first band, a new local called Pentapuss, which was Maia Wade on guitar and vocals, Ronnie Lee Gipson on drums, and Frank Nette playing bass guitar. Separately they are all good musicians, so together it was legit, especially for a first show. Maia commented that the show gave her hope that “we might be able to foster a more diverse music community in Tuscaloosa”, adding that it was the most diverse crowd she’d seen at a house show in a long time. “We are definitely aiming to have eclectic bills, and not just one genre.”

After Pentapuss’ set, Randy Ford delivered the first stand-up comedy act. The audience seemed to enjoy the mix of music and comedy, plus I thought it was great to see people dance, then laugh, then rinse-lather-repeat.

Next up was Knympho Knife, a three-piece describing themselves as “fuzzed out jazz-punk.” If you want a sample of what they really sound like, check out their feature on local TV show, Tuscaloosa Monorail.

When the cops walked up to the yard during Knympho Knife’s set, they were just asking how long the music would be going so that if they got any noise complaints they could tell people when it was ending. We told them that we thought the noise ordinance was 9pm and were planning to have the music done by then, to which one of the cops replied “9pm on a Saturday?!” So I asked him “Can we push it to 10pm?” and he confirmed “We can’t tell you when to end your party, but if we get too many noise complaints then the bands will have to stop playing.” Fair enough, so we just turned down the bands’ volumes and the cops never showed for the rest of the night.

The next stand-up performer was Beth Howell. I remember there being a lot of people there by that time, and it was great to see that good of a turnout, especially with the majority staying on the screened in part of the porch to watch her set. There was definitely a supportive vibe in the air that night.

The third band to play was Freaky Deakys. They played earlier this Summer at the Southside Nitty Gritty Glen Iris house fest, as well as Vallofest in Montevallo. This six piece showcases Trevor Dane aka “Sweet Tea; Dane Deaky” on rhythm guitar and vocals, Rolfe Briney aka “Knight Driver” on lead guitar, John Engle aka “Smiles Davis Deaky” on bass guitar, Jack Vogt aka “Boom Boom Fingerling Deaky” on drums, Abraham Glubrecht aka “Squeaky Deaky” on fiddle, and Forrest Moody aka “Captain Peach Fish” on keyboard. Their live show was high energy and included fire dancers, who were Hannah Barrett and Andrea Dillingham. Trevor Dane said that the goal of their aesthetic was to “make everyone happy and forget about their worldly troubles, while presented in an artistic fashion.” He also added that for them, letting loose is like a form of meditation. I am a strong believer in art and exercise therapy, so I think dancing and engaging in a show will always make you feel better. Additionally, fire dancer Hannah Barrett reflected that “House shows are really something special, bringing like-minded people together to enjoy and spread the word of talented musicians, all the while making crazy unique memories such as friendly mosh pits on porches and fire dancers in the backyard.” There is definitely something about a house show that a bar can never capture. Both atmospheres have their places, but with DIY Tuscaloosa’s focus to provide more all ages shows, it seems that house shows are the way to go for now since most bars will only compromise to 18+.

You can catch Freaky Deakys‘ upcoming shows Thursday, August 14th at Parkside, and then the next night, Friday August 15th, at a house show in Montevallo (they ask folks to shoot them a message on their Facebook for more info). They are also getting filmed this week for a future episode of Tuscaloosa Monorail.

Caleb Garrett closed out the stand-up acts for the night, which lead into Dead Balloons‘ set. They were also featured on a previous episode of Tuscaloosa Monorail and are playing at Black Market Bar & Grill- 5 Points South later this month.

The next all ages DIY Tuscaloosa show will be Friday, August 22nd, a back-to-school show. Though our all ages shows are free admission for now, donations are encouraged because they are what keeps it going.

Stand-Up Tuscaloosa also has an open mic every Wednesday 9pm at Glory Bound Gyro Company.

To stay updated on more events like these, follow DIY Tuscaloosa’s group page.

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Show Review: Naan Violence at Cuckoo’s Nest

DSCN0774Last Wednesday night I found myself watching a sitar player in the small living room of a house called “The Cuckoo’s Next”, and was surprised at the turnout for that rainy night. Though the show was promoted to start at 7pm, of course it didn’t really start until around 9pm, but the time passed fast with friendly conversation and record-listening. I loved how they had balloons on the living room floor just for that night, and how I was surrounded by mostly people talking about music and not just forced small talk. Some of the crowd were people I don’t see out often, and others I would not have expected to see there, but it all meshed well together in the hospitable environment.

The small intimate setting of the living room was ideal for the sitarist’s set. I was intrigued by him starting out playing on an acoustic guitar, because I noticed how he played it differently than the traditional ‘American-style.’ That house was his last stop after touring the past two and a half weeks. It was his second time playing in Birmingham, his first time being at The Firehouse a couple of months ago.

I was surprised that he had only been playing sitar for five years because I thought he was quite good, and he’s taking sitar lessons in India later this year. So cool. He said that he felt very well-received by the Cuckoo crowd, and enjoyed being able to play an all acoustic set for a change.

As for the house itself, it was hard to tell who all lived there, but Milton of Them Natives, who booked the show, stated that he is not planning to utilize that house as an established venue, and it is only the second show that has been booked there. Even though that house probably won’t have many shows in its near future, I thought it was still cool enough to document.

As a side note, Silver Reich, a project Milton is doing with Emanual Ellinas, is playing The Firehouse June 24th, so check that out if you can. 


Hear more of Naan Violence at zapcassettes.com.

Happenin Fest 2014 lights up Good People

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This past Saturday, Happenin’ Fest rocked Good People Brewery with Holly Waxwing, Raidy and the Erasers, Vacation Club, Natural Child, Jeff the Brotherhood, Holy YouthPlains, Drew Price, Music Band, Jacuzzi Boys and Wray (pictured above). Bands played on the inside and outside stages, great food vendors were around, and good beer was flowing. It was my first time at Good People Brewery and I hope to see more shows there in the future.

Chris McCauley of Holy Youth who put it all together gave us a little background, first saying Happenin’ Records has been around since 2005, while the fest started in 2012. After a break for grad school, Chris decided to “re-energize the label” and in 2011 released the Nightmare Boyzzz “Nuclear Summer” 7″ .

Though McCauley has a soft spot for Huntsville staples Lowe Mill and Vertical House, he moved Happenin Fest back to Birmingham to be closer to his home base in Montevallo. He also told us they were initially going to scale this year’s Fest down, maybe hosting a few bands on a hotel rooftop. Soon after though, Good People reached out and expressed interest in hosting the event. McCauley stated that he and Stefano, a Good People employee, met and the rest fell into place.

The Southside Nitty Gritty DIY fest takes over houses and ears of Glen Iris

Happenin’ Fest Saturday was rad as expected, but last Friday night a lesser known all ages fest in Southside known as the “Nitty Gritty” featured local and touring bands, spread across four houses in the Glen Iris area. Trevor Dane of Hawaii and the Freaky Deakys did a great job of organizing the Nitty Gritty, and all of the host houses, bands, and audience made it complete.
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(Hawaii live in basement on 1612, photo courtesy Christina Daley)
The first house “1612” started the full evening of music with Them Natives. Despite it being an acoustic set outside, it seemed like the crowd was still feeling it and most people outside at the time actually listened. They are one of my favorite currently active Birmingham bands so of course I was into it, but it was great to see them capture the crowd before sunset. Next at 1612, Hawaii did an improv set in the basement. I love how Hawaii’s shows are never the same set twice. They have a couple songs they play from the demo, but it’s really about putting on a live show. They get a rowdy at certain points and you never know when it’s coming. I feel that energy really engages the crowd, and people who didn’t know them before will remember Hawaii. The last act at 1612 was D. Bramble from Huntsville, who played outside. Local virtuoso Walker Yancey of Hawaii assisted Patrick Bakula during his set by playing the chain and saw percussion. After they closed out 1612, the crowd migrated to Eerie, Indiana for the next two bands.

The first band to play at the second house was Ray Creature, all the way from Bloomington, Indiana. They were a tight two piece which reminded me a little of the Bauhaus feel, and a friend of mine referenced Depeche Mode. Their set was differnent than a lot of what Birmingham locals are used to, encompassing synth keyboard and an electronic drum set. Along those lines, I really dug their set and the music was sexy. I actually told them that later, to which they replied “That’s the point.”

Next was Bad Psychic, also hailing from Bloomington, Indiana. Her solo act looped synth parts as she played bass guitar and sang. I really liked it, especially as someone who is currently working on my own solo material. Some of her sound reminded me of Fever Ray, which in my book is always an awesome comparison. Though the next door neighbor got a little cranky about the noise, Bad Psychic finished her set strong then the crowd made the walk down the street to the next house venue, The Alabama Hotel.

The Alabama Hotel had biscuits and other snacks for sale, showing a little Southern hospitality. The Freaky Deakys (featuring members of the aforementioned Hawaii and Electric Sheep) got the crowd moving with frontman Trevor Dane. It had been years since I’d seen that band active. The last time being in Tuscaloos and even with a different lineup, it was still just as energetic and fun live. Dead Balloons were tight as always, and as much as they practice in that basement it was cool to finally see them play to an audience in their own house.

Down the street, The Southside Lounge closed out the night with the sets of The Steel Sisters, Andy Dale Petty, and local touring legend Dan SartainThe Steel Sisters’ and Andy Dale Petty’s sets were very intimate. The red carpet on the stage and the lighting of the stage gave it this golden glow, which showcased the intimate setting of the basement. Dan Sartain’s set was great. It was a really classic kind of rock show.  There was also a bar already built into one of the side rooms in the basement, which Rolfe of Electric Sheep, aka Tremolo Bill, described as being like the Old West. Across the same room was a corner with two couches and a table — complete with people playing cards — enhancing the Old West saloon feel (even if the alcohol is not flowing from the bar). Last but not least, people sat naked in the jacuzzi together in the bathroom connected to the show room.

Nitty Gritty Friday fun night was closed out with an impromptu set around 3am by The Steel City Jug Slammers. 

House resident David Maclay stated that the vision for The Southside Lounge is for “an emerging scene of local artists to be supported and appreciated by other locals.” He also added that they do not host exclusively acoustic shows. “We just strive for events with a more intimate setting. We support music of all styles.” Tremolo Bill is booking the upcoming Step Showcase there, so stay tuned for future shows at The Southside Lounge.

Album Review: Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – Dereconstructed

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Nowadays, it seems pretty easy to reduce Southern culture to a few reality TV stars with beards and a duck call business. Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires are here to remind the world about the complexity and vitality of this

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On their previous album, There Is a Bomb In Gilead, the band cautiously belted out a fine mix of country, southern rock, and soul music. Dereconstructed is their first album for the venerable Sub Pop label,and builds on the successes of their first record while backing them up with increased confidence and volume.

Lead off single and album opener, “The Company Man” serves as a statement of intent and an introduction to the current, road-tested lineup of The Glory Fires. The ragged opening riff propels the song forward into an onslaught of guitars pushed into the red by Bains and new addition, Eric Wallace. It’s a classic Southern Rock anthem that’s built to be catchy, but offers surprising

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lyrical depth. Lee has a knack for examining social issue particular to the South. The title track turns the fire and brimstone of a Southern Baptist preacher on its head and begins to spell out a new way of thinking for a generation of Southerners that are smart, tolerant, and equal.

The thematically related, “The Kudzu and The Concrete” and “The Weeds Downtown” take a

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look at living in the a post white flight Birmingham. Both songs touch on the realities of growing up at the foot of a bustling Southern city, but also identifying with your country roots. “The Weeds Downtown” in particular is an anthem for the revitalization and rebranding of downtown Birmingham. Where our parents generation saw danger, Bains and the rest of us see opportunity.

The second side of the record sees the band continuing in the politically minded vein of the first side with the one-two punch of “We Dare Defend Our Rights!”, and “Flags”. In previous generations, Alabama’s state motto was used as a symbol for defending the racist status quo, but Baines takes a look at the motto and turns it around by making it a rallying cry for a new generation of proud, progressive citizens.

To finish up the record, Bains delivers what I think is the best song of the album. “Dirt Track”, like all great southern food and art, works on several levels. The song relates Alabama’s history in stock car racing to DIY punk rock; the dirt track of the music business. The song’s late break and triumphant finish offers a capstone for the record, bringing everything full circle.

Bains and Co. offer the next logical step beyond the storytelling of bands like the Drive By Truckers, by getting down into the nitty gritty of living in a rapidly evolving South. There’s a sense of wrestling and reckoning with our shared past, but an unending faith and hope in our shared future. Dereconstructed offers an alternative to the duck call Disney World South that’s presented on TV and gives an authentic look into being an intelligent, proud southerner.

Druid City Brewing hosts 18 and up shows in Taproom this Summer

Things have been pretty quiet for DIY Tuscaloosa since Baby Haus stopped hosting shows in March, but the past two weekends the Druid City Brewing Company‘s Tap Room, built in Summer 2013, has had 18+ shows (and of course 21+ to drink) from 8pm-10pm.

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New Tuscaloosa band Steels debuted on Saturday, April 19th, and drew out a pretty good crowd, especially considering it was their first show. Their live sound was much more raw than their recordings, which was very fitting for the acoustics of the Tap Room. Bassist Justin West confirmed that though they don’t currently have any set dates for future shows or recording sessions, they’re “ready to take this town by storm.”

A week ago Saturday, Birmingham’s Dead Balloons played in the Tap Room and were tight as usual. Tap Room manager Bob Baker complimented them as having “this energetic synergy that is very rare in bands these days.” They actually posted some recordings from their new self-titled LP just last week. Vocalist and guitarist Chris Seifert credited it to being recorded at the Druid City Time and Spaceship in Tuscaloosa with Jacob Thomson and David Allen. He also added that they plan to be done with CDs by the end of May and are working on a 45 to come soon. You can listen to their latest released recordings for free and download it for a small donation here.

Both bands complimented the intimate setting as having a unique vibe of not feeling like a bar even though alcohol was served there, and they really enjoyed playing there. I haven’t even played there yet and it’s already my new favorite venue in Tuscaloosa.

To keep updated on the Druid City Brewery’s future shows, follow their Facebook page.

GLEN IRIS DOUBLE FEATURE: Southside’s day of shows

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Last Saturday, 1612 had its first show.

Things kicked off around noon with a lineup of Balcony View, Electric Sheep, and Bird’s Nest. Around 8pm the ‘double feature’ continued with Lume (new local shoegaze– Lizzie Little, Rickey Edge, Zane Lake, Jacob Watson, Jake Lovett), Mightus, Dommel Mosel (Adam Measel), and White Sands Missile Range. It was a great time, plus there was pizza and the neighbor let us jump on their trampoline, so what more do you really want from life.All of the bands said they had a great time playing and chillin’ at the house, with emphasis on the advantages of the intimate atmosphere a house show provides as well as the diverse turnout of a more eclectic show.

Rickey Edge, resident of 1612, said that he came up with the idea for a day show a couple of months ago, elaborating on their goal to “foster the growing sense of community in our scene” by showcasing bands from mixed genres. Rickey also stated that they are definitely going to have more shows at 1612 in the future and already have a few in the works.

After things wrapped up at 1612, The Steel City Jug Slammers played around midnight at David Maclay’s (of Electric Sheep) house. Their downstairs space is great for a band to play, complete with a built-in bar and even a spare room with a couch and red light 😉

Being somewhat in the know myself, I anticipate the block-party-shows that await Birmingham this Summer. So stay tuned DIY fam, because summertime will be here sooner than you probably realize.