Anyone who has retained some amount of skepticism as to Birmingham’s status as a music town of merit must be having second thoughts at this point. The proliferation of music festivals that have sprung up in recent years is astounding. If you count the smaller festivals that just include a nice lineup of music, there are too many for me to take the space to list them here. Suffice it to say that, once Baby BAAM happens this weekend, we will have had two “local music” only festivals in Birmingham in the space of a month (the other being the brand-new Southbound Music Festival).
“Wait,” you may be asking yourself, “Baby BAAM? What is that?” Well, in the words of festival founder Sharrif Simmons, “We honestly overshot the mark last year with 21 locations, too big, too spread out and a little too overwhelming… We went with a much smaller footprint this year so we can refocus on the direction we hope to take BAAM FEST in the coming years. As an organization, I feel we need to grow with the city, as opposed to in front of or around it.”
I too felt that last year’s event was spread a bit thin, and the decision to consolidate this year’s version into a “baby” version is a good one. Make no mistake, though, this “baby” is actually much stronger than its larger predecessors, the smaller size allowing the festival bookers to focus on a higher quality of talent.
“The smaller version, as you may imagine, doesn’t allow us to showcase as many bands as in previous years,” Simmons says. “However, the benefit of having a smaller festival will be bigger audience sizes for the bands we do have performing. It narrowed the field down some. We have a great line up this year… We tapped into the cream of the crop.”
So, how small is it? At three venues, it’s a fraction of last year’s size. “We chose the venues that were best attended and better suited for our purpose this year, which would be Stillwater Pub, Rogue Tavern and Metro Bar,” Simmons explains. “Workplay has been very helpful as well. We are not programming there this year, but we are having our launch party with them on Thursday, August 16, from 4-8 p.m. It will be a free event, open to the public.”
Simmons is clear that BAAM is sure to increase in scope over the coming years. “We absolutely intend on growing the festival on a yearly basis,” he says. “We are doing our best to inform the 1.5 million people that make up metro Birmingham that they are surrounded by a huge amount of talent. Future BAAM festivals will not only showcase music, but include visual arts, poetry, comedy and theater. An expressed part of our mission is to help allow talented artists to work and live in the city they occupy. One festival alone can’t create an entire industry, but we hope to do our part from year to year.”
For more information on Baby BAAM and to see the schedule of events, please visit www.baamfest.com
ROGUE TAVERN HIGHLIGHTS
9:15-10 p.m. The Magic Math
The Magic Math, led by Van Hollingsworth, makes good-feeling tunes, with witty and heartfelt lyrics accompanied by accomplished songwriting and musicianship. Their most recent album, The Magic Math Humbly Suggest Living Is a Miracle, is one of my favorite discs to be released by a Birmingham band so far this year.
1-2 a.m. Amacio Favor
Amacio Favor weaves a gritty, soulful voice through slick alt-rock sprinkled with harder riffs, jazz-tinged tangents and other flourishes. There are guitar-solos here that one might call “face-melting,” if such a term were still acceptable. Let’s just say that this is dramatic rock, with all the axe-melodrama that entails.
7-8 p.m. The Green Seed
There have been a lot of opportunities to see The Green Seed lately, but hey, they are some of the best hip-hop we’ve got to offer, and if you haven’t seen them recently, then you don’t want to miss this set. They’ve added another DJ since joining local label Communicating Vessels, and these fellas really know how to give it live.
METRO BAR HIGHLIGHTS
6-10 p.m. Step Pepper Showcase
Step Pepper Records is an electronic music label here in Birmingham, and they are one of the most prolific labels we’ve got. As a result of a recent EP Scramble that had all of Step Peppers artists producing material at record pace, they have been able to issue a steady stream of hot beats into the ether. Step Pepper artists Jack Vogt, Omari Jazz, Loveislight, Vawter, Urbandy and MackOne will be playing.
12-1:30 a.m. Tim Boykin Blues Band
An out-of-town music blogger, here to see the first year of Secret Stages, once told me that he thought Tim Boykin was the best guitar player in Nashville, Birmingham and Atlanta combined, and though I personally have never had the opportunity to see him play, let’s take a stranger’s word for once.
6-10 p.m. Magic City Blues Society Showcase
The Magic City Blues Society (MCBS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging the performance and preservation of the blues and developing an appreciation of the blues within the community. They put on regular blues shows around town, at venues and private houses. MCBS performers Matt Willis, 2 Blu & the Lucky Stiffs and Aretta Woodruff & the Review will be performing.
STILLWATER PUB HIGHLIGHTS
1:30-2:30 a.m. Sharrif Simmons w/Special Guest Drizzy Dro
Festival founder Sharrif Simmons is an accomplished performer in his own right, both as a musician and poet. He will be joined here by Drizzy Dro, aka Mr. Press Play, who made his name when he started free-styling hip-hop for anyone who would call his number — (205) 617-9166. It should be an energy-filled way to finish up your Friday.
6-10 pm Capture Music Showcase
Capture Music is a local recording studio/production company/record label run by Mike Creager. Over the years they have recorded and represented a number of great local artists, and this year’s performers — Jesse Payne, Sam Gunderson and The Big Tasties — are no exception.
9-10 p.m. The Dirty Lungs
The Dirty Lungs are a deliciously fuzzed-out garage-psych band that makes you smile while your ears bleed. This is loud, raucous rock, meant to be enjoyed viscerally, as it vibrates through your mitochondria. One might call the hazy cloud of twisting noise and rhythm that they make a miasma, if it wasn’t so much fun to breathe.