“I love it when a plan comes together.” It’s a well-known line from the classic television show The A-Team, but it could just as easily be the motto for the founders of Cask & Drum, a brand new festival coming to Birmingham this fall. The saying certainly applies to the manner in which the pieces of the October 12 event are falling into place. Placing equal emphasis on high-end beer, wine and music, Cask & Drum will be held in a green space at First Avenue South and 28th Street near Pepper Place. Dwight Yoakam headlines the music roster of more than 10 artists.
“Everything happened organically,” recalls Todd Coder, a Cask & Drum founder who splits his time between talent buying for Workplay, developing business for Ticket Biscuit and booking music festivals across the country. “The wine-lovers demographic in Birmingham is obvious, we know that there’s a love for craft beer based on the success of other festivals, and now with Birmingham Mountain Radio being voted the best radio station in the market and now being on the FM dial, there is support for everything we are doing. We are just combining these three basically to make it one big event.”
Cask & Drum co-founders and committee members include Coder, Scott Register, Guy McCullough, Jeff Clanton, Will Lochamy and Jeff Gale. Each individual brings experience in their respective fields, be it booking, publicity or logistics.
“Being able to succeed in all of these areas takes a lot of different skill sets,” says Gale, founder of Ticket Biscuit. “That’s why I think our team positions us so well to be successful because we’ve got those bases covered.”
So how was the initial idea for the event hatched?
“Back in January I got an email from the Lakeview Association saying they wanted to talk to me about doing an event in Lakeview that would tie the entire area together since the city is having the entertainment district initiative,” says Register, host of the enduring Sunday radio program Reg’s Coffee House. “They wanted to do something to let people know that Lakeview isn’t just a group of bars by St. Vincent’s [Hospital], that it stretches from Sloss Furnace all the way to St. Vincent’s.”
Once Register entered into a dialogue with the Lakeview Association, his next move was to recruit Coder for the team. “We’ve been wanting to work on an event together for years and the right one hadn’t come along, but this felt like it could have possibilities. Todd came to the next meeting and the wheels started turning.”
Register adds, “This is targeted to the people that come to Lakeview for the Farmer’s Market and the restaurants to celebrate what’s happening in that area. We decided to host a high-end beer and wine festival that’s mixed with a high-end music festival. There’s a lot of great beer and wine festivals around this area and music is part of it, but not on the same level as the beer and wine. In this case, we decided to do a big stage and emphasize all three.”
Coder is quick to note that the event will be a comfortable one, with a limited supply of tickets available.
“We are keeping it very intimate and keeping it very limited in terms of how many tickets you can buy for a Cask Pass, which is a tasting event that takes place late in the afternoon,” Coder says. “There are a very limited number of VIPs, because we wanted those people to be VIPs. Even with the general admission passes, we are putting a cap on that. The experience is going to be a very positive one. There has been a void for something of this magnitude.”
When it came time to select the music headliner, Yoakam fell into the team’s lap and seemed a natural fit for the event’s target audience.
“I was talking with [Yoakam’s] agent about another artist and he suggested Dwight,” Coder recalls. “I thought about it and the six of us discussed it. It could be a great opportunity given the way Dwight is positioning himself in the Americana market — not just the country music market — and the way he is reflective of a lot of these other bands playing before him.”
In addition to the main stage that features Yoakam, Shovels & Rope, Railroad Earth, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Lord Huron, Register has selected a roster of artists to perform on the Reg’s Coffee House Stage. I ask Register what attendees can expect from the music of his hand-picked lineup.
“They can expect what they’ve gotten from the brand for the past 18 years,” he says. “I’m trying to bring in some artists who are on the cusp, starting to bubble over and I see promise in.” Acts performing on the stage include Kopecky Family Band, Courtney Jaye, John & Jacob, The Lonely Wild, Shelly Colvin and Kate Tucker & The Sons Of Sweden.
So with all facets falling into place with relative ease, I ask what challenges have arisen to this point.
“It’s music concert promotion on a big scale and there’s a lot of risk involved,” Gale says. “Financing an event of this size is a challenge. You have to draw on multiple revenue streams, everything from sponsors to ticket sales to concessions and merchandise. To get people to buy into something, you’ve got to promise something that’s pretty spectacular. It’s placing a big bet on Birmingham and our ability to get people out there.”
But Gale also notes a positive item of this planning experience. “One thing that has not been a challenge — which has been a real pleasant surprise to me — and that’s been working with the city of Birmingham and the support they’ve put behind the event has been a tremendous help and a breath of fresh air,” he says.
With the festival a little more than a month away, the electricity among the planners is tangible as you sit with Coder, Register and Gale. Though these three — and other team members — have all been involved in large-scale musical events, the notion of bringing something truly unique to the city has them visibly motivated.
“I think everybody’s in it for the same reasons,” Register says. “To celebrate what’s right with Birmingham, what has people excited and what’s going to move us forward.”
More information on Cask & Drum is available at caskanddrum.com.