Sloss Music and Arts Festival goers reflect on experiences, look to 2016

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The inaugural Sloss Music and Arts Festival was held July 18-19 at Birmingham’s historic Sloss Furnace. The festival boasted headlining acts such as St. Paul and the Broken Bones, The Avett Brothers, Modest Mouse, Cage the Elephant, Young the Giant, Primus, Band of Horses and more.

In addition to a stellar musical lineup, festival goers could sip on several different craft beers, eat local food, participate in an iron pouring activity and purchase art and other items from a variety of vendors.

Anyone who attended the festival wouldn’t be surprised to hear the festival will be returning July 15-16 in 2016. The 2015 festival drew 25,000 patrons over the course of two days, and festival-goers had the option of purchasing individual day passes or a two-day pass.

“The success of the inaugural festival and the positive vibes we felt in the community confirms what we were thinking, which is that Birmingham and the surrounding area were ready for a major music festival,” said Jay Wilson, partner at Red Mountain Entertainment.

The first festival was quite the undertaking, and Red Mountain Entertainment and AC Entertainment collaborated to ensure the festival was memorable for all in attendance. When selecting acts for the 2015 lineup, Wilson said the five main bookers discussed artists who were available and who would also fit musically into the both companies’ booking.

“We wanted to book diverse, quality, alternative/rock leaning acts who were all great live bands,” Wilson said. “Of course, we went after popular heritage acts like Modest Mouse and Primus, but were equally focused on breaking acts like First Aid Kit, Purity Ring, Robert DeLong, Lord Huron and Sturgill Simpson.”

Wilson said it was also important to book acts that aren’t yet well known, like Kaleo, Jessica Hernandez, Cathedrals, Lany and Muddy Magnolias. Equally important was bringing home acts that began in Alabama.

“I was actually only planning to go on Saturday, but then I changed my mind and decided to go Sunday as well because there was no way I could skip out on St. Paul and the Broken Bones,” said Rachel Wilson of Birmingham.

“We really wanted to showcase local heroes St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires,” Wilson said. “Every act delivered a killer live set.”

Abby Sepanski traveled from Auburn for Saturday’s lineup. Sepanski said of the bigger acts, First Aid Kit and Cage the Elephant were her favorites, but her two favorite acts that she’d never heard of prior to the festival were Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas.

“My favorite part of the festival was the set up,” said Sepanski. “It was nice to have the stages pretty conveniently located so you could sit in the middle of the area if you wanted.”

As discussions begin about booking acts for 2016, Wilson said the same types of discussions will be had, considering availability and acts that mesh musically, to “create an amazing palette of great and meaningful live acts.”

Laurel Taylor of Birmingham said her favorite acts were Cage the Elephant and Band of Horses. She said she hopes in planning for future festivals that organizers would consider making the festival a Friday-Saturday event, rather than Saturday-Sunday.

“I would have loved to have attended both days, but if you have work or school on Monday it can be difficult to make Sunday night events work with work, class, etc. on Monday morning,” said Taylor. “It would be great to have it Friday-Saturday or maybe even make it a three day event to have more options and more days to enjoy the fest.”

Wilson said it is too soon to tell what changes are in store for 2016, as the first recap meeting will be held in coming weeks, but fun activities, art, food and drinks are sure to be on the slate for next year.

Artney Walker of Birmingham said her favorite acts were Primus, Purity Ring and St. Paul and the Broken Bones. In addition to the music, her favorite part of the festival was the food.

“I love hearing new artists and trying new food vendors,” Walker continued, “I like that Birmingham’s local food trucks were available. It gives out-of-towners a chance to get a taste of Birmingham.”

Sepanski said for next year’s festival she’d like to see more water filling stations, and hopes Moon Taxi will be one of the acts booked.

“I was really disappointed Moon Taxi wasn’t there, especially since they are from Birmingham and are similar to the artists selected.”

Walker suggested that, despite the good turnout, organizers should ramp up advertising and potentially offer a shuttle service to combat parking woes.

“You didn’t know where you could park or could not park, and there were a lot of businesses that had private parking,” said Walker.

Wilson said the location will stay the same for festivals to come, as it provides a “one-of-a-kind backdrop.”

Allie Khodadadi, a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University moved to Birmingham shortly before the festival. She said her favorite part of the festival was the venue.

“I thought it was so cool how they used an old factory/warehouse and made it something very unique to Birmingham,” said Khodadadi.

“We are super proud that the community of Birmingham and surrounding areas supported the inaugural Sloss Fest,” said Wilson. “Our hopes are that the Birmingham community embraces this festival as their own, because it is.”

Collectively Khodadadi, Sepanski, Wilson, Walker and Taylor all agreed that they would enjoy attending the 2016 event, and are excited to see what it will have in store for patrons of Sloss Music and Arts Festival.

“If you give it another year or two, then it can get more national attention and it can be one of the biggest music festivals in the country,” Rachel Wilson said. “This is an event in Birmingham I can look forward to for years to come.”

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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