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Birmingham's largest block party?

06.20.2008 by André Natta · → Leave a comment

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There are always several ways to look at a situation, and there is no question that City Stages 20 will be second-guessed by every Monday morning events planning quarterback in the region for at least the next 2-3 months as we await the public release of the organization’s financials.

I’ll freely admit that I only attended the festival for about four hours on Saturday – time I desperately needed away from this computer to remind myself of what the real world might be like. I heard nothing but praise from folks I knew that had actually attended Friday night and danced along to Diana Ross, The Roots, Galactic and probably the biggest surprise of the evening to many, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Later on I got to watch as Buddy Guy decided to come on down and play among the thousands that showed up to watch him after catching the end of the Hill Country Revue set.

I’ve come to think that perhaps the purpose of the festival needs to change, at least mentally. I’m not sure that one can say that it’s an event that represents the cultural heritage of metro Birmingham anymore (though getting Ross to play this year was a coup). I would say that it is a great collection of acts that many feel should be coming to our fair city anyway (and some of them do), available to us for a reasonable price.

I heard a television reporter call it Birmingham’s largest block party. That may be a better way to describe what it’s become.

It’s become an excuse for people to come together and hear great music; to see folks that you don’t run into as much anymore and catch up. In the near future it will also be an excuse for those that still think it’s not safe to come downtown to poke around between acts and see the progress that continues to take place.

I also think that it can claim that something that should be a major goal of the festival’s – exposing the City of Birmingham and the surrounding region to acts that you normally wouldn’t see or be exposed to (e.g., the Carolina Chocolate Drops).

It will never be Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo and honestly, I’m glad. If I want those types of events, I’ll find a way to go there instead. The thing is, no matter what you hear said positively about our festival, and on a larger scale this city, there will always be someone that says that you’re not being realistic or serious – that it’s bad and it will always stay that way, no matter what’s done.

I’d argue that it’s that attitude that needs to change, though some more interaction with those that could make City Stages more successful in the coming years would help. The conversations about the future of the festival have been held all over the place, including the blogosphere, forever. Harnessing it in one place, presumably a revamped version of their site, may give residents more perceived ownership of the festival, including enabling the festival to engage its fans in the selection process and allowing organizers to expose the fans to the music that will be coming. It could be a microcosm of what could be done to truly move the city forward as well, but It’s just one suggestion and it probably won’t be the last one either party hears.

That said, I am looking forward to next year, just to see what can happen…

André Natta is the managing editor of The Terminal.

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