Category Archives: music

Preserve Jazz Festival announces sabbatical for 2015

2014preservejazzfestivaladThe Preserve Jazz Festival will not be taking place in 2015 according to an email sent out late Wednesday evening, January 21. There had been no date set for the 2015 edition as of yet. It had just relocated in 2014 from the great lawn at The Preserve in Hoover to Sloss Furnaces. It was also the first year without co-founder Eric Essix, who started a new event, Eric Essix’s Jazz Escape, in September 2014.

Jason Henderson, co-founder of the eight-year-old event, included the following statement:

Dear PFJ Fans

After a great deal of thought, I have decided to take a sabbatical this year from producing the festival.

Thank you for your loyal support over the last 8 years and we may consider a return in 2016 with a rebranded/new jazz concept.


Performances at the festival had included ones featuring Essix, Johnathan Butler, Chad Fisher Group, the Larry Mitchell Trio, and Gerald Albright.

A day of music in Birmingham this Saturday includes a stop at The Junction

The longest-running music festival in Birmingham, AL kicks off tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with a parade. No, it’s not the one you think it is.

While the Schaeffer Eye Center CityFest (the festival formerly known as the Schaeffer Eye Center Crawfish Boil) also takes place tomorrow with a heavy-hitting line-up — one that includes The Roots (a.k.a. Jimmy Fallon’s house band on The Tonight Show) and American Idol winners Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks — we’re talking about The Function in Tuxedo Junction.

This year’s edition of Function in Tuxedo Junction, its 29th, will take place on the 100thanniversary of the birth of the famous song’s composer, Erskine Hawkins. It was founded in 1985, with Hawkins performing every year until his death in 1993. This year’s lineup featuresThe Manhattans (best known for their 1980 hit, “Shining Star”).

We realize every year we see a tremendous spike in traffic as folks try to find the schedule — which is why you’ll find it below. Please note the start times listed are approximate only and may change. You may also download this PDF of the schedule.

10 a.m. Grand Parade
11:40 a.m. The Christian Heart Gospel Group
12:20 p.m. The Golden Humming Birds of Birmingham
1 p.m. Sherry Reeves & Group
1:45 p.m. Halo & The Rubber Band
2:30 p.m. TBA
3:15 p.m. Birmingham Heritage Band
4:05 p.m. Recognition of Neighborhood officers, dignitaries & scholarships
5 p.m. “Billy Ocean” Witherspoon
5:35 p.m. Clutch
6:20 p.m. Force Five Band
7:10 p.m. Season to Please
8 p.m. The Manhattans

LIVE From Hammerhead series continues 5.24 @ DISCO

heligoatsThe first installment of the Desert Island Supply Company‘s “LIVE From Hammerhead” series saw a performance by The Heligoats. This photo shows a portion of the show where they invited a DISCO participant to join them while he played a song he’d composed.

The mini-concerts take place at DISCO’s space on the ground floor of Woodrow Hall in Birmingham’s Woodlawn neighborhood. There is no set ticket price – the idea is to pay what you like (or what you’re able) while also getting a chance to learn more about the programs being offered by this nearly 3½ year old nonprofit.

This month the series continues with a performance by Birmingham-based act Velouria on Friday, May 24. It will also double as an album release party for the band’s latest effort, Smile Until It Hurts. The band Early Americans will serve as their opening act.

NOTE: Doors open at 8 p.m. and beer and wine will be available for purchase.


You are watching The Lone Bellow performance tonight…

The Lone Bellow in VirginiaIf you were wanting another reason to stay up late in order to watch “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” we’ve found one for you. The musical guest for tonight’s broadcast is “The Lone Bellow,” a Brooklyn, NY-based band. Yes, Brooklyn; we’ll explain…

While the other scheduled guests may be reason enough for you to tune in (Vin Diesel and Jeff Foxworthy), we’re thinking the chance for Birmingham to see one of their own performing on television is a pretty good one. Brian Murphy is currently based in New York City, but he is a native of The Magic City, having worked for what is now the Birmingham Business Alliance and as a photographer and musician. He’s also the guy currently playing keyboards for The Lone Bellow’s touring ensemble (he’s also done some engineering for them in the past, including working on this video for the single “You Never Need Nobody”).

Now that we’ve got your attention, you may want to check out the band’s latest YouTube upload, the video for the single “Bleeding Out.” BTW – it’s the one they’re playing on Leno tonight.


Photo: Courtesy of The Lone Bellow’s Facebook fan page.

The Red Cat is ready for AFTERHOURS

photo (32)The lights are dim. Cables are everywhere. And Matthew Perryman Jones is on the stage. It is standing room only at The Red Cat, a coffee house located in Birmingham’s Pepper Place – as long as you are not standing in front of any of the cameras.

The audience, obviously familiar with Jones’s work, is enthusiastic, singing along and providing appreciative feedback. There is a young woman near the front of the space celebrating her birthday and the singer eventually leads the crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

The Nashville-based musician drove down to Birmingham specifically for the taping, and would be heading back immediately after the show. However, the intimate venue provided many of his fans access for photos, handshakes, and autographs after his two-part set.

This weekend kicks off a new music series on the University of Alabama’s WVUA/WUOA-TV. AFTERHOURS: Live at The Red Cat Birmingham features performances and interviews with singer-songwriters. The show will air on Sundays, beginning February 10, at 5 p.m. Jones’s performance, filmed Friday, January 18, will be the third act featured. They began filming the series at the coffeehouse in December.

The show’s producers came across The Red Cat while conducting research for the series. It was recently voted “Best Coffeehouse” in the 2012 “Best of Birmingham” poll. Perusing the old promotional posters on the venue’s walls, they decided to see if the coffeehouse’s owners were interested in their concept.

Charlie Mars is the next act scheduled to be filmed at the coffeehouse on February 23. Garrison Starr (March 14), Amber Rubarth (April 4), and Sandra McCracken (April 12) round out the spring sessions – with three more acts already scheduled. There are currently plans for a total of 12 original shows for this season.

The live performances featured on AFTERHOURS will be along the lines of Sessions at The Cactus, filmed in Austin by the University of Texas. The series is part of an effort to upgrade the station’s content. It currently reaches 800,000+ households throughout the state, and is easily accessible in Birmingham on cable and over the air (on Channel 23).

[vimeo 55397765 w=625]

Although somewhat similar to  We’ve Got Signal, the producers believe the AFTERHOURS concept is different as it specifically features singer-songwriters.

Local Nonprofits Partner to Fight Hunger

very Juka christmasTis the season when Birmingham shows how generous its citizens can be. One of the most philanthropic cities in the country throughout the year, the holidays may be the city’s most giving season. On Tuesday, there’s another opportunity to help others less fortunate than ourselves: A Very Juka Christmas – Beat the Drum to End Hunger in Birmingham.

John Scalici’s Juka Tribe and the tribal belly dance group Erynias Tribe will perform at Bottletree on December 18 to benefit Magic City Harvest. Admission is $10 at the door plus a non-perishable food item. Tickets can also be purchased via The Bottletree’s website.

A Very Juka Christmas will be an evening of both music and community drumming, with a full-blown community drum jam to wrap up the night. Guests are welcome to bring their own percussion instruments, and drums will be available for those without.

According to their website, Juka Tribe’s sound can be summed up as World Boogie – a “mosaic of Middle Eastern, Brazilian, and West African rhythms.” In addition to Scalici, Cody McIain, poet Sharif Simmons, and bassist Jay Johnson have joined the Tribe. Performances often feature both live and sampled music.

Magic City Harvest was founded 17 years ago as a response to the hunger and homelessness issues in Birmingham. Its mission is to alleviate hunger, malnutrition, and food waste. The group distributes food, educates the public on the affect of poverty, and participates in collaborative efforts to combat hunger in the city. Magic City Harvest distributes 50,000 pounds of food annually to those in need.

Do some good. Have some fun. And get your groove on this holiday at A Very Juka Christmas.

Beth Thornley brings magic to movie & TV soundtracks

Beth Thornley.Early into a conversation with Beth Thornley, it’s easy to forget you’re talking to a successful professional musician.

Unprepossessing, enthusiastic, and down-to-earth, the California-based singer exudes a charm reminiscent of the girl next door or down the street, which for some Birmingham residents, she was.

The Magic City native still maintains local ties and appreciation for the musical training she received in her hometown.

“I didn’t listen to the Stones or the Beatles or Dylan until I got out of college,” she said, a nod to the “very classical background” she grew up in as the daughter of a music minister and a classically-trained singer. Earning a music degree from Samford, she had planned to teach college-level choral music until getting sidetracked by pop. The detour took her to Los Angeles, where she initially stayed on a friend’s couch while working to establish herself as a musician.

Almost a decade later, she’s performing at clubs, coffee houses, and pop festivals in Southern California, with three independently-produced albums to her credit. Her self-titled debut was met by favorable reviews, and more than half of its songs have been used in film and television soundtracks. Its follow-up, My Glass Eye (featuring a haunting cover of “Eleanor Rigby,” the bittersweet hometown tribute “Birmingham,” and the Beth-recommended “Beautiful Lie”), earned for her further accolades and more TV and movie exposure.

Moviegoers currently have the opportunity to hear the title track from her third album, Wash U Clean, when they go to see the adult comedy Magic Mike (currently playing in theaters here in Birmingham). Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the firm’s cast includes Matthew McConaughey and Cullman native Channing Tatum.

“I don’t know much about the movie except that my song is in it,” Thornley said recently, adding that she planned to find out with everyone else when she saw the film on opening night. “I don’t even know how the song is going to be used.  It could be featured or it could be barely audible or somewhere in between.”

However the song is used, it’s Thornley’s latest addition to a growing list of movie soundtracks that includes The Perfect Man, Between, Play the Game, and Girl in Progress. Her music has been featured in such television shows as Scrubs, Friday Night Lights, Life, Newport Harbor, Beautiful People, Ringer, Suburgatory, Jack and Bobby, and Paris Hilton’s My New BFF.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to receive phone calls saying, ‘This is what we need. Do you have something or could you write something?’ I love those phone calls. I wish I could get more of them.”

Describing her sound as “The Beatles meet Ben Folds meet Death Cab for Cutie,” Thornley embraces comparisons with such established artists, which frustrate other emerging musicians.

“The music business is so much about marketing. The record companies look to see where the fan base is, which is where they can make the most money. That leads inevitably to new artists being categorized by comparisons to established musicians. But a lot of people like to know who you sound like, and they need to know a little about how you sound. It’s human nature. There’s a comfort in being able to identify someone with a sound you’re already familiar with and knowing right away if it’s your thing or not. If I were famous, I might feel differently, but it can actually give a new artist a helpful foothold.”

So can digital media. “A few years ago, independent artists didn’t have such an effective means of promoting themselves. It’s been very beneficial for us.” Visitors can listen to samples from her albums, buy CDs, and learn more about her music on her website. Individual tracks are also available from iTunes.

Thornley says she gets back to Birmingham a couple or three times a year to visit relatives and friends and stopped by Silvertron Café to hear Libba Walker sing.

“She’s the best. And, of course, I made sure I ate some fried okra while I was there.”

Art on the Rocks turns 8

It’s been eight years since the Birmingham Museum of Art decided to try holding a monthly mixer one Friday a month during the summer. This year’s Art on the Rocks lineup is not as influenced by any one exhibit as last year’s installment was at the largest municipal art museum in the Southeastern United States, though it’s still impressive.

Some folks will no doubt be in attendance to check out the current Warhol & Cars: American Icons exhibit, but others will be there for the sounds overlooking the sculpture garden. We thought it only appropriate to take a look at this year’s lineup below via their music…

Tickets are available for $10 (members) and $20 (non-members).

You Hear This? A new music website for Birmingham

You Hear This? screenshotThose who’ve visited this site since its earliest days may remember Sam George, one of our earliest contributors. He was already enjoying a pretty good following over on r3verb when he started writing on The Hub.

He then partnered with Whitney Sides Mitchell on (the site URL is now used by a company in Birmingham, UK that books bands in the region) before eventually becoming a contributor and then editor in chief of Birmingham Weekly for a little over a year. He helped to co-found and launch a new music festival last spring, Secret Stages (BTW – this year’s edition is going on Friday and Saturday, May 11 & 12). Yeah, we thought you’d remember. He’s been staying busy getting ready for this year’s edition of the music festival – and a few contributions to Weld – and we kept wondering why we hadn’t heard much from him recently.

Well, it appears as though he’s gotten the itch to return to maintaining a site – a new music site for Birmingham called You Hear This? We could try to explain it, but it makes more sense to hop on over and check it out on your own…

Getting to know Kurt Jenkins

Kurt Jenkins. Photo by Buddy RobertsKurt Jenkins was a couple of hours away from a performance at Railroad Park, spending the afternoon blending into the décor at one of his favorite hangouts.

“I like coming here,” he said, taking in all of Mountain Brook’s Continental Bakery with a gesture that almost bumped into a rack of baguettes. “It makes me feel like I’m in France.”

Ensconced at a table in his blue shirt, gray waistcoat, and tan boots, Jenkins had a distinctly European look himself. The front man for local alternative pop band Skyway Spirits, one of the Birmingham Arts and Music Festival’s scheduled headliners with a set starting at midnight Saturday (8/13) at Rogue Tavern, serves on the festival’s executive committee and readily fielded questions about the band, its intriguing name, and what he aspires to be as a performer.

A native of Hoover, Jenkins attended college in Orlando, where he played the lead role in a production of Bat Boy: The Musical. He can’t remember a time when he didn’t love music. “I brought Jeff Beck’s ‘Blow by Blow’ to kindergarten show and tell, which was completely inappropriate for a kindergartener to bring. Everybody else brought action figures.”

He started taking piano lessons as a fifth grader and first picked up a guitar in a sixth grade music class. “I remember it being really easy to play. The guitar was a piece of crap, but I got the concept right away. It made perfect sense to me, maybe because I’d taken piano lessons before. I continued playing piano for a couple of years, then I heard Jimi Hendrix, and it was all over. I quit piano the next week and started playing guitar.”

“I don’t want to sound too highfalutin about it, but it was completely free. I listened to ‘Red House,’ and hearing a guy express himself with the instrument like that, I started freaking out. The emotion that came through was amazing.”

Jenkins could be considered an instrumentalist, but is he?  “I can make you think I can play mandolin and bass, but the guitar is the only instrument I can really hang with. I’m trying to get back to my roots with the piano. I want to learn to play it well.”

Jenkins is backed in the trio by Don Tinsley on bass and Jesse Suttle on drums. “A mutual friend introduced us. He told me they’re the only two guys in town you want to work with.” His original name for the band was Skyway Patrol, derived from his obsession with the idea of flying cars. “I’d love to drive on s a skyway, but Skyway Patrol that sounded too much like Snow Patrol, which was a British band from a couple of years ago. I needed another word than ‘patrol,’ and ‘sprits’ just phonetically flows.”

The band performs Jenkins’ original compositions and a few covers. “You have to do one or two covers just to break everything up. An audience can only take so much they’ve never heard before.” He dislikes describing its style by naming influences or drawing comparisons with better-known bands. “It’s dangerous to have influences if you sound just like the music that influences you. I don’t want that. I have no problem being compared to somebody, but if that’s all they see, I’m doing something wrong.”

“At the end of the day, I don’t know what it’s like to write a song. Very few times have I sat down to write a song and had a song come out. It’s not romanticized at all.”

When asked about what inspires his songwriting, the answer is quite simple. “Women. Through the ages, that’s what it’s been, and it still is today.”

“Some songs are definitely written out of sadness and joy. Any kind of art is filtered by what we’re going through. Take Jackson Pollock. I don’t know anything about him, but he was obviously going through some stuff. The work is trying to make that explain something, and the way it’s ingested – particularly music – is not very artistic. Very few people sit down, listen to music, and take it in. It’s background for their conversation. An audience is not obligated to like you or pay attention to you. As a musician, you have to put yourself in a space to influence somebody to want to know you. You have to do something to make someone stop a conversation in its tracks.”

Jenkins performing. Photo by Buddy Roberts.Jenkins prefers performing over writing and recording. “My foundation is in theater, and it’s a lot more fun than writing and recording, which are more like processes. I like it once we’ve got it, we’ve written it, we’ve recorded it…now let’s do it.”

His goal with a live show is “at best, to be mistaken for a god for an hour or two. I’ve never reached it yet, but that’s the ultimate goal. A performance is a symbiotic broadcasting of emotions and feeling. When I see a really good live show, it makes me want to go home and write and play music. Really good performers make you want to be a really good performer.”

He’s seen some really good live shows over the years too.

“Bonnie Raitt, when she came to City Stages a long ago. ‘N Sync, although at the time I didn’t tell anybody I went to see it. My favorite show was Billy Joel, in 2007 when I was in college. He’s older, but he still has some energy and passion, combined with being a great singer-songwriter. Every song he played, the audience knew all the words, and it was great to be singing along with ‘Piano Man’ on a Saturday night. A close second would be Bob Dylan, the last time he came through here. I’d never heard sound like that before. It really was a wall of sound.”

I wondered if Dylan’s set include ‘Like a Rolling Stone?’ “Of course. He’s contractually obligated by God to do that song.”

Although he’s a staunch supporter of the local music scene, Jenkins has high sights set beyond Birmingham. He’s lived in New York, recently returned from doing a couple of performances there, and hopes to make his home there again. “I consider myself a New Yorker marooned in Birmingham for the time being. Birmingham is a tough town to get something going whose purpose is to get out of Birmingham. The shows aren’t much different in New York, but the opportunities are. You never know who anybody is in New York. Some random kid in the audience could be a scouting agent for MTV or a music blogger read by a million people. It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond, but I’d rather struggle in a big city. It makes you work harder.”

If you miss their show at Rogue during BAAMfest!, they’ll also be performing on 8/20 at 9 p.m. with “Sperry & The Top-Siders” at The Barking Kudu benefiting Alabama’s Lost Birthdays & 10:30 p.m. Friday, September 2 at The Metro Bar.

Visit the band’s website at and follow it on Twitter @SkywaySpirits.

Photos courtesy of  Buddy Roberts.