There are some mixed emotions among music fans in the Magic City. This weekend we celebrated the history of Ensley’s famed Tuxedo Junction and the music associated with it. There are some that are happy for the attention being paid to our American Idols. Our “boys” (Ruben, Bo and Taylor) are serving as examples of the musical talent that exists in Birmingham, Alabama. There are some that would say that the Idols do not represent the best, a point that may be argued for some time to come. However it is true is that music and venues are a plenty in the metro region. Or are they?
This is a city that takes music seriously; it may not have the resources of a Nashville, Memphis, or Atlanta, but it’s not them, it’s Birmingham. Philip Jordan currently explores the issue of musical venues and the status of the current local music scene in this week’s Birmingham Weekly. (Turning out the Light, Birmingham Weekly, 7.20.2006)
The story grows out of the recent announcement of Moonlight Music Café’s (MMC) closing at the end of September. The question is whether this is the end of the scene, or a call to arms to recognize what is currently out there in its entirety and preserve and expand it?
While the MMC’s focus was on acoustic music (and believe me, there is always a need for an acoustic venue), it could be applied to all venues. People will always find a way to discover what they want to. As Jordan talks about in the article, our on-air resources are limited, with shows like Tapestry on WBHM and Reg’s Coffee House on WRAX. People are listening and seeking out these “alternatives” to mainstream radio. Some are attempting to showcase new acts through non-traditional outlets, including podcasts. Some area venues are taking to the internet to showcase new bands, including WorkPlay. Local music labels like Skybucket Records are making sure that people are aware of the local talent, booking shows whenever possible supporting our emerging new class of venues. There is definitely a need for the venues.
The big shows are returning to the Magic City. If you don’t believe me, look at the acts currently scheduled for appearances in town; from what I’ve heard, Clapton had sworn he’d never come back and he will be (though at a high price for those that are able to attend). We still need to provide the necessary support for smaller venues to bring in different types of music.
Perhaps encouraging the MMC’s owner to relocate rather than close may be a better way to go. We’ve mentioned previously about the attempts at creating a scene in the Avondale area. New venues are popping up with incredible success, including the Bottletree Café. Perhaps the idea of clustering these venues in one or two areas instead of having them scattered throughout the region may help, though that should not be a reason for failure.
Or maybe it’s encouraging someone to start a regional radio station similar to WWOZ in New Orleans that provides an outlet for regional talent. Considering the audience that many assume would listen is web surfers, an online station is not that far-fetched an idea. The online revolution that is MySpace and iTunes definitely allow for people to explore there likes and dislikes from a desk. Publicity from those outlets and word of mouth should help to continue to grow and nurture these opportunities.
The best thing to do would be to begin to patronize the venue as much as possible and make sure that he doesn’t close. If we are unfortunate to lose Mr. Harrelson to another city, then we need to make sure that this is not the beginning of a larger trend (and convince him to move back quickly).
Let me know what you think.