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Another City Stages is upon us, and the gloves are off

It’s crazy how much can change in a year. Last year I was squeezing in a trip to the Unplugged stage at the Harbert Plaza between lunch and traveling out to the city’s west side to go to meeting (while I was still on crutches mind you) as City Stages 18 was just getting started.

One year later I’m healthy but sleep deprived and figuring out just when I’m going to find time to actually buy my ticket to what was once referred to as Birmingham’s block party. I’m going this year, more out of sentimentality than anything else, but also because of this site:

It’s my first attempt to do a “special section” in The Terminal, and it’s sort of a test to see if viral marketing can in fact work. There are some other things that are about to happen that aren’t that viral, but this is a test to see if a site can make even a small difference in a conversation. Pass it on if you have a chance. Or at least check it out yourself.

I realize now that when I started blogging I did it so that my voice could be heard. I also realize that most that blog have something to complain about, thus it provides a great platform since you get instant feedback and a chance to argue your own point. My problem is that I always want to try to provide something positive (or sarcastic to cut down on the cynicism). Makes it a little difficult.

I realized months ago when City Stages began asking for help, I was thinking about the old days as an outsider. I was told recently that I probably shouldn’t consider myself one, but knowing the ways of the South, I will be for some time. I still approached it as someone that sees the potential of a festival like it being “fixed” and “saved”. I also realized that I wasn’t taking that positive approach in part because I was thinking about what my future was going to be. Now that I’ve had a chance to have some things slow down, I realized that I was not necessarily around all sides of an issue like I normally try to be. Now, I’ve got some thoughts:

Shutting it down and trying to make an existing festival into something its not is pointless. I’ve learned that and a few other things through this and other festivals. City Stages is resistant to change. Many people are so tired of beating their drum on the issue that they wear persistent “reluctance because of change not being successful” expressions on their faces. But change will help more than trying to recreate the wheel or force it on something that won’t fit.

What Guy McCullough wrote to Black & White in response to Chuck Geiss’ editorial was not answering the question of buzz at all. It does take advertising to generate buzz, but he missed out on the opportunities to express what type of buzz was being generated. So I will also disagree with what the editorial staff wrote in their note though; there is a buzz, it’s just not what anyone wants to admit since it affects both sides.

It’s a question of deciding to make changes and remember that you can’t sell the event to Birmingham as their own and say that we’re not competing with Bonnaroo (among others) and then point out all of the buzz outside of the market. They stuck the story on the front page of the paper. I’ve put up an online guide; people have written about either how awful the event is going to be or how much they’re looking forward to it. And you decided to put a playful cover on the front that suggests that the gloves are off. It’s not the buzz that the B&W or CS is used to creating, but there is a buzz. It will be interesting to see if this buzz does generate traffic for the festival since it is not necessarily positive or negative when considered as a whole.

For every person that said the festival was over, there was someone else online that said that they couldn’t wait to go. I even ran into someone last night that was upset that they couldn’t go because they’d booked tickets to go out of town without realizing that the dates he’d chosen were for this weekend. That was after talking to someone else who said that they would never go again.

If I hadn’t done the research for the site, I really doubt I’d be going myself this year. I mentioned the other day in an editorial on other site that I’m basically interested in finding new music and sometimes that means going outside of your comfort zone. At first glance the festival list was largely unknowns, and then it dawned on me – as long as I’ve been coming at least half of the acts have been unknown to me.

I’m probably oversimplifying things, but maybe the reluctant “it can’t be done or really fixed attitude” needs to change (though Chuck did point out some great points about simple things that could be fixed inexpensively). It could be because I haven’t had any sleep yet.

Some folks want to see them “learn their lesson,” but how? I figure I’ve got a couple of suggestions for the people in charge. They’re all set and ready to be posted…

But that’s for later on this weekend. Enjoy it wherever you are!

and Happy Father’s Day!


Published inBirminghamCommentarymusicurban issues