Secret Stages, downtown Birmingham’s music discovery festival, is gearing up for its sixth year. The two-day festival will be held on August 5 and 6, and names of the acts that will perform at the festival are beginning to trickle out.
Each week, the festival’s organizers are announcing 10 new bands being added to the Secret Stages roster. Weld will be providing in-depth looks at the bands being featured in the festival. Read and listen up on the 20 bands that have been announced so far below.
Read last year’s feature on Secret Stages, “The Secret History” here.
Amigo (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Amigo’s music is honky-tonk ready. The band’s debut record, Might Could, showcases their profane, punk-infused brand of rock ‘n’ roll, and manages not to take itself too seriously. As the band’s website states, Amigo’s music is about “being filled with innocence and wonder and then the world taking a giant dump on your head.”
Ancient Warfare (Lexington, Kentucky)
Ancient Warfare’s debut album, The Pale Horse, was released last year and featured a canny blend of folk-tinged Americana and bluesy guitar rock. Echo Wilcox — the outfit’s primary singer, songwriter and guitarist — grounds each song with gritty emotionality without sacrificing her music’s accessibility.
Ben Ricketts (Oxford, Mississippi)
The bright psychedelic electronica of Ben Ricketts’ most recent studio album, Where Nobody Knows, is reminiscent of acts like Dan Deacon and Alvin Band — overwhelming yet nimble, chameleonic yet familiar. At the root of all the reverb, though, are tightly written pop songs with a keen ear for melody and a surprising warmth.
Elroy Love (Macon, Georgia)
Macon, Georgia-based three-piece Elroy Love’s latest album is titled Glitch Cowboy — and while the music doesn’t quite skew quite as far toward Oneohtrix Point Never as its title might suggest, it’s a solid collection of sunny garage-pop, equal parts The War on Drugs and Mac Demarco.
Grammar Tree (Jacksonville, Florida)
“If the crown fits, wear it,” raps adj. (pronounced ‘adjective’) over the woozy, pounding synths of “Bigfoot,” Grammar Tree’s latest single. When he’s firing on all cylinders, adj.’s flow is reminiscent of Aesop Rock‘s hyper-literate verbal gymnastics; producer Brian Squillace, meanwhile, is just as dextrous in his construction of dynamic, constantly morphing beats.
Grand Vapids (Athens, Georgia)
The loping march that opens Grand Vapids’ latest album, 2015’s Guarantees, might remind some of 1990s space rock heroes Failure at their Fantastic Planet best. Maybe that’s due to vocalist McKendrick Bearden’s disaffected-yet-tuneful delivery, or maybe it’s the emotive heaviness of the instrumentation, which provides a vividly fleshed-out, immersive counterpoint.
Hello Ocho (Atlanta, Georgia)
The cover of Hello Ocho’s latest album, last month’s In Portuguese, is a painting of a nude man whose eyes are wriggling away from his face like a pair of eels. That’s about right. Hello Ocho’s sound is equally hard to pin down, with an Of Montreal-like psychedelic aesthetic colliding with Weather Report-style jazz and some occasional reggae flourishes. It sounds a lot and nothing like anything you’ve heard before.
Iron Giant Percussion (Birmingham, Alabama)
If you were at the Hoover Public Library on Friday night, you saw Iron Giant Percussion join Swans guitarist Norman Westberg for a truly unforgettable performance. The quartet, which formed in 2011, specializes in complex percussion music — which ventures into territory much more accessible and hypnotic than you might expect.
John Stickley Trio (Asheville, North Carolina)
The John Stickley Trio is a melting pot of genres. Its roots, at least in terms of instrumentation, are in bluegrass and folk. The group’s willingness to plunge that sound into a variety of atmospheres and moods — their single “Rice Dream” flirts with a Talkdemonic-esque electronic sound and some distinctly metal-influenced rhythms — results in some truly surprising songwriting moments.
Lady Legs (Auburn, Alabama)
This Auburn-based four-piece specializes in laid-back garage rock, produced with a muted haze so that it sounds like it’s coming through the walls of your noisy neighbors’ basement. Unlike many of their genre contemporaries, though, Lady Legs aren’t necessarily focused on brevity. Their excellent single “Nasasaw,” released last year, spends its eight minutes building both an atmosphere and a catchy melody. It succeeds at both.
The Loudermilks (Charlotte, North Carolina)
The Loudermilks — who take their name from Ira and Charlie Loudermilk, better known as country duo the Louvin Brothers — are a pair of brothers themselves, though their brand of country features a Memphis soul influence not present in their namesakes’ music.
Lylas (Nashville, Tennessee)
The swirling and skittering music of Lylas — a psychedelic ensemble hailing from Nashville — sounds a little like what Radiohead’s The King of Limbs would sound like with a little banjo and steel guitar thrown in. It’s mood music that manages to sound both expansive and restrained.
The Monastery (Birmingham, Alabama)
Birmingham rap duo the Monastery, consisting of Paco and Carlos Charm, opened for Juicy J last month. They released their first album, The Genesis, last year. Their music features soulful, retro production, and their lyrics are earnestly confessional —with just the right amount of self-deprecating charm.
Null (Birmingham, Alabama)
Null’s newest album, Sleepwalking Days, is technically already out (though a release party is slated for May 21 at Seasick Records). As one of Birmingham’s most exciting metal bands, their music sounds tailor-made for venues like the Spring Street Firehouse — it’s mostly thunderous and massive-sounding, though when it finds moments of quiet, like on album standout “Invert,” the band’s skill at creating a sense of space really comes to the forefront.
Seminole Strut (Huntsville, Alabama)
The album art for Seminole Strut’s latest album, Clatter & Howl, depicts a saber-wielding man leaning against a tree — though it’s unclear whether he’s exhausted, wounded or worse. There’s far less macabre mystery surrounding the band’s bright brand of Southern rock, which often feels like a middle ground between Molly Hatchet and New Grass Revival.
Sun Seeker (Nashville, Tennessee)
Sun Seeker are signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records label, the website for which delightfully describes the band as “purebred, blue-ribbon chamber-pop wunderkinds.” Their first single, “Georgia Dust,” is a lovely, smooth, summertime tune that is effortlessly nostalgic. “You haven’t seen it yet,” the song’s refrain goes. It’s a line that can’t help but reflect the promise of whatever this band does next.
Sydney Eloise & The Palms (Atlanta, Georgia)
Sydney Eloise & The Palms make music that’s as sharp a facsimile of ’60s pop as anything from the soundtrack to That Thing You Do!, with a slightly psychedelic sheen anchored by Eloise’s sharp vocals. Their latest album, Faces, is a charming, easy listen.
Thayer Sarrano (Athens, Georgia)
If a psychedelic twist on Southern gothic is an emergent trend in indie music, Thayer Sarrano does it particularly well. Her latest album, last year’s Shaky, marries the sultriness of Lana Del Rey with the uneasy, muscular instrumentation of Chelsea Wolfe. The result is a collection of ghostly, unnerving, excellent folk tunes.
Tim Lee 3 (Knoxville, Tennessee)
Of these first 20 announced bands, Tim Lee 3 is as close as Secret Stages is getting to straightforward, meat-and-potatoes barroom rock. The band’s solid, guitar-driven Southern rock often serves as the backdrop for wry storytelling; the lyrics to “Daddy’s Girl,” for instance, are a tragicomic narrative of a neglectful father whose daughters take to cooking meth in the same house.
Wray (Birmingham, Alabama)
Wray’s latest album, Hypatia, was released earlier this year, and it’s one of the most fully realized records to come out of the city’s music scene in recent memory. The band’s cohesive sound — part dream pop, part shoegaze, part garage rock — has led to a collaboration with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in the past, but the band are more than capable of generating an immersive experience when it’s just the three of them onstage.