Birmingham’s music scene has been steadily growing. Within the last few years, venues like Saturn, Syndicate Lounge, Iron City, and many others opened their doors to bring a variation of bands and artists almost every night of the week. One way for this city to keep growing is welcoming and supporting the younger generations of musicians when they are old enough to turn up to shows and even play.
“The Birmingham music scene is definitely on an upswing,” Ricky Edge said. “Younger kids are coming out and starting bands. Friends are involved in successful art shows. Not to mention, many people within the scene have been proactive in organizing events that raise political and social awareness.”
Edge is 22 and currently plays in local groups such as Bad Example, Fad, Moral Authority, and Heavy User. All bands are playing successfully in Birmingham at venues such as the Firehouse and Saturn — as well as house shows.
At 17 years old, Darby Jack is another young musician in Birmingham.
“Everyone affiliated with Saturn and Substrate Radio have taken me under their wing and are definitely the main reason I’m a part of this music scene at all,” Darby Jack said. “I sort of stand out in that crowd. Not only because I’m young, but also because I’m 6’2” and look like a long muppet.”
Darby Jack currently plays in Son Eyes, and he also hosts a radio show on Substrate Radio called Darby Jack’s Music Shack, which examines the influences in his music.
“The music scene in Birmingham is growing at a rapid pace. It’s great to see so many creators and innovators being proactive in growing this scene,” he said. “People in Birmingham want to see good live music, so good live music is starting to come more and more.”
Brian Teasley is the owner and founder of Saturn and acts as booking and production manager for the venue. Teasley actively supports younger generations when it comes to playing music. Of the many roles he takes on as owner of Saturn, he finds time to run an organization called Kids Drummers, which gives free lessons to kids in lower income families. Teasley also uses Saturn for projects such as Mason Music and Girls Rock Bham, which are organizations that teach guitar, drums and other instruments as well as songwriting and other fundamentals of being in a band.
“I think it’s by far the most important quotient when it comes to fostering a life in music,” Teasley said. “I mean, honestly, and not to sound overtly jaded, but the shows I saw at an early age were far more meaningful than anything I see now. There’s a lot of talent here in Birmingham, obviously, but nothing can replace seeing great bands and hearing superb records. Having outlets where people can get bitten by the music bug early on is absolutely essential.”
Another DIY venue in town is Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO). DISCO is a nonprofit creative writing program for students in Birmingham. Michael Harp, 21, is the music booking director for DISCO. Harp books music and art shows in the venue to raise funds and awareness for the organization.
Harp is also the Digital Marketing Director at DIY Birmingham, which he called a grassroots collective of artists and promoters that works to build and maintain safe pathways for alternative expressions in alternative spaces.
“I think DISCO and DIY Birmingham have been a great help to younger musicians in Birmingham, myself included,” Harp said. “Once Velouria [his former band] started playing shows while I was still in high school, we would have been severely limited as to what venues we could play and what bands we were able to see if it weren’t for all-ages venues.”
Harp said that once he was old enough to start booking shows he found a home at DISCO, and he has been helping grow the space ever since. Harp explained that working at Bottletree was a life-changing experience.
“Before then, I had no idea that any sort of music scene beyond the corporate 1,000-plus capacity venues existed here,” he said. “Everyone that worked there was so cool and made such great music that I pretty much did everything I could to finally get a band together that was good enough to play there.”
Youngblood is another young artist who is coming up in Birmingham, where he often plays on Lobotomix shows that are held at the Syndicate Lounge, Saturn, and other venues in town. Currently he is working with several producers for a collaborative EP due out later this year, and his self-produced EP will be out in February.
“I am positive that without a doubt the youth have everything it takes to make an astounding impact on the music and art world alike,” Youngblood said. “This city is a bit slow, but the good thing is the speed is picking up with the wealth of knowledge available. Networking is proving to be very crucial as well in building connections to help increase the outlook for a lot of us.”
For young musicians to come into an already existing music scene requires role models and leaders that are creating art, making music and running venues. Anna Thomas is one of those leaders. Thomas also works for DIY Birmingham, and concentrates on booking solidarity benefit shows and guerrilla gigs such as Crisis Center and Rape Response benefit shows, fxmmxs fatales fest, Friendsgiving Fiesta, Trans is Beautiful, and the Standing Rock benefit show.
“I try to book eclectic bills inclusive of engaging younger crowds, which I feel is most efficiently achieved by booking some younger bands,” Thomas said. “It’s exciting to have younger musicians involved in Birmingham’s music community.”
Another musician who supports the younger generation is Matt Whitson. He refers to himself as a sound guy and janitor. Whatever his title, he does offer a space for musicians and artist of all ages.
“It’s a place where young people can find themselves,” Whitson said. “The stakes are pretty low so you’re free to experiment. You have the freedom to try out a new band or a whole new sound.”
He explained that when someone is younger and trying to figure everything out, it can have a huge impact on how he or she develops personally and as an artist.
Whitson has been a long-time musician in the Birmingham music scene, and is encouraged by what he sees within the younger generation of musicians and artists.
“The core group of younger kids I know are way more active than any other cohort of punk kids I’ve seen growing up,” Whitson said. “They actually go on tours, and they’re super enthusiastic about putting on shows, sometimes in really crazy places like a laundromat. They just really give a [expletive] and I admire them a lot.”
Wess Gregg of DIY Birmingham, Saturn, and Sanctum Tattoos and Comics agrees.
“They’re the heart of the community. Their vibrancy is unparalleled,” Greg said. “Their creative energy brings so much.”
Gregg has booked touring national and international DIY bands for more than 10 years and feels the younger musicians and artists help keep Birmingham vibrant.
“Their passion is a cornerstone,” Gregg said. “Without them there would be a lot less happening in town.”