By on 20 July, 2017 in Fun, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

We spent this past weekend up in Birmingham at SlossFest. We’d never been, but when this year’s lineup was released we said: “We have got to go to this!” We hadn’t heard of most of the bands that would be playing, but we figured that Run the Jewels, Widespread Panic, Sturgill Simpson and the Alabama Shakes alone were worth the price of admission. So we bought two-day passes a few months ago and kept them on our refrigerator until the big weekend arrived.

If you’ve never been to Sloss, you really must go. It’s a beautiful part of Birmingham’s history that’s well kept. It’s immensely photogenic, what with all of the rust and tubing and massive structures. Around Halloween, they do a pretty good haunted house there. And they offer iron working classes on site through the Sloss Metal Arts program.

They did a nice job organizing the festival, dividing up the four stages so that there was no sonic overlap, and there were minimal bottlenecks and traffic flowed pretty well. The people watching was crazy good, what with the weird combination of hipsters, suburban teens and freaky Burning Man types. And in addition to the music, there were a number of tents offering art for sale. We bought some soap from the always awesome Left Hand Soap and saw some pretty amazing prints. Birmingham’s Seasick Records had a little pop-up shop in a storage container with records and merchandise, and the festival ran a merch shop as well.

Parking was easy, and the best part about it was that the festival ran shuttles to and from the satellite lots. They were driven by UAB students working for tips, so we made sure to have some folding money for them, though basically everything else at the festival could be transacted with a card, including delicious cold brewed coffee and veggie corndogs. The food was pretty good overall, and we were thrilled to see so many vegetarian options. Also, you can bring your own water bottle to fill at one of the many stations designed for that purpose. It’s nice to not be gouged for water at festival prices in the hot Alabama summer.

It did rain both days – most memorably the first night, when it just poured before and during the Run the Jewels show, but we had a waterproof backpack and just decided that we were going to get soaked. The grounds were super muddy, with little lakes forming in some places. But by the next day, they’d worked some magic with a good bit of strategically placed mulch.

One of the coolest parts of the festival was the iron pouring demonstration. The Metal Arts crew had set up a bunch of gear, including a galactically hot furnace that did, in fact, melt iron that was periodically dispensed into a bucket carefully held by two workers. The iron was poured slowly into a series of molds. And the best part about this was that you could make your own design. For $10, they’d sell you a square mold made out of some kind of compressed sand. Then you’d go behind the tent and make a design by etching into the sand with a nail (or, for real detail work, a dental tool). This was immensely fun, though it was pretty daunting to come up with a design that would, as the shop’s proprietor told us, “be around long after we’re all dead.” Cheery thought, that.

After you made your design, they’d pour and it took a few hours to cool. We were very excited to pick up our finished tiles, even though they considerably increased the weight of our backpack. The Metal Arts people were really nice, and didn’t seem to mind answering the many questions we had as we stared, gaping, at the molten metal. Evidently they also sometimes take this show on the road to other festivals, which is kind of cool.

Birmingham’s really great, y’all. In case you haven’t been up there in a while, it’s worth spending some time. On the second day before the festival, we ate delicious veggie bowls at the Little Donkey in Homewood (coming soon out to Eastchase), bought some books at the Little Professor’s new location, and browsed the comics at Sanctum, where you can also get a tattoo (we didn’t, though we did play their excellent Batman pinball machine). All this before we even got to Sloss. And we spent the night in a beautiful old hotel downtown, having danced the day away and largely avoided getting soaked (thanks to a strategically placed Tito’s tent).

It was a great festival, and a wonderful way to spend an Alabama weekend. We’ll definitely be back, and recommend it as an approachable weekend trip.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with one cat, a dog, ten fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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