Sloss Music and Arts Festival wrapped up its third year at the historic Sloss Furnaces in downtown Birmingham, ALabama. River Beats was there to take in the sights and sounds of the growing Alabama festival.
Now that the festival is done, the takeaway from Sloss Fest is quite evident: the festival organizers know their crowd. With that in mind, Sloss is a perfect daytime festival for those that don’t enjoy camping festivals, or for those that have never been into the hardcore festival lifestyle. Many in attendance this year came only because one favorite band/artist enticed them. Alabama Shakes, Widespread Panic, Sturgill Simspon, and ODESZA all brought very different and specific demographics.
Here are some of our highlights and lowlights of the weekend.
Rain, Rain and more Rain.
Summer festivals in the South can encounter some weather problems, with heat and rain as the main culprits. Because of the rainfall on both days of the festival, temperatures remained cooler than a normal summer weekend in Alabama. However, the rain transformed the grounds into a hot, muddy mess. Festival organizers can’t control the weather, of course. But the two main stages were located in a massive field of dirt. Attendees had no choice but to accept the muddy circumstances.
Year 2 also brought along heavy rain. A date change for next year may bring more favorable weather, but either way, the rain did not faze attendees.
Festival organizers understand their crowd.
It’s crazy how opinions can change in one day. Earlier during Day 1 of the festival, we struggled to figure out Sloss‘s target audience. On Day 2, it became more evident. The wide range of Sloss‘s target audience included people ages 15-20s, as well as older crowds in their early 30-40s. The lineup showcased various acts of different genres, but it worked.
The addition of several rap and electronic acts solidifies Sloss’s attempt to grow as a festival.
ODESZA, K. Flay, Phantogram, and Run The Jewels brought in a whole new crowd that normally would not have attended the festival.
The ability of Sloss organizers to keep certain age and demographics happy at all times is a true skill. In a time when festivals tend to appeal to one demographic, Sloss went the opposite route and did so with style and grace.
The Sloss Furnaces is one of the coolest venues in the country.
The location operated as a pig iron-producing blast furnace from 1882 to 1971. After closing, the furnace became one of the first industrial sites (and the only blast furnace) in the U.S. to be preserved and restored for public use. The festival grounds transported attendees to the era of early-industrial America.
The grounds had 4 stages; The Blast and Steam stages served as the main stages, while the Seasick and Shed acted as support stages.
The Shed Stage featured some of the smaller non-alternative acts, such as Cashmere Cat, Cherub, Waka Flocka Flame, Vince Staples, and Tycho. These additions brought a much-needed reprieve for some of the younger crowd uninterested in the other acts.
Located under a metal overhang, the Shed stage resembled an airplane hanger. It’s one of the coolest stages we have ever seen, and the placement of the stage and location of the crowd resembled a nature amphitheater.
For a music and “arts” festival, the “art” was lacking.
From a silent disco without a DJ, to a lack of hands-on activities, Sloss has plenty room for improvement outside the music stages. The only real activities Sloss offered were viewings of live demonstrations of live iron pouring, which was interesting but got old after a hour or so.
Vendors were difficult to locate despite ample space for them to set up. There was no real attempt to bring unique creativity and productivity to the grounds; the placement of food and merchandise vendors seemed forced. The festival needs to do a better job of getting attendees involved with the grounds.
Sloss works for Birmingham, Alabama.
Sloss might not be for everyone, but it works in Birmingham, Alabama. The festival is tucked away in the hills of the city and is a well-curated festival. The lineup fits the crowd, and the addition of new acts outside of the rock and country genres will keep fans coming back.
Despite the massive amounts of rain on the grounds, the festival held its own. If we had to make one suggestion for organizers, it would be for them to get creative for year four. Offering fans more hands-on activities, interactive lights, visuals, and all sorts of new age technology would enhance the experience. While Sloss was successful in delivering good music, they lacked arts.
Sloss organizers have not yet released attendance figures from the two-day event. By eyeballing the crowd, especially on Sunday for the Alabama Shakes and Sturgill Simpson shows, we’re confident that Sloss will come back strong in 2018. We can’t wait to see what new additions they add.