In a great post recently for the Creative Coast, Savannah Stopover founder and CEO Kayne Lanahan wrote about the ingredients necessary for a great music scene. I’m planning to circle back around to some of her points sometime soon, but on the list she included this: “At least one small to mid-size venue that is renowned with bands and fans around the country.”
In the ongoing conversations around town about nurturing a better music scene, there’s regular talk about the need for at least one larger venue — a place that will house several hundred. But Kayne made the point to me months ago that smaller venues that are extremely appealing can often lure indie bands that would normally be searching for bigger venues. She specifically mentioned the Bottletree in Birmingham.
Now, before I go on, let me say that we have some really solid small clubs in Savannah, but Givers didn’t stop here when they swung through the region a couple of months ago. Neither did Astronautalis. Neither did the Bright Light Social Hour on their most recent tour. For far too many acts and promoters, Savannah is just not a high priority destination.
Today The Atlantic Cities has this: How Birmingham Became an Indie Rock Destination
From the piece:
Opened in 2006 by a trio of former expatriate Birmingham natives – a musician, a painter, and a chef – the Bottletree is a combination music venue, vegetarian café, and bar. The venue is a magnet for critically acclaimed touring bands like TV on the Radio, Animal Collective, and Joanna Newsome, acts that would have most likely skipped a show in Birmingham only a few years ago in favor of going directly to Atlanta, New Orleans, or Nashville.
The root of the venue’s success is the owners’ efforts to provide the best possible experience for touring bands while supporting the local music scene.
The club has relied on hospitality as a draw:
Bands are met with a cozy interior decorated in a mix of thrift store chic and mid-century Southern Gothic, a home cooked meal from the café, and Airstream trailers fully stocked with video games, DVDs, toiletries, and clean socks. All of this is in addition to one of the best sound systems for a club the Bottletree’s size.
But it’s not all about getting touring acts in, but making connections with the local scene:
The venue is also dedicated to the development of the local music scene, booking local bands on most nights and as opening acts for national touring shows. On off-nights, the Bottletree lets fledgling local acts practice on stage while sound engineering interns simultaneously hone their skills.
Earlier today, Jason Nielubowicz — one of the Savannah Stopover’s key volunteers — sent me a link to the Vimeo channel We Have Signal: Live From Birmingham produced by Alabama Public Television. Check out the sound quality in this 28 minutes of Portland’s Wild Flag:
By the way, The Atlantic Cities piece has some interesting comments about economic revitalization. The author Michael Seman is “a doctoral candidate in urban planning and public policy at the University of Texas at Arlington.”