Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Birmingham's City Stages Festival in 1989

In 1989 a new music festival started up in Birmingham and ran for three days each year, often on Father's Day weekend, until 2009. Over the years many big name musicians and bands came through the city to perform at City Stages. By its final year, however, the festival had over-expanded in downtown Birmingham and revenues could no longer sustain it. In July 2009 the foundation responsible had to declare bankruptcy due to its large debts.

All of that tremendous growth and ignominious end lay ahead when Dianne, Amos, Becca & I attended the very first City Stages in 1989. We arrived on mid-day Saturday and wandered around with our five-year old son and 15-month old daughter in a stroller. I don't think we stayed more than two or three hours; after all, it was a hot June day. I also don't remember seeing any particular acts spread out over the five stages, which on Saturday included Chuck Berry and such Alabama musicians as Johnny Shines and the Locust Fork Band

However, I do have a very clear memory of Sun Ra leading a parade through Linn Park, no doubt ahead of his performance that day. The BhamWiki page about the festival linked earlier notes that about 38,000 people attended over the three days. Oh, and "beer was served in re-usable yellow plastic mugs." They featured the same logo as our three buttons below; I guess baby Becca didn't get one of those or I've lost it. I may still have one or two of those mugs around here somewhere.

City Stages quickly grew in attendance, and we're not really into big crowds--the hot weather didn't help, either--so we never went to another one except 1993. We did make Leo Kottke's appearance on Sunday evening that year. We also saw him a couple of times at Zydeco and enjoyed those performances as well. 

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