Sloss Combines Traditional American History with Modern Festival Culture

written by Paul Dobbs

Created by Red Mountain Entertainment, Sloss Fest marks the first time the Sloss Furnaces were used as a venue for a music festival. A little background: following the civil war, Col. James Withers Sloss opened the furnaces to help complete a 67-mile gap of railroad given to him by the L&N Railroad. 50 acres of land was donated by Elyton Land Company, and Birmingham’s first blast furnace began production in April 1882. The furnace produced 24,000 tons of high quality iron in its first year of production, receiving medals and awards to honor it’s success. In 1976 Sloss Furnaces was documented as a historical landmark and awarded $3.3 million for preservation. Since then it has been used for metal art classes, BBQ cook offs, Muse of Fire shows, and a haunted house attraction.

Sloss Music & Arts Festival at a glance

Music genre: Alternative, Rock, Bluegrass, Folk, Synthpop, Electronic and Rap

Camping: No

Capacity: Medium

Crowd type:  All ages

Water stations: Yes, two at each stage

For the first-timers

The festival is located at the famous Sloss Furnaces in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. No matter which direction you come from, the warehouse district is easy to access, and Birmingham is a relatively easy city to navigate. Because it’s quite small, getting to the festival each day is simple no matter where you stay. Though there aren’t any hotels in walking distance from the furnaces, hotels in downtown Birmingham are very accessible via Uber or cab. Even hotels located outside of the city itself would make for an easy drive; there’s almost no traffic on weekends.

Stage layout

Sloss Fest has three stages: two main outdoor stages Steam and Blast—divided by a spacious walking path for easy navigation—and The Shed indoors. I am a huge fan of industrial venues, so The Shed really caught my attention. A slope towards the stage made viewing great from any angle.

Musical highlights

Danny Brown’s shows are out of this world. I have had the pleasure of seeing him live a handful of times, and oh man did he come to Birmingham to let loose. Many of the people around me in the crowd had no idea who he was other than a rapper. To me, he’s the person who best blends elements of hip-hop that have always been dear to my heart with electronic-inspired notes I’ve fallen deeper in love with over the years. A Detroit native, he’s a shining example of remaining true to his roots, even as his music reaches farther and wider than ever before.

Once his set got going that small stage was raging like never before. In a show of power and mystique, Danny Brown literally appeared out of the mist, altering the vibe of this largely alt rock festival as soon as he started out with “Dip”. His excitement for the recently announced upcoming album Atrocity Exhibition shined through for the entire set, leaving me with a performance reminiscent of the Danny who created XXX and Old. If Danny Brown is on any lineup that I’m attending, you can bet I’ll be there. #bruiserbrigade

Things to do

  • cool off and rehydrate in the BBVA Compass tech dome
  • take a look at vendor offerings (not a ton)
  • watch this historical furnace in action as workers pour iron, a pretty cool homage to the history of one of the largest pig-iron producing blast furnaces

VIP or nah

VIP includes access to special lounges and viewing areas, upscale food and drink vendors (including a cash liquor bar), and air conditioned restrooms. Alabama in July is hot, so the air conditioned VIP tents were definitely the #1 perk of an upgraded ticket—they only got overcrowded during the rain on the second day.

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