Birmingham Free Press Presents

ImageOur erstwhile alternative to the alternative newspapers, the Birmingham Free Press, has not printed a broadsheet edition since December due to budgetary restraints. We have a few advertisements in the paper, but not enough to cover our print bill. To address this setback, we are introducing a series of fundraising shows. And yours truly will be the host.

The first of these is tonight, March 29, at Bottletree, featuring Voices in the Trees, the High Fidelics, Ghost Herd, Red Mountain Family Band, and Opera Sextronique. The bands start at 8pm (despite what the graphic to the left says), and the cover is $7.

The second show is at the Nick on Wednesday, April 4. That show will feature Jerolyn, Devour by Infection, Throng of Shoggoths, Thothamon, and Braineaters.

On April 14, we will be hosting a show at Metro Bar with Mile Marker Seven, John Elrod, and other acts TBA.

If these shows go well, we will probably continue the series. Some shows may be fundraisers. Others may just be regular shows that we curate. Still others might just be themed parties or mixers for people in the Birmingham music industry. Our inimitable all-things-BFP-Music guy Lee Waites has many ideas about directions this series might go.



I woke up this morning thinking, “I should have gotten my proof copy of STR yesterday.” Looked out the front door, and there it was. After I fix a couple of things I already noticed, I’ll send a new PDF and bam! It’s done. The final version should be available for sale in a few days. I will most certainly keep you posted.

Two Major Losses

Yesterday, we lost two major figures of recent American history, Steve Jobs and Fred Shuttlesworth.

The news spread quickly, in Birmingham at least, about Shuttlesworth. For several hours, my Facebook feed was chock full of remembrances and eulogies. They were discussing it on NPR all afternoon too. Shuttlesworth was a true American hero. Kyle Whitmire said on the radio, and I agree with him, that from a global perspective, the Civil Rights movement is probably the most important thing to come out of the United States ever. It happened in the United States, largely, because of events in Birmingham. It happened in Birmingham because of Fred Shuttlesworth.

Sometime in the evening, Steve Jobs passed. The news eclipsed the news about Shuttlesworth, naturally. In recent years, Jobs has certainly been in the news a lot more. Most people have heard of Steve Jobs even if they haven’t heard of Fred Shuttlesworth. There’s no denying that Jobs was probably the Thomas Edison of our time. His impact on the technology industry has been no less than revolutionary. He changed the way we live.

Still, there is something about the coincidence of these two losses happening so close together that bothers me greatly. I don’t want to try to equate the two. I never met Fred Shuttlesworth, and I’m not what you’d call an “Apple fanboy.” So neither of these losses are especially personal to me, but I feel the impact of both deeply. I think the thing is this: I’m a little bit in denial about Steve Jobs until I’ve had some more time to absorb the first loss. If Steve Jobs was the Thomas Edison of our time, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Reverend Shuttlesworth was something like the Moses.

I suppose I just feel compelled to remind everybody, just not forget that we lost more than one revolutionary this week.

September Gigs

September is full of gigs. Here’s the lowdown:

Birmingham Free Press Print Issue Hits the Streets

So here’s much of what I’ve been working on the last few weeks. Actually, Brent, Stephen, and Lee did most of the work. Mostly, I’ve just bossed them around. And now we have a newspaper.

Here’s the proof.

There are boxes downtown, in Southside, at UAB, and in a few other locations around town. They should all have actual papers in them by later this afternoon. We will have copies inside many businesses also. Pick one up, and let us know what you think.

And now we have to start getting together the next issue, and we need all the help we can get. If you are in the Birmingham area and interested in writing something, contact me. We also need people to sell ads. Need some extra cash? We ‘re offering very generous commissions.

See for more information.

Saying Goodnight to Sipsey Tavern

Tonight is the last night my favorite bar in Birmingham will be open for business. A couple of months ago, Red Mountain Development refused to renew Sipsey Tavern’s lease in the historic Terrace Court building on the corner of Highland Avenue and 12th Avenue South. And now the lease is up.

A year ago when I moved back to Birmingham, I found my home away from home at Sipsey Tavern. I became friends with the owner Matt Mauldin and his staff. I saw dozens of amazing bands there. My own new band made its debut there last January and has continued to play there regularly. I fell in love with a woman who lives in the apartments upstairs from the bar (at least until Red Mountain Development eventually kicks her out too, which is now inevitable and much more upsetting even than the bar’s closing… that will have to be another blog post). Almost everybody that has become my friend in the past year became my friend at Sipsey Tavern.

Sure, the service was sometimes slow, and they ran out of Guinness more often than they should have. But Matt and his crew worked extremely hard to make it a nice place and to bring customers in the door. They had the best trivia night in town, but people didn’t come out for it regularly enough so they canceled it. They booked some of the coolest bands in the area that you would probably never hear of otherwise. They struggled, but they were reportedly just starting to make money. It was the best kept secret it Five Points.

I’ve been there every night this week so far, drowning my sorrows in the Maker’s Mark that Ryan/Jay/Leslie/Jennifer almost always have poured for me before I even reach the bar stool. Last night I saw yet another great show with Piss Shivers, Necronomikids, and Red Mountain Family Band. I’ll be back tonight to see Motel Ice Machine, Ian Sturrock Memorial Pipe Band, Zach DossBrain Eaters, Renegades of Folk, and Jasper Coal. But mostly I’ll be there just to say goodbye one more time.

There are a lot of rumors about what Red Mountain Development has planned for the building, but I’m not going to speculate about it here, despite the evidence and plausibility of one of the more disturbing stories going around. But I do think it’s incredibly disingenuous at best that their website boasts, “Red Mountain Development believes there is more to long-term value than short-term profit. … we specialize in developing property responsibly.” And ironically, I guess, Terrace Court is listed right at the top as one of their flagship properties.

And the question now is, where are we all going to hang out now? Some will go to Stillwater Pub, others to the Upsidedown Plaza. Maybe a new bar will open up. Maybe eventually, Matt will open a new Sipsey Tavern at a different location (rumors of them re-opening in the Lakeview district are unfounded, according to Matt). But Five Points will not be the same after tonight.

Tonight we drink. Tomorrow we thirst.

Recent Bigfoot Sightings in East Alabama

I had to re-post this from Birmingham Free Press because it is awesome. Happy weekend everybody.

by Stephen Smith

There have been two Bigfoot sightings this year in Tallapoosa County in Eastern Central Alabama. Both were along Alabama State Road 22 near the town of New Site. The two sightings occurred approximately four miles apart from one another, the first on March 11 and the second on April 4. The witness, who wished to remain anonymous, described the beast to Jim Smith of the Alabama Bigfoot Society, as “very large, thick shouldered and tall. At least seven feet tall… [and] very dark brown.”

Though the lion’s share of Bigfoot sightings take place in the Pacific Northwest, Alabama is a surprising hotbed of Sasquatchian activity. Jim Smith told the Birmingham Free Press that most of the sightings in Alabama occur around Mt. Cheaha and in the nearby counties of Tallapoosa, Talladega, Clay, and Randolph. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a bar in Waldo, AL called the Bigfoot Lounge, so named because of sightings in that area. The earliest recorded Bigfoot sightings in Alabama were in the early 1960s.

According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), there have been over 60 sightings in the state since 1980. Nationally there have been over 3700 Bigfoot encounters in the same period, the majority of which have been in the last decade. That’s a lot of Bigfeet.

Smith believes the sightings are becoming more common because of logging activity in the Bigfoot habitat. He thinks there may be as many as 50-60 Bigfoot creatures in the forests of east Alabama.

Scientists remain skeptical of the existence of Bigfoot due to a supposed lack of physical evidence, but according to the BFRO, “[p]hysical evidence is found every month in various areas across the country. Distinct tracks that do not match other animal tracks, hairs that match each other but no known wild animals, and large scats that could not be made by any known species.”

It’s worth remembering that the gorilla was considered mythological until its existence was verified in 1902. The number of gorillas was estimated to be around 100,000 until another 125,000 were discovered in 2008 in the Republic of Congo. New species of mammals “discovered” in the past decade include the Annamite striped rabbit, the Arunachal monkey, the Australian snubfin dolphin, the blond capuchin, the Sunda clouded leopard, the collared peccary, the Dingiso, Goodman’s mouse lemur, the grey-faced elephant shrew, the highland mangabey, Jackson’s mongoose, the Laotian rock rat, the leaf deer, Lowe’s servaline genet, the Manicore marmoset, Mittermeier’s mouse lemur, the mountain brush-tailed possum, the Prince Bernhard titi, the Pygmy three-toed sloth, the Sambirano woolly lemur, the saola, the tube-lipped nectar bat, and the unfortunately named monkey. In addition to the nearly 100 mammals identified in the 21st century, Dr. Ian Poiner of the Australian Institute for Marine Science has estimated that there are at least 750,000 undiscovered species on this planet alone. Given the reality of the situation, the whole Bigfoot thing doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

There are a number of Native American Bigfoot legends. The term “sasquatch” is an anglicized derivative of one of the 60 or so native-American names for “big man” or “hairy man.” People that report sightings are by no means charlatans or particularly gullible. According to the BFRO, “[t]he patterns among eyewitnesses are not demographic, they are geographic—they are not reported by certain types of people, rather by people who venture into certain areas. This simple pattern suggests an external cause.”

What exactly Bigfoot is remains a mystery. Artist and Bigfoot researcher Charles Middleton believe the creature is “a relic of primitive man. Some think Homo erectus, some Homo heidelbergensis. As far as pure ape—no!” Jim Smith appears to agree, saying, “It may be an undiscovered ape, but I believe it will be an early evolution humanoid. My reason being it is much too intelligent.”

Whatever one believes concerning the Bigfoot phenomenon, there is certainly no lack of evidence, anecdotal or otherwise. Past hoaxes have made the scientific community gun-shy but we here at the Birmingham Free Press want to believe.

Breaking the News

I’ve been the editor of the Birmingham Free Press for about three weeks now, and we just broke our first real news story. I got a hot tip about our local representative in the Alabama House, an openly gay Democrat who may be splitting from the Democratic party because of the homophobic shenanigans of one of her colleagues and the failure of the rest of the party members to address it in any way.

I got the congresswoman on the phone and got the full story. As far as we know, no other media outlet has covered this. It’s not an earth-shattering story, but it’s a good one. It highlights just how backwards even the Democrats are in our fair state.

The story is currently on the BFP front page.

Harry Potter Read-a-Thon Fundraiser

As many of you know, I volunteer for an organization called Desert Island Supply Co. (DISCO) that provides tutoring and creative writing workshops for Birmingham area students age 6-18. Later this month, July 22-24, I will be participating in a Harry Potter Read-a-Thon to raise funds for this organization.

Over the course of two and a half days, readers will work in 10-minute shifts to continuously read aloud all 748 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I will be one of those readers, and I hope you’ll sponsor me.

Please consider donating to this important cause and helping me reach my fundraising goal. Use the following link to donate.

Thank you in advance for your generosity!