Tuscaloosa to Host its First Music Festival in Over a Decade

Feb 21, 2019

Winter’s nearly over, and that means summer music festival lineups are starting to circle the internet.

In Alabama, that means country fans will be planning to head to Cullman for Rock the South and most everybody else will be looking toward Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores.

But this year, Tuscaloosa is throwing its hat in the music festival ring for the first time in over a decade.

Atlanta-based rapper Big Boi might be trying on the script A of the Alabama Crimson Tide as he heads to Tuscaloosa to headline the inaugural Druid City Music Festival.

Big Boi is best known as one half of the multiple Grammy-winning duo Outkast and is fresh off a performance at the Super Bowl halftime show.

Also headlining is another Atlanta act: Blackberry Smoke.

They’ve been around for nearly 20 years and have toured with the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top and the Zac Brown Band.

Those two top a bill of nearly fifty groups and artists. But the festival will look a little different from others in the past. Typically acts are spread across multiple stages on a single large festival ground. However:

“You know, logistically, it was very hard to put up and run so many stages. But I think that’s something that’s been addressed," says Bo Hicks. He's a Tuscaloosa businessowner who had a hand in planning the festival. "Don had the idea of incorporating local businesses on the Friday night and bringing in a bunch of different acts, so on Saturday it could be pretty much one main stage.”

The Don he mentions is Don Staley, President and CEO of the Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports Commission. He explains what people can look forward to that opening night:

“19 venues on Friday, most venues downtown, every genre imaginable," says Staley. "You’ll have everything from Americana, singer-songwriter, R&B, blues, jazz, rap…”

Even APR’s daytime listeners won’t have to stray too far from their comfort zone.

“Also in the lobby of the Hotel Indigo is the Tuscaloosa Symphony," says Staley. "They’re going to have some strings and woodwinds that’ll be there.”

He says the idea for this festival got started while he was working in south Alabama.

“Some guys started talking about a music festival like what used to be hosted in Tuscaloosa back in the day," he says. "Which was CityFest, that was very popular, it ran for 20 years.”

Hicks says, "I would get to see, like, original up-and-coming rock bands that blew my mind, because they had a stage for that. They also had a large stage to where I saw Willie Nelson play in downtown Tuscaloosa.”

CityFest brought in lots of big names like Martina McBride, Little Richard, Charlie Daniels and many more. But after several years of economic losses, the festival shut down in 2005.

Hicks cautions that things might not be financially rosy right off the bat for this attempt.

“Most of these things lose money their first year because you’re figuring everything out," he says. "But the residual effect to businesses – you know, lodging, bars and restaurants, gas…”

The most important thing to realizing that benefit, he says, is that people have a good time.

“Having people have a positive reflection of Tuscaloosa only makes them want to come back and maybe bring their friends for a non-event. And it definitely has economic impact on the weekend of the festival, but I think you also gain benefit on down the line.”

The inaugural Druid City Music Festival will be held August 23 and 24 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Tickets and more information can be found at dcmf2019.com.