Band: The Shindig, Vol. 12: Mobtown Edition
Date: Friday, Feb. 7 at 10 p.m.
Venue: Alabama Music Box, 12 S. Conception St., alabamamusicbox.com
Tickets: $10 available through the venue’s website
The Shindig is back with another eclectic lineup featuring hip-hop and soul from the heart of the Azalea City. For this installment, local diva Symone French will be joining Shindig curators/hip-hop collective Basshead Jazz and Robot.Haus for an evening of beats, tones and rhythms. This event has become one of the best ways to experience the local hip-hop, soul and poetry scene all in one place.
For almost two years, Basshead Jazz has been organizing this event, which is one part open mic and one part showcase. Lagniappe’s Steve Centanni contacted Basshead Jazz (Ottie James, Sidney VaDale and See’J Foster) to see what goes into organizing this creative collection of local talent.
Steven Centanni: How did Basshead Jazz come together?
Otis James: Basshead Jazz came together approximately three years ago. It was conceived out of an idea that See’J and I had probably around 2015. At that time, it was an idea to be a two-part collaboration. It formed into a three-person group when I met Sidney in 2016. We started collaborating and putting our minds together. I believe See’J was in New York at the time. Before he came back, he said, “Let’s form a group.” It has just progressively moved on from there.
Centanni: What was it about this collaboration that made this a permanent thing?
See’J Foster: When I first met Ottie, he was my favorite artist. When I first heard him, I thought that this man was really dope. We came from two opposite ends of the spectrum on a lot of things. When we started working together, it was seamless, but that was before making it a collaborative thing. I just always thought that he was really dope. He sounded like nothing that I had ever heard before. I felt like we meshed together well. As far as Sid being a part of it, Sid was real quiet when we first met. It was a process of her breaking out of her shell and being a part of the collective. People reacted to it really warmly, and we figured out that we had something really special.
Centanni: If there’s one philosophy behind Basshead Jazz, then what is it?
Foster: I would say that it would be creating from a pure place. I don’t think there’s anything in stone, because we’re all individuals.
James: World televised, we ain’t gotta hide. We just live and cry.
Centanni: How did The Shindig get started?
James: We’re coming up on our two-year anniversary doing The Shindig. I believe it started earlier than two years ago. When both See’J and I came back to Mobile, we did a show in a garden on Dauphin Street. It wasn’t really promoted or anything, but it happened. We received a decent amount of energy that night. From there, we decided to get a concrete place for an event. Lo and behold, The Shindig came alive. Foster came up with the name. Then, we connected with a venue down here, and the rest is history.
Foster: I had been doing [shows] down here for a decent minute. I learned a lot from the late Seth Maness, rest in peace. One thing that I started noticing from doing travels, Seth was the only one doing hip-hop shows down here. You go to different cities, and there’s all sorts of different promotion companies and artists doing DIY. I learned a lot of different DIY techniques from New York. I remember speaking to Seth and being like, “You know, I’m not trying to compete with you, but in order to really cultivate the scene, there has to be multiple entities moving and putting on things.” It’s just the philosophy of not waiting for somebody else to book you for a show. As an artist, do the process yourself. Book the venues yourself, and do it yourself.
Centanni: How would you describe The Shindig to someone who has never been?
James: There’s so much that goes into it. Based on what people have told us, The Shindig can be church. It can be somewhere to dance just because you want to dance and not worry about what anybody else thinks of you. You can be your full creative self. You can be whoever you are. You can just have a great time within yourself. One of the big things about The Shindig is having your own great time not making it so that someone else is responsible. You are literally there to enjoy yourself. If you have enjoyed yourself, then we have done our job.
Centanni: What goes into putting on a Shindig?
Foster: A lot! The way the format is for the show is for the most part it’s an open mic. I would meet a lot of artists who would have real dope songs and real quality recordings, but I could tell that they weren’t that confident in performing it in front of the crowd. We have one featured artist who we decided would be good for that month. We host it. We secure an artist and secure a date a venue. It used to be during ArtWalk, but sometimes we have to make exceptions. We have a guy named J.B. Audiovisual. He does a lot of live audio/visual stuff for the show. We have to get the DJ, which is usually DJ Wildlife, who happens to DJ at Backflash Antiques. It’s also promoting and bringing people in. We have a built-in support system of people ready to come through with good vibes.
James: It’s also about being seen in the city. It’s not this thing that we’re so engrossed into what we do that you can’t talk to us. We can talk about whatever. That’s the thing about doing The Shindig and being Basshead Jazz. If you see us on the street, you can be like, “Hey, I’ll come to your show!” It’s really a homegrown kind of thing.
Centanni: What’s your favorite thing about The Shindig?
Sidney VaDale: It’s the people and the atmosphere. It’s just an all-around good time.
Centanni: Where do you want to see the future of The Shindig go?
Foster: Worldwide, baby!
James: We want to be worldwide. That’s been the goal since day one. One of our small goals is that we want to do a festival in Mobile. We want a Shindig Festival. We want one day that we can put on creative people all day.
Foster: Also, we want to spread it out to different locations. We did one in Birmingham in December. We want to go to New Orleans, California, New York and Tokyo. We want it to get bigger. No matter how big it gets, we want people to remember that it started in Alabama. It started in Mobile.
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