Hey, are you one of the organizers of this festival?” a lady said to me as I was working the Lagniappe Showcases at SouthSounds last weekend. As I was explaining I was really just an organizer of this one particular part, she interrupted me. She didn’t really care about my exact role; she just had to tell someone her thoughts right that second.

“We just moved here from Atlanta,” she said, pointing to her male companion. “And we just realized Mobile is cool. This festival is so cool,” she said, effusive in her praise of the weekend’s events.

And that was generally the vibe felt by everyone who attended the SouthSounds Music and Arts Festival last weekend, not only by festival-goers, but also by the musicians who played.

As it wrapped up this past Sunday night, it became obvious this had been the best year yet for the festival that was co-founded in 2011 by Ted Flotte and Emily Hayes. But along with Flotte and Hayes, there was a lot of talent on the board this year that really helped bring this festival up to a whole new level, including Gabe Fleet, Carol Hunter and Jeff Marcus, among others.

The festival also worked with other organizations that put on different aspects of the event, like the Mobile Arts Council, which not only organized its regular LoDa ArtWalk in conjunction, but also MAC’s Hillary Anaya and Lucy Gafford, who coordinated the art market and LoDa Squares Art Competition.

Chris Barraza at Leadership Mobile put on the Engaging the Next Generation nonprofit event and food truck fair. And Johnny Gwin and Stacy Wellborn from Deep Fried Studios organized an amazing live podcast and panel discussion. As previously mentioned, we did our little part here at Lagniappe by hosting the Mobile Bay Music and New Southern Music showcases.

As Fleet put it, “I like the notion of this being a broad-spectrum event with participation from lots of aspects of the community.”
And it truly was. And I imagine that spectrum is only going to continue to grow.

Out-of-town festival-goers and musicians alike walked away with a very positive impression of our city. And I think even Mobilians who sometimes doubt our people will support anything in great numbers walked away with that notion dispelled.

And I have to say I was thrilled with the way the Lagniappe showcases turned out.

We were able to showcase some of our best local talent with the Mobile Bay Music Showcase, featuring Black Titan, Crowned Jewelz, Coleman-Mason Band, Infant Richard and the Delta Stones, Stereo Dogs and Underhill Family Orchestra. Their performances were as impressive as they were diverse. Everyone was really bringing it.

We really had a great panel of industry executives from various record labels, bands and other music-related fields, so it was really cool to show off our bands to not only these guys, but to the festival-goers, many of whom never make it out to the late night clubs or venues where these groups usually play.

The members of the metal band Black Titan were joking before their set that they were going to run the crowd off by the end of their first song. But they were so wrong. The crowd was pumped. I typically like whiny singer-songwriters (the sadder the better!) and they are probably not a band I would typically go see, but they were great. And I think all of my fellow, ahem, older, boring folks out in the crowd also found it cool to be exposed to something so gritty — I mean that as a compliment — in the middle of the day in Cathedral Square.

Underhill Family Orchestra won the local showcase and went on to participate in the regional showcase along with some really great up-and-coming regional acts: Motel Radio and Bantam Foxes from New Orleans, The High Divers and She Returns From War from Charleston and the Sh-Booms from Orlando. They all put on top-notch performances, once again judged by industry executives.

Ultimately Motel Radio won and received a fantastic prize package donated by Mobile businesses. The fabulous Rick Hirsch, who may just be the nicest man on the planet as well as a founding member of Wet Willie and amazing producer, donated three days of studio time and accommodations at his Studio H20. He also served as a judge and took the time to speak with each of the bands.

Local music store Andy’s Music donated a $500 gift card. SouthSounds Music Festival donated a week-long writing and R&R retreat at a Gulf-front beach house in Gulf Shores. We really can’t thank these guys enough.

Motel Radio is featured in the music section of this issue, so read all about these guys, as they will back here in a month.

On Sunday night at Callaghan’s, most of these bands were hanging together, sharing war stories and forming new friendships.

Again, it was just a great vibe.

Many thanks as well to stage manager Albert Robinson, who kept both of our showcases running smooth as silk. It truly was a team effort, and it was great to be a part of it.

Thanks again to Gabe, Ted and Emily and the rest of the board for a great weekend, as well as all of the volunteers. I can’t even imagine what this festival is going to be like in a few more years, but if the buzz after this year’s installment is any indication, it’s going to be huge.

I will have to agree with that lady from Atlanta. Mobile, you are pretty darn cool. And there are a lot of people working hard to make it that way.