It was once the industrial center of Birmingham. Since its closing, it has been the subject of reported hauntings and has been featured on several television shows for paranormal investigations. And now, its hosting a summer music festival.
This summer, the famous Sloss Furnace National Historic Landmark in Birmingham will host the first ever Sloss Fest. The festival will take place on the 18th and 19th of July at the Magic City landmark. Since its announcement, the festival has drawn considerable buzz, with television spots running frequently and social media taking notice. For a first-year festival, Sloss offers an impressive lineup that focuses on modern alternative rock, though artists are not limited to this genre. The festival is a huge undertaking for Red Mountain Entertainment, the company that operates many venues in West Alabama, including the Tuscaloosa Amphitheatre and Oak Mountain Amphitheatre.
Leading the pack of headliners for the festival is Modest Mouse, one of the most successful alternative bands of the past 15 years. Early in their career, Modest Mouse scored a major commercial hit with the song “Float On”. Although subsequent releases have yet to match that single in terms of airplay, Modest Mouse have remained critical darlings, and their touring has given them a rabid fanbase that leads to major slots at festivals nationwide. Another major festival act that headlines this group is Band of Horses. BOH incorporates a southern sound to traditional alternative rock, despite being from Seattle, the home of grunge. Their use of Americana has helped them gain fans in the Southeast.
If you’ve seen the Sloss Fest commercial running recently, you’ll recognize Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” being used to sell the festival. The monster hit has led to a lucrative career for the band, who will headline the festival as well. One of the more unique bands in the history of rock has to be Primus, who’s sound can loosely be described as a mix between Frank Zappa, Rush and the Pixies. Recently, they have toured with a Willy Wonka theme, and they may bring that to their Sloss set. Joining these groups will be Alabama’s own St. Paul and the Broken Bones, who have recently broken through to mainstream exposure after years of playing the West Alabama circuit. There is also a major headlining spot that has yet to be announced.
As you can see, the alternative genre is well-represented at Sloss Fest. Other alternative acts that fill out the lineup include Manchester Orchestra, Young the Giant and The New Pornographers. Folk acts are also given spots at the festival, such as Lord Huron and First Aid Kit. Rapper Tyler the Creator makes an appearance. Electronica is represented with artists like Big Gigantic and Purity Ring. And even local acts get in on the action as Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires are on the card.
While Sloss Fest has certainly made an impression with its debut, it will be going against history if it wants to succeed. Major festivals in Birmingham have suffered over the years and gone under despite being well-received. Many remember City Stages, which brought top-selling acts to the Magic City. After City Stages was discontinued, the Crawfish Boil became the largest event in the city. While smaller, niche festivals have thrived in the city, larger events have trouble surviving. Even with initial success, Sloss Fest is not a sure thing, though this writer is certainly rooting for it.
Sloss Furnace has long been a site of great intrigue for the people of Birmingham and visitors. The economic impact of the foundry and its closing, the subsequent stories of hauntings that made its Halloween attraction, and now its use as a music venue have all contributed to a long and storied history. Now, Sloss Fest can add its legacy to the grounds.

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