For many years, Birmingham’s Secret Stages has taken the task of collecting the best-kept secrets of the music scene and giving them a platform. 2018’s festival relocated to the bustling Avondale district but the spirit remained the same. Many great acts performed throughout the weekend but we would like to highlight three we saw: Kadesh Flow, Sammus, and BassHead Jazz.
Kansas City, Missouri
Only at Secret Stages will a rapper drop Super Mario punch lines and close out songs with a trombone solo. Kadesh Flow blends every aspect of his personality into his music. He prides himself on being a black nerd and his songs were about this experience. He recently decided to pursue music full-time, so his set was really inspiring. He connected with the crowd by sharing his story in between tracks. Most of these tracks are from his Room Service EP, which he recorded in his hotel room during downtime at a convention.
[Note: It was really hard to get a good pic of Sammus because she’s a ball of pure energy]
I have heard stories about the legend of Sammus before I even heard a song. She wields an arm cannon while she raps and when she’s not rapping, she’s working towards her PhD. I’m familiar with her energetic side but her set was very personal. In between tracks, she stated affirmations such as “I’m dope” or “I’m really spitting on this one”. Her statements didn’t seem arrogant at all. In fact, they were rather reassuring. She exposed personal stories of heartbreak and uncertainty so every single affirmation she stated seemed earned.
Seeing her in person confirmed the legend. An artist like Sammus represents the good work of Secret Stages. She certainly has a niche so performing somewhere that has many counter-cultures intersecting will only help her legend grow.
(Yes, she jumped in the crowd to perform this)
BassHead Jazz got their name from a Cee-Lo song. Just like Cee-Lo, their set was soulful and funky. Their music synced with projected images of African dancers, early 20th Century black families, and well-known scenes from black movies such as Soul Food and Love Jones. Although they’re a “new” group their chemistry is undeniable. Their songs have call and response hooks with verses that flow into each other. At the end of their show, they played the “Umi Says” instrumental and urged everyone in the crowd to say the following phrase to a stranger: “I care about you”. The projector switched to images of people from all walks of life standing together in unity. It was quite fitting considering the diversity of the crowd.
Secret Stages was a blast and we’ll definitely be returning next year. If you like any of the artists mentioned here, make sure to follow them on social media and check out their music.