A City’s Girl’s Guide to City Fest: Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, & The Roots

Scene:  Woman talking and dancing with two little girls.  They dance, hug, laugh and then repeat. They’ve been at the park since 3:00 pm. It’s now almost 6:00 pm

Me: “Oh did you see all the kids activities on the other side of the park?”

Her: “Oh, these aren’t my kids. [Whispered] I don’t even know them.  I mean I’ll look out for them. I won’t let anything happen to them. I just happen to lay my blanket next them. They like to dance. I like to dance. My kids are with their dad for the summer. (sips alcoholic beverage)”


This may seem like a funny story about a lightly intoxicated women, but it’s  actually a portrait of the energy that filled Railroad park during The Schaeffer City Fest on Saturday. Yes, there was drinking, but there was so much more than that….

I arrived around 3pm to see a meager crowd had set up chairs a good distance away from the stage. Only about 20 die-hard festival goers were laid out in front of the stage. Soon after I arrived, local rocker, Preston Lovinggood took the stage.  Preston was followed by DJ CoCo’s house mix. There was also a group of random high school dancers on stage for a part of his set. Kudos to them for their bravery. They didn’t really seem to have any choreography, so I left out those pics.


After his set, I was faced with the well-known outdoor concert dilemma: Go find food/restroom or hold on to a great spot.  Food always wins in the end, so I began the search for some street fare.  The food trucks  were lined  up on first avenue south between Regions Field and the park. I had my heart set  on a juicy beef hotdog, but the one hot dog vendor I found didn’t have beef dogs.  I ended up going with Slice, because I want something quick and light. It worked out for the best, because I found a brick oven pizza place in Birmingham. Stop by the brick and mortar spot and try their fire roasted wings.

Vendors: Slice, Steel City Pops, Saw’s Street Kitchen, Michelle’s, Cantina, Finny B’s, Hooked, Nola Ice

By this time, anyone who had been out there for more than 10 minutes had  a severe case of perspiration and dry mouth. That’s why the Nola Ice truck  had one of the longest lines. I scooted in line, constantly turning the corner to make room as the “toot toot” of the event’s go-carts squeezed by.  Nola Ice is similar to a snow cone, but not quite. I’m not a big fan of snow cones, because they’re too hard and compact. You can’t really bite into them and some parts  completely lack syrup. However, I would describe Nola Ice as a hybrid between a snow cone and a slurpee.  Not too hard, not too soft.  It came in a  16 oz cup with a straw and a spoon. If I’m Goldie Locks, I’ve just found the perfect porridge.   They come in more flavors than you can imagine and can even be topped with cream. I kept it simple with my favorite flavor, mango.


Mango Ice from Nola Ice

Nola Ice has been around for about four years now, and you can usually find them on 1st Avenue outside Regions Field on Sundays. Check their website/twitter for more details. Kick rocks snow cone.  #TeamNolaIce


After about an hour and a half  of meandering in and out of food lines, I squeezed my way back to the front stage lawn.  I was by myself  at the time, so no one gave me too much trouble. I got a few glaring eyes, but I felt safe when I saw the familiar faces I had left to hold down the fort over an hour ago. When I returned,  the pop rock band, Fancy Reagan, was finishing their set.


Next up, Ruben Studdard. I loved his performance. He sang his R&B hits as well as some classics, including a Luther Vandross medley.  The sad part is that there were sound issues towards the end of  his set. At two points, the sound completely went out. (You know that the crowd kept singing. It’s in the blood of Birmingham to keep fighting. ) When the sound did come back, Studdard finished on a high note, figuratively and literally.


I have to be honest. I actually didn’t watch American Idol the season Taylor Hicks won (or any season after for that matter). It is an unfortunate thing, because Taylor Hicks a musician’s musician.  He’s got soul. I’m talking…. cut him and he’ll probably bleed blues. Ahh! I can’t even express what a rush it was to see him perform live! He was all over the stage, playing the tambourine, harmonica, organ, and guitar.  At one point, his saxophonist was playing a tenor and soprano saxophone AT THE SAME TIME!!!!



I would pay to go see Taylor Hicks and his band perform live again. Even as I think about it, I wish I could take my father to a Taylor Hicks concert. It’s the type of performance he would’ve enjoyed.

Oh, another reason I’m feeling  Taylor Hicks: He brought Mayor William Bell and Dr. Jack Schaeffer on stage to be his background singers for his last song. They were both really great sports



This also made the second time in one week that I heard Mayor Bell give a “Birmingham Pep Talk”.  I enjoyed both.


Alright, the grand finale. The Roots. Honestly, I don’t think my commentary is necessary for them. They’re an experience. Put em’ on  your bucket list. Although, I did have one upset. Everyone did a solo except Quest Love. I started a chant, but instead of a drum solo I got two Quest Love drumsticks thrown at me (I’m not complaining). The tall guy standing behind me caught the first one. The second one plunked me the face, and while I crouched in reaction Lance (that was the name of gentle giant standing behind me) retrieved the drumstick from the ground. So, no Quest Love drum stick for me. Huh!


Random things that happened at City Fest, but don’t  fit anywhere in the post:

A guy brought his goat and he let me pet it. Now, I want a pet goat…

Shout out to my fellow citizen who brought her own trash bag. The park was an absolute mess when we left (sadly). I have so much respect for a woman who not only used  the trash bag to clean up her family’s trash, but  she also asked other people if they had trash to throw away. Anyone who knows me, knows that I abhor, hate, detest littering. That’s why the two woman below are my heroes. #keepbirminghambeautiful




Happy Beautifying Birmingham!

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