Saying that this town, this Tuscaloosa, has an ebb and flow is not only a fitting description, but it works to remind us that there’s another thing happening in this town: football. You’ve heard of Nick Saban. I have, too. I’ve also heard of Trey DePriest, A.J. McCarron, Kevin Norwood, and Barrett Jones. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve heard of Shrapnel Petals, Baak Gwai, Callooh! Callay!, The Dexateens, and August Spies as well. The question begs to be asked in one way or another if the music scene thrives when our college football does or if there is a negative affect happening when the athletics boom. Does the success of the Crimson Tide on the field bring good tidings to the arts and music?
I’m no expert on either, really. I’d love to see an official study done. (Maybe someone could work on that for their thesis? C’mon graduate students!) Contrary to a few other writers in town, though, I would venture to say that when Alabama football (or basketball, or baseball, or softball) does well, there is no way that it hurts.
For the biggest, noticeable difference one only has to look at the traffic. Obviously, there are more people in town during football season and, more specifically, for football games. That’s obvious. But are they contributing anything that helps the arts and music scene grow? Are they here on Friday night to check out a new gallery opening, poetry reading, or local band? Probably not.
In fact, what seems to be the case is that many out-of-towners only know the Strip and haunt places like The Houndstooth, Rounders, and the Red Shed. What ostensibly draws them in to places that actually have live music is the familiar sound of a cover band; therefore, they aren’t really supporting an arts and music scene that could use a crowd. And they sure as shit ain’t coming back during the off season for what this town has to offer outside of sports.
So, how do they help? Well, I have actually seen several drunken people, very much out of place and out of their hometown, wander into Egan’s and stay for the original band that’s playing (you know, Egan’s — never a cover). And I’ve watched those same people stick around because they love the music. Too bad Egan’s doesn’t charge a cover on nights like those so that the band can see an increase in more than just audience enjoyment and participation.
It’d be foolish to think or even request cover bands to stop playing. There’s way too much money in that, and they enjoy themselves as much as anyone else. Granted, they draw the crowds, but there are other visiting folks that trickle into the original show.
And hopefully they’ll figure out that Tuscaloosa has a lot to offer people, both with wins on the field and bragging rights on the stages.