WHERE MUSIC AND COMMUNITY COLLIDE
A look at one of Tuscaloosa’s favorite live music venues
A center of community and growth — that’s what the Druid City Brewing Company, a Tuscaloosa-based taproom and live music venue, strives to be. Founded in 2012 by Bo Hicks and Elliott Roberts, DCBC is best known for being a place where local artists, musicians, and writers come to share their work with a diverse and supportive community, as well as their products.
Sitting at a table on the patio, I’m across from Hicks, the head brewer. Van Halen’s “5150” is spinning inside; they keep a collection of vinyl and encourage customers to play their favorites. He reflects with enthusiasm about the crowd here.
“Our community is very eclectic. It includes professors, students, artists, working-class folks, and lawyers,” Hicks said. “It’s a melting pot where you’re exposed to more than your own insular circles, which can become like an echo chamber. This is a place to exchange ideas and learn about perspectives that might be completely unfamiliar. Personally, it’s made me a better, well-
Tyler Marshall, DCBC’s booking agent, shared a similar perspective. “Spending time and working at DCBC has impacted me immensely. It’s given me a chance to explore doing something that I really love that not a lot of people get the chance to do,” Marshall said. “I’ve made a lot of friends at DCBC that, I hope, will be in my life for a very long time. It’s been pretty great being able to work at my favorite hang out spot. I’d probably be there anyway, so why not book some bands?”
It’s clear that DCBC values authenticity. They host original bands and singer-songwriters, as well as open-mic nights every Sunday.
“It’s great to see both upcoming artists and people we have no business booking here,” Hicks said.“We don’t charge a cover, and I think people like that. Tyler Marshall and I coordinate the shows. Even if an artist doesn’t fit into our personal tastes, we believe in supporting what’s original and musically valuable.”
To Marshall, the shows bring a sense of creativity to the city. “Depending on who we book, we always have the chance to pull in new people. I hope that we do a good job of bringing original, diverse music to Tuscaloosa that you might not hear on The Strip or Downtown. We do our best to promote local and regional acts, but we also love getting touring bands that might just need a show to help them get to a bigger city. DCBC can become a home away from home for some of these bands, which is really heartwarming,” Marshall said.
The music played here is pretty inclusive; patrons could listen to Americana, bluegrass, metal, indie, and Irish folk all in the same week. For up-and-coming local musicians, this is the place to be. Hicks describes the open-mic nights as “featuring a range of skill levels, whether it’s experienced performers or those just beginning to play.” There’s no need to be nervous about it, though. Hicks recounts performing for the first time as being truly fulfilling.
“Before I played, I thought it was one of the most terrifying things I’d ever do, but the crowd was so supportive that I felt enveloped by a warm and fuzzy glow,” Hicks said.
Inside, the atmosphere is comfortable, and walls feature seriously impressive (and hilarious) local artwork. There’s a chalk-art display behind the bar; Nick Saban, the head football coach at The University of Alabama, is portrayed as the character Thanos from Marvel’s “Infinity War,” wearing several National Championship rings.
Ben Smith, a freshman Honors College student from Hudson, Wisconsin, enjoyed the live music aspect of his visit the most. “The music I heard was mostly country and rock, which follow my tastes pretty well. If you like to sit outside and enjoy free music, it’s a great place to go,” Smith said.
Whether it’s DCBC’s varied customer base or quirky aesthetic, this speaks to Tuscaloosa’s character, and the future that its residents hope for.
“To me, this represents an extension of what I’ve always wanted for this town,” Hicks said. “Some wish for the city to imitate Athens or Florence — I want Tuscaloosa to be Tuscaloosa. The beer is great, and it obviously brings in a lot of people, but seeing the friendships that have developed here is immensely rewarding.” It’s not the region, the colleges, or the sports that make Tuscaloosa unique. Rather, it’s the people who live here. Establishments like DCBC help to expand the identity of the city beyond that of a college town. While UA clearly plays a large role in the culture of living here, there’s more to Tuscaloosa than being the place where the Crimson Tide wins football games.
When Marshall was asked what sets DCBC apart from similar establishments, he said, “DCBC is unique and inclusive because we support local art! Whether that be through music, visuals, or readings. We’re a brewery where you can come watch a Bama game with the biggest fans in town one night, and then show up
the next night to see a punk band from New York City. I think that’s what makes us special.”
Visit the Druid City Brewing Company at 607 14th Street Tuscaloosa, AL 35401.
To learn more about their events, be sure to check out their
Facebook page here:https://www.facebook.com/DruidCityBrewingCompany/.