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Air National Guard Band of the South will perform at the 2016 Freedom Fest on July 4.
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he Negotiators will perform at the 2016 Freedom Fest on July 4.
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Photo courtesy of Lance Shores.
The 2016 Freedom Fest will for the first time accompany the fireworks show with live music from the Band of the South.
Whether you like country music, rock ’n’ roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, pop or something else, organizers of the 2016 Freedom Fest at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium hope to have something to suit your taste on the Fourth of July.
The fourth annual music and fireworks festival will feature musicians who cover a variety of genres.
Gates open at 5 p.m., and the first musical act on the stage (about 6:30 p.m.) will be the Air National Guard Band of the South, a concert band of about 40 members based out of Tennessee who will play a set of patriotic songs.
They’ll be followed at 7 p.m. by Bailey Ingle, a 17-year-old headed into her senior year at Hoover High School and pursuing a career in country music.
Then about 7:30 p.m. comes The Negotiators, a cover band made up of musicians from the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa area who play mostly rock, but also rhythm and blues, jazz and a little bit of country.
The Negotiators cover tunes from the 1950s to present day, said Allen Barlow, the lead guitarist and bandleader who owns the Homewood School of Music.
Their set list includes songs by artists ranging from Elvis Presley and Frankie Valli to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Van Halen and ZZ Top. They also play songs by Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, Hall & Oates, The Commodores, Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, Prince, Queen, Taylor Swift, Stone Temple Pilots and Blind Melon.
“There’s a lot of versatility in the group,” Barlow said. “They’re all professionals, and they all teach, and they know how to understand the language of music in all of its dialects.”
Barlow and keyboardist Matt Wiley, a jazz piano instructor at the University of Alabama and University of Alabama at Birmingham, have been singing and playing music together since they were kids in school, Barlow said. They went to college, got their music degrees and put The Negotiators together later in life — about 12 years ago, he said. They met the other members of the group playing various gigs around town.
Jon Campbell is the lead vocalist and is at his best singing classic rock songs by groups such as Led Zeppelin, The Police and Boston, Barlow said. Steve Ramos is on the drums, and John Jackson plays bass guitar.
The three members of the horn section playing at Freedom Fest are members of The Birmingham Seven jazz group. The leader is baritone saxophonist Daniel Western, while Gary Wheat plays tenor sax, and Rob Alley plays trumpet.
The band’s size varies from two to 10 people, depending on the need, Barlow said.
The Negotiators play two to five times per month, doing mostly weddings and corporate events, and they usually play a few festivals each summer, he said. They frequently play at Otey’s Tavern in Crestline and at Superior Grill on U.S. 280 in the Inverness area. They have provided tailgate music for CBS 42 sports broadcasts at Alabama football games in Tuscaloosa, Barlow said.
They got the name from a “Star Wars” line when Obi-Wan Kenobi was called “the negotiator.” Barlow said he had been trying to think of a good band name for a long time, “and I thought that sounded kind of cool.”
Plus, it tells people they mean business when they’re negotiating how much the band will get paid, he said.
This will be the first time they’ve played in a baseball stadium, Barlow said.
“I’m excited about it. It’s close to home,” he said. “It’ll be a real fun event. We’re looking forward to the show.”
The Band of the South is the 572nd Air National Guard Unit, based out of the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base near Knoxville. The unit is made up mostly of band directors but has people from other professions as well, Tech Sgt. Chad Bailey said.
They get together to rehearse or perform about one weekend a month and for two weeks during the summer. This year, they’re spending their summer concert tour in Alabama.
In addition to the concert at Freedom Fest, they also were to perform at Vulcan Park on June 28, at a Montgomery Biscuits baseball game on June 29, at the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center on June 30 and at a Birmingham Barons game on July 3, Bailey said. A couple of brass quintets likely will perform at the Birmingham VA Medical Center sometime during the tour as well, and more concerts may be added.
This is the only Air National Guard band for the southeastern United States, so they cover a 10-state territory, Tech Sgt. Elisa Wardeska said.
Ingle, the Hoover High student who will perform prior to The Negotiators, has always enjoyed singing. She sang the national anthem at a Birmingham Barons game at age 11 and wrote her first song at age 13 when her grandmother died. But the burning desire for a music career actually became real in August 2014 when she won a radio contest and got to sing on stage with Keith Urban at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater.
That lit a fire within her, and ever since, she has been performing weekly at bars and restaurants in the Birmingham area and sometimes in other states. She sang at the Funky Fish Fry in Birmingham’s Avondale community the past two years, a hunting festival in Fairfield, Tennessee, and the SliceFest music festival in Birmingham’s Lakeview community in June.
But Freedom Fest is probably the biggest venue for her since she sang that one song with Urban in front of about 11,000 people two years ago, she said.
Last year’s Freedom Fest drew an estimated 7,000 people, while more than 10,000 came in the inaugural year of 2013 and an estimated 12,800 people showed up in 2014, organizers said.
“I’m so excited,” Ingle said. “I’m really thankful for the opportunity to get to sing for everybody there.”
The Freedom Fest will conclude with a 20-minute fireworks show at 9 p.m. “We will guarantee one of the biggest shows in Alabama,” said Erin Colbaugh, the city of Hoover’s events coordinator.
And this year for the first time, the fireworks show will be accompanied by live music, from the Band of the South, Colbaugh said. In the past, a recorded music track was used.
In between, the main musical acts will be the ZOOperstars, a group of mascot-like characters in inflatable costumes who dance to music, and the Bucket Ruckus, a percussion duo that bangs on buckets and other items.
The festival also will include inflatable play centers for kids, face painting, balloon twisters and a car show. People who want to display their cars can do so for free and are asked to arrive by 4:30 p.m. Gates for the festival open at 5 p.m. Admission is free, but concessions will be available for purchase.