Last month, a reporter asked Billy Reid to name the best thing that had happened to him so far in 2012. Easy, he said: getting a new pontoon boat.
Never mind that whole CFDA Award for Menswear Designer of the Year honor back in June. That was great, for sure. But when you live in The Shoals—the name given to the group of quirky little towns near the Tennessee River in northern Alabama that includes legendary music haven Muscle Shoals and Florence, Reid’s adopted hometown and location of his flagship store—you’ve got to have your priorities straight.
Billy Reid’s priorities have always included giving back to the good folks in his neck of the woods, whom, for the last four years, have been integral to the success of Shindig, the annual music, fashion, and food festival that has become his signature event. “One of our favorite things about the weekend is the blending, having folks in from all over the country mixing with all of our local friends,” said Reid, whose wife, Jeanne, and kids took part in the weekend. “We love being able to play host for our community.”
Like any good host, Reid made absolutely sure that no one went away hungry. If anyone went away hungry, well, that was their problem: Food was everywhere.
Shindig kicked off on Friday night with a picnic in the backyard of one of Florence’s many stately homes, featuring Alabama seafood prepared by Chris Hastings of Birmingham’s Hot & Hot Fish Club. Hastings’ support staff included Reid’s fellow Florentine fashion designer Natalie Chanin’s son, Zach, who recently opened a catering company in town. “It was definitely one of my joys of the weekend to see Zach so happy with all these great chefs,” Chanin said. “I said to him, ‘There are some of the best chefs of the South here—no, make that some of the best chefs in America.’ He agreed.”
Later that night, the much (and deservedly) ballyhooed band Alabama Shakes headlined at the retro-cool Shoals Theater, where the stage featured a giant Alabama state flag backdrop and quirky hanging light fixtures fashioned by Chanin’s longtime beau, local folk artist Butch Anthony. Shakes leader Brittany Howard, a wild-haired, big-voiced native of Athens, a town just a few miles to the east, gave a stunning vocal performance, bringing the crowd to their feet multiple times. “I’ve been all over the world,” said Howard, whose band had a stint opening for Jack White earlier this year, “and I never feel more at home than I do back here in Alabama.” Continue Reading ““A Banjo Is Not A Flotation Device”: A Report From Billy Reid’s Florence, Alabama, Shindig” »