A Shindig with Billy Reid
Fashion icon Billy Reid just wanted to throw a quiet party in his adopted hometown of Florence, Alabama. When a few hundred of his closest friends showed up, Shindig—an annual exclamation of the unique style of the South—was born.
Florence, Alabama seems like an unlikely place for a cultural bacchanalia that draws together some of the country’s most influential cultural minds. Sure, nearby Muscle Shoals has earned its place in the history books for the fertile grounds it provided to rock and roll acts from Elvis to Skynyrd, but otherwise there’s little to differentiate this town of just under 40,000 from the many other picturesque towns that dot the fields and forests of northern Alabama.
And yet, once a year they descend. Artists. Chefs. Musicians. Writers. They come to this small town drawn by the promise that here they’ll find common ground. They’ll join a who’s who list of attendees that in the past has included Jack White, The Civil Wars, chef Sean Brock and more. They’ll find inspiration among their fellow creatives at a weekend-long celebration of culture called Shindig, held this year from August 24-26. At the center of it all they’ll find Billy Reid, the iconic fashion designer who has made “lived-in luxury” his brand and the South his home.
South Magazine: Shindig is getting pretty close. What can you tell us about this year’s event?
Billy Reid: It’s our 10th anniversary, so there are a lot of folks who have participated in the past that will be participating or will be here for the weekend. The whole weekend involves a cultural exchange of food, music, fashion, photography and art all coming together in this one spot, but I’ll give you some of the highlights. We host a big ticketed dinner that sells out pretty quickly, but we have some amazing chefs involved, like Frank Stitt from Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham; we have Sean Brock; we have Rodney Scott and John Currence, all James Beard Award-winning chefs who will participate at different spaces.
All of those guys have participated in the past. Some of the music highlights, we have Kacey Musgraves headlining Saturday Night. St. Paul & the Broken Bones headlining Friday night and we have some really great up-and-coming bands. The War and Treaty, a terrific band out of Maryland… and some other cool things we’re waiting to confirm. We try to keep it a diverse mix of things and cover a lot of genres and a lot of sounds.
SM: With one of the missions of Shindig being redefining Southern, you almost have to reach through a few different forms of expression.
BR: Well, things are a lot less regional these days, too. Our tastes span way beyond just the South. We just look for like-minded people that can fit the vibe. We don’t discriminate on where you’re from. Nothing is regional anymore. Information and the exchange of ideas and culture, that’s completely broken down. The same thing you see in Brooklyn, you see here in Florence, Alabama. It’s not much different to be honest with you. But…it’s hard not to get some of the local flavor. I don’t think we need to tell anyone we’re southern. I think they know that. The minute you put Florence, Alabama on the address they figure it out.