For the past decade, local dwellers and award winning creators alike have flocked to Muscle Shoals, Ala. for the annual music, food and arts festival, Billy Reid Shindig. Known for his distinct take on southern style, Shindig is curated and hosted by fashion designer Billy Reid, whose pieces have been worn by the likes of Daniel Craig, Ryan Gosling and Idris Elba. Reid set up his flagship store in his wife Jeanne’s hometown of Florence, Ala. in 2001, building his global brand from a storefront in the historic town, known as the home of the iconic FAME Studios.
Since launching the annual Shindig in 2009, Reid has drawn from his vast network of designers, chefs and musicians whom he’s worked with as clientele or met through mutual friends, bringing their talents to the heart of Muscle Shoals. Grammy Award winning acts such as Kacey Musgraves, Jason Isbell and Del McCoury Band have performed in years past, while famous chefs ranging from Jim ‘N Nick’s Donald Links to Raleigh-based Cheetie Kumar of acclaimed India and Asia inspired restaurant Garland have brought their esteemed dishes to the festival.
“I think they each have their own personal story,” Reid tells Sounds Like Nashville about the artists and chefs he invites to the Shindig. “We look for that story, we look for that uniqueness.” The festival not only immerses attendees who come from around the globe in the culture of Muscle Shoals, but gives them insight into southern artistry. “I think we try to show a side of the south that maybe people don’t perceive is here,” Reid continues. “I think it captures the fact that people are creating things, people are making things. There’s an energy here, there’s also a cultural history.”
Between Reid’s personal relationships with the hand picked talent, along with the camaraderie of the Muscle Shoals community, the laid-back festival is akin to a family reunion. The 2019 soiree finds Reid’s friend and longtime Shindig supporter Jack White reuniting with his band, The Raconteurs, on Friday (Aug. 23) for one of their first performances in eight years with a sold out show at the Shoals Theatre. On Saturday (Aug. 24), he and his team, Jack White’s Warstic Woodmen, and Reid’s Alabama Slammers face off in a game of sandlot baseball before Margo Price takes the stage for a headlining show. Drivin N Cryin, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Blind Boys of Alabama are also slated to perform throughout the weekend. Guests can look forward to cuisine prepared by James Beard Award winning chefs John Currence, Rodney Scott, who will be serving up his famous barbecue sauce, Kelly Fields of beloved New Orleans bakery Willa Jean and more. Reid will also debut his spring 2020 line during a private fashion show.
“We look for diversity in all sorts of ways, and I think that’s why you do see such a eclectic and diverse group of people,” Reid explains. “They’re all here and they’re mixing with the locals here and it creates a really cool energy.”
When detailing the dynamic of the festival, Reid describes it as juxtaposition between tangible and intangible, citing the blend of live performers and elite chefs offering delectable bites as the palpable aspects. But one of the storied designer’s favorite activities of the event is the people watching, observing individuals from different regions uniting over quality food, impeccable music and reveling in the community of the humble town. “I think that’s the intangible. The energy, the vibe that comes from that, it’s a feeling more than it is a thing,” Reid says. “It’s the people that make it.”
Billy Reid Shindig 2019 takes place throughout Muscle Shoals from Aug. 23 – 25. All access passes are still available for purchase, along with tickets for Price’s show at the Shoals Theatre.