We’re now full steam ahead into music festival season with one popping up seemingly every weekend from now into the Summer. If you live in the Southeast there are all different types of festivals to choose from, from watching huge bands in a huge field at Bonnaroo to watching hip bands on the beach at Hangout Festival, you get to have your pick. The way SouthSounds is organized is one of my favorite types of festival. One where you get to enjoy what a city has to offer, get in touch with the local culture, and catch a handful of big headliners while you’re at it.

SouthSounds took place over three days, centered around the main stage in the heart of Mobile in Cathedral Square and then spread over several bars and clubs just a short walk from there. This year’s lineup was especially strong, with Explosions in the Sky being the biggest name on the bill, and then filled out from there with rising acts from throughout the Southeast and top local bands. This year’s lineup featured several South Carolina acts including the Marcus King Band, The Artisanals, Young Mister, and She Returns from War. For us, it felt like we were home.

The city of Mobile and everyone involved with SouthSounds couldn’t have been more welcoming. The gulf city feels like a mix between Charleston and Columbia, with rich coastal history surrounding you as you walk the streets, but still a city with something to prove to its guests as it works to rebuild its downtown scene. For SouthSounds the layout couldn’t have worked any nicer, with Cathedral Square serving as the heart of the festival, every venue was a short flat walk just minutes away, easy to bounce around and catch a couple of acts in one hour if you’re feeling up to it. And you get to bring your drink along with you on the street, something we enjoyed in Savannah at Stopover festival, but something that just doesn’t fly in any South Carolina cities.

This years festival kept true to its roots offering a variety of genres, from R&B and hip-hop to Americana and everything inbetween, some of the biggest hits of the festival were Big Freedia which poured over into the streets as the Queen of Bounce danced in a huge crowd behind the stage as the cameras filming her reality show followed. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band lit up the backstage of O’Daly’s for what ended up being a warm up for Big Freedia. Most of the crowd from that show ended up walking in a pack from venue to venue. This was all after Explosions in the Sky. Quite a variance in genres there.

As far as the South Carolina bands go, they all received especially warm welcomes. Mobile’s like a second home for some of these bands, who are returning to SouthSounds after playing in year’s past. You really couldn’t go to a show without seeing someone else in a High Divers tee.

The one regret I have is missing Marcus King Band at Soul Kitchen on Sunday night. We’d been looking forward to that set, but we faced an all night drive and knew it wasn’t a wise decision to check out that late night set. Maybe we’ll catch them at SouthSounds next year.

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