HALEYVILLE - There is an even bigger reason to celebrate during Haleyville’s 9-1-1 festival Friday, June 4, and Saturday, June 5, as front line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic will be among the first responders honored.
High energy live performances placed multi-awarding winning country superstars Sawyer Brown at the top of the list to claim the headliner spot for the 2021 Haleyville 9-1-1 festival, which will kick off June 4, downtown. The concert will take place on a stage set up in the large parking lot behind the Haleyville Public Library.
When the 9-1-1 Festival had to be cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers vowed it would return bigger and better than ever in 2021, with Sawyer Brown - who was set to be the headline act in 2020 - promising to come perform as the headline act in 2021.
That promise will soon become a reality, as the line-up of top-notch live entertainment scheduled for the festival last year, including Sawyer Brown, will grace the stage of the 9-1-1 Festival this year.
Other live acts to perform that night include the Taylor Nix Band, Georgia Thunderbolts and Resurrection: A Journey Tribute.
“I feel the town is ready,” said Brandon Norris, 9-1-1 Festival committee member who annually organizes the Friday night concert. “People are ready to experience a simulance of normal life after we’ve been cooped up the past year.
“We’re fortunate that these are the artists that had signed for last year’s show, were very gracious and were willing to just move the date and play this year because we were in a time of uncertainty last year at this time at what was going to happen,” Norris added. “It was new to all of us.”
The concert line-up was announced last year in February, but the state began shutting down in March due to the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
“It was a little overwhelming. You work all those months to put a show together, to get it cancelled,” Norris said. “Here we are today going to see it through.”
Rather than dwelling on the past, organizers are looking forward with optimism toward a festival that will not only feature live entertainment, but recognize first responders and emergency workers during the concert.
The 9-1-1 Festival celebrates the heritage of the nation’s first 9-1-1 call being made 53 years ago on Feb. 16, 1968 in Haleyville.
The music will kick off with the Taylor Nix Band, comprised of four individuals from Hamilton, including cousins Taylor Emerson and Cody Bass on drums and lead guitar, respectively, as well as brothers Colby and Connor Nix. Colby handles lead vocals, and Connor plays bass.
This will mark the Taylor Nix Band’s first performance at the Haleyville’s 9-1-1 festival, Norris said.
The band, formed in 2014 under the name First Born Sons, has performed at local and area festivals and events, he said.
Following the Taylor Nix Band will be The Georgia Thunderbolts, from Rome, Ga., performing their special brand of southern rock.
The last time this band performed at the Haleyville 9-1-1 festival was for the 50th anniversary of the 9-1-1 call in 2018, taking the stage on Main Street across from the Dixie Theater on day two of the festival.
“Think of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band and the Allman Brothers when it comes to these guys,” Norris pointed out. “Southern rock through and through.”
The magnolias, cotton and peaches in Rome and Taylorsville, Georgia, have provided the perfect scenario for the Georgia Thunderbolts to dream and create their own unique style of music in the same environment that spawned James Brown, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers band.
The Georgia Thunderbolts rise up with a scorching signature style steeped in soulful southern swagger, blistering blues and raw rock.
On their self-titled debut EP for Mascot Records, the quintet—TJ Lyle (vocals, harp, piano); Riley Couzzourt (guitar); Logan Tolbert (guitar); Zach Everett (bass, harmony vocals, keyboards) and Bristol Perry (drums)—conjure a tried-and-true spirit through a fresh fire.
The third group to perform this year will be Resurrection: A Journey Tribute, performing nothing but music by the classic rock band Journey.
“They are going to be super high energy, big humongous voice,” Norris explained.
“It gets bigger the deeper we go into the night,” Norris said.
Resurrection: A Journey Tribute is considered to be the gold standard by which all Journey tributes are measured, faithfully recreating the experience of a 1980s Journey concert.
This dynamic and compelling band has featured some of Nashville’s hottest musicians, many whom have performed, written or recorded with the biggest names in the music industry - including Journey and Steve Perry, Journey’s former lead man and the voice behind all their classic hits.
Every show is a brilliant reproduction of sights and sounds that captivate and transport audiences to the glorious age of arena rock.
Fans across the country, including Steve Perry and Journey purists, rave that Resurrection: A Journey Tribute is the Journey experience.
All of these acts will build the excitement leading into the headline act, Sawyer Brown. Formed in Nashville, Sawyer Brown has been a top-notch performing group since the 1980s, known for their high energy level during concerts, having performed more than 4,500 shows worldwide, said Norris.
“The number one thing I was looking for was high energy, live shows,” Norris stated about all the acts who will be performing this year.
This desire was built upon the incredible live performance by country artist Neal McCoy as the headline act for the 2019 9-1-1 festival, Norris indicated.
“I knew whoever we got this year would have to be comparable to Neal’s live shows,” he pointed out. “That was my number one priority, looking at how good a live show, a live performance (could be).
“I am super excited,” Norris stated. “This show is built on high energy and crowd interaction, great vocals, great live performance.
“No matter what their (the audience’s) taste of music is, (the audience) needs to be there to see this show,” added Norris. “The show will stand on its own merit. They need to be there to see it.”
Since their debut on “Star Search” in the early 1980s, Sawyer Brown has released 23 studio albums with more than 50 charting singles, including three number 1 singles on the Hot Country Songs charts.
The group has brought home a stellar group of awards from the CMA, ACM, CMT and Music City News. The five-man band includes singer Mark Miller, keyboardist Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard, lead guitarist Shayne Hill, bassist Jim Scholten and drummer Joe Smyth.
Safety protocols to be followed
Governor Kay Ivey is expected to announce April 9, that the mask ordinance for the state is no longer in effect. This will reflect how this year’s 9-1-1 festival is approached, concerning masks, social distancing and other safety protocol, organizers said.
If they feel more comfortable doing so, people can wear masks or spread out from people.
“For the people who come, we are going to have to hold our own responsibility on our selves,” said Norris. “This is a commonsense approach we are going to try to take with this, and hopefully it will pay off.”
Also, plans have been announced by President Joe Biden to open up COVID-19 vaccinations to everyone beginning in May.
“This will certainly help in our endeavors to see this festival happen,” Norris said.
There should be no limitations placed on the crowd size by the time the festival arrives, organizers believe.
“We can’t police people. I really don’t think we can police them in this type of environment,” Norris said regarding attendees practicing personal safety. “Everybody has got to take accountability for their own safety when it comes to the virus.”
Mayor says festival is needed
Haleyville Mayor Ken Sunseri stresses the festival’s overall theme is to honor first responders, whether it be through the pandemic or others who put their lives on the line daily.
“The first responders have done a fantastic job throughout 2020, and they continue to do a great job,” Sunseri pointed out. “Anything we can do to recognize their efforts is important to us.
“We’re excited to go ahead and have the 9-1-1 festival,” Sunseri added. “We think it’s a needed event to have at this point in time after being isolated for a year.”
The 9-1-1 Festival Committee and Haleyville Area Chamber of Commerce are pleased to bring back the events and activities for which the 9-1-1 has become known.
The festival will continue activities in its usual format throughout the evening on Friday, June 4, and Saturday, June 5.
“We take pride in planning and executing an event that honors our first responders, supports our downtown merchants and is free to the public,” a committee member stated.
“However, all of this would be in vain without our sponsors. The support you have shown over the years has been tremendous and is reflected in the caliber of our event each year.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.