It's Always a Shindig at Flora-Bama
The annual Shindig on the Sand music festival draws a crowd to the hottest honky-tonk on the Gulf Coast
by Amy Delcambre
It was a warm night in June when I first visited the iconic Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar so many years ago. I stood in the parking lot that straddles the Florida-Alabama border, surveying what looked like a multilevel shanty-fort and wondered: This is Flora-Bama…what’s the big deal? Where do we go in? Is it structurally sound?
The answer to the first question is held solely in the experience you have at the Flora-Bama, but I can attest that 99.9% of adults who go develop the same level of appreciation for the famous roadhouse that five year-olds do for Disney World. (I say 99.9% because there’s likely a tenth of a percent of the population who’ll never understand Flora-Bama’s magic. These people also don’t like laughter, eye contact or bacon, so it’s best they stay home anyway).
The second question is easy to answer: follow the crowd, or anywhere, depending on where you want to end up. More about that later.
Finally, yes, the Flora-Bama is extremely stable. It underwent an expansion and full renovation in 2012. However, the bar’s still held together by a combination of rock and roll, affection from patrons and the warm fuzzies used to give Bushwackers (think adult milkshakes) their potent superpowers.
The first time I went to Flora-Bama, I entered from the street side and ascended the stairs to the Deck Bar, which is adjacent to the tent stage where I’ve been told it is not okay to dance on top of the picnic tables (so, do as I say, not as I do). On busy weekend nights or for big events, like say, Shindig on the Sand, all of the stages will be occupied.
The best times at Flora-Bama come when all of the stages are booked—the bar is electric with the crowd’s collective exuberance. I treat the stages like entrees in a musical buffet, visiting each one before finding a place to land. The main stage is where most of the crowd ends up. Seats at the balcony bar fill up fast, but then again, so does space on the dance floor in front of the stage.
In the daytime, Flora-Bama becomes more family-friendly (like Disney, but with rock music and a Gulf view). I like to be as close to the water as possible, so I gravitate to the Oyster Bar on the lower level to refuel with a succulent hamburger. During Shindig on the Sand, I’m looking forward to watching the event’s headliner—Georgia-born country crooner Billy Currington—perform on the beach stage. Last year’s headliner was former American Idol winner, Alabama-native Taylor Hicks, who played at Flora-Bama long before getting national approval.
Shindig on the Sand’s 2014 line-up coming to the coast June 6–8 features 70 rock, country and blues acts from the Gulf Coast region. Though I don’t recognize every act’s name, my flip-flops are always rocked off by performances at Flora-Bama. I trust their judgment on artist picks. Thus, I don’t mind splurging on the $40 weekend pass seeing as it guarantees full three-day access to the event while ticket proceeds benefit local musicians.
The fact that the schedule probably won’t be posted until the last minute isn’t a deterrent either, because it’s Flora-Bama. No matter who performs or when, it’s always a shindig. Like I said before, Flora-Bama, like life, is just something you have to experience. So, don’t overthink it, just buy a ticket, grab a drink and pick a stage.
Find year-round concerts in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, at the Concerts at the Coast music series.