Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Green Bar an expanding niche for original music


Green Bar is in the business of repurposing, changing a seemingly ordinary space into a distinctive locale. They’re switching to a can-only beer list, allowing for an entirely recyclable bar service and spearheading the resurgence of original music and local musicians in Tuscaloosa.

“My wife helped doing a lot of the design in here, but we wanted to be a good music venue as Green Bar,” said Bill Lloyd, owner of Green Bar and the neighboring pub Wilhagan’s. “Most of this stuff is repurposed. These big stage curtains really soften up the sound and they came from an old theater in Chicago. The benches came from a 100-year-old church in Atlanta. We try to repurpose, but give it a nice, comfortable feeling. We have so many people come through here and be like, ‘Man I feel like I’m in Athens’ or ‘I feel like I’m in New Orleans’ and we just need more people to find this place.”

In 2011, Green Bar underwent its first major renovation: Little Willie’s, a solely jazz and blues club, became Green Bar, a music venue vying for appreciation of all genres of original live music, locally and regionally based. In doing so, Green Bar became more experimental, appealing to a younger audience who want to experience sounds across the scattered map of genres: jazz and blues intermingle with jam bands, funk, garage rock and southern rock. 

“The problem with blues and jazz is most of the blues and jazz fans are a little bit older, so by 10 p.m. at night, after a couple of glasses of wine and a beer, they’re all ready to go home, which does not make for a very good business model,” Lloyd said. “So a number of years ago, we decided to change. There really wasn’t a niche of anyone really trying to do original music in Tuscaloosa, so that’s when we opened Green Bar and really started emphasizing on original music.”

The rejuvenated space fills an impressive void rather successfully. While many Tuscaloosa venues profit from cover bands, Green Bar excels at bringing on-the-cusp bands into the fold, crafting excited audiences eager for more.

On Nov. 5, 2011, the undefeated LSU Tigers beat the undefeated Crimson Tide in overtime, marking an excruciating game. While morale was low in the realm of Tuscaloosa sports, the music scene thrived. Alabama Shakes opened for The Revivalists at Green Bar. Both groups perform best for active audiences, bringing their individual jazz-based jam band sounds to the rapt Green Bar crowd. Alabama Shakes released “Boys & Girls” just a few months after playing Green Bar, an example of the hidden wealth of talent that moves through Tuscaloosa.

“St. Paul and the Broken Bones played here about three weeks before they went on Letterman’s show, so we’ve had some really good bands come through here,” Lloyd said. “People need to come see these bands before they get big. I mean, Moon Taxi played here forever, 20 times probably.”

Recently, Jackson Sparks, Green Bar’s bartender and current booking agent, has implemented a new way of introducing original touring bands to Tuscaloosa.

“Some of what Jackson has done is we’ve always had touring bands coming through from Nashville, Austin, Charlotte, Athens, some really good original music, original bands, but the people in town really don’t know the music, so they don’t have as much of a draw,” Lloyd said. “So what [Sparks has] done is try to put some local bands that have more familiarity in town and have some friends that come out as supporting acts, opening acts for these touring bands, trying to get some of those folks in and exposing them to this original music. That seems to be working better.”

On Jan. 13, Space Phunk Express opened up Green Bar’s 2018 schedule, marking a change in crowd for the venue. The stage front overflowed with rabid music fans and head bobbers. While the student jam band owned an impressive cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” the raised tables and church pews were overcrowded with students who came to hang out with friends, not necessarily for the music. 

In this way, Green Bar has bridged the gap between being a place solely for original music and being a local hangout spot. As some people are drawn to the music lineup, others are drawn to the atmosphere.

“Instead of just being a music venue, where people are coming for a certain band, we’ve tried to make it more of a happening spot, more of a bar atmosphere with music too, so you can come hang out and also listen to great music at the same time,” Lloyd said. “So we’re trying to get more people to come, and I think the awareness has been better this semester. I think that has a lot to do with Jackson and some of the local bands we’ve been bringing in too.”

Green Bar is as inclusive as a venue can be, constantly pushing for more awareness and integrating patrons into its operations, including an open jam, open mic night every Wednesday. Ham Bagby, southern rock musician and Tuscaloosa native, previously spearheaded the event. When Bagby moved to Birmingham, the event lost traction and petered out, but has recently been renewed by the Green Bar crew.

“Anybody can come play,” Sparks said. “They do an open jam, open mic format so we have a house band that can back if you just want to sit on and play for a song on guitar, or bass, or sing a song. You just come and sign up and you do a song or two and then they swap it back over to open jam.”

Despite Green Bar’s active work in renewing the Tuscaloosa music scene, specifically in its original music efforts, Sparks and Lloyd have noticed a decline in original music coming out of Tuscaloosa, leading to the prominence of cover bands, and, ultimately, students failing to seek out live music venues.

“We’re still trying to make [original music] work actually,” Lloyd said. “It’s not a big money maker at this point, but, I think there’s a large enough segment of the student population, as well as local Tuscaloosa folks, that if they’re exposed, if they know we’re here, then they will come out and support it. The more people that come out and hang out because the place is a cool spot will help support that too. We’ve had so many killer bands come through here and it’s just 20 people, so we just have to have more folks find us.”

Green Bar continues to expand its network of devout music fans, and fans of the space itself. With Christmas lights weaving through the ceiling and a consistently Brooklyn-esque feel, Lloyd and crew will continue to bring action-packed and singular live shows to Tuscaloosa, including Athens-based Southern-infused jam band Futurebirds on April 19.

Green Bar’s upcoming schedule can be found on the venue’s website:

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