Mobile Street Music Fest showcases UNA talent


Whitney Veazey, Staff Photographer

Right next to Graffiti Alley in downtown Florence sits Mobile Street, the venue of choice for Marina McMullen’s senior capstone project: The Mobile Street Music Fest.

Performing bands included Wanda, Patticake, The TVA’s and Je55. 

The Wanda Band, consisting of frontwoman Wanda Wesolowski and bandmates Andrew Sharpe and Nick Recio, has gained local notoriety since releasing their debut album “One-Hit” in 2020. The band recently performed in October as part of Jason Isbell’s annual ShoalsFest lineup and is in the midst of developing their second album. The band’s sound contributes to the local southern indie rock scene, thus drawing a younger crowd into the aforementioned ShoalsFest this year.

PattiCake, the only performing group from outside the Shoals, was formed by University of Alabama students and based in Tuscaloosa. The band includes lead vocalist and saxophonist Hadden Langley, drummer and bassist Ethan Moore, guitarist and bassist Avery Mellen, drummer Patrick Dutton and manager Maddy Engels. The group combines rock and roll with bluesy saxophone solos to create an engaging set list, which on Mobile Street ranged from a cover of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Brutal” all the way to their first original single “Street Henny Blues” – a cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking from a bottle of liquor found on the roadside. 

The TVAs are a new group comprised of vocalist and guitarist Hunter McClendon, pianist Simon Edwards and drummer Thomas Baker. The three officially became a band around two months ago after being in the UNA jazz band and writing music together.

“I personally think we have a[n] indie country or folk funk kind of sound. We definitely try and write things with the Shoals influence in mind too,” said Edwards.

According to Edwards, the TVAs are striving to release their debut album, “Lost Cause,” as soon as possible. It will also include all of the music performed at the festival.

Je55 – formerly known as Jess and The Drunkles – consists of lead vocalist Jess Downey, rhythm guitarist Wes Stricklin, drummer Dax Morris and lead guitarist Jonathan Moody. The band recently went through a name change for the sake of their plans to release music in early 2023. The close-knit group performs in a variety of genres ranging from classic rock to pop, and most original songs hold to the theme of trying to figure out life as a young adult. 

The group’s manager, Marina McMullen, was the creator and coordinator of Mobile Street Music Fest. As an entertainment industry major, her senior seminar class required a senior project.

McMullen had experience in hosting a concert as a school project before and said she chose the Mane Room because it was free to use. This time, however, McMullen said she wanted to challenge herself to do something different from everyone else. 

The idea of renting out Mobile Street wasn’t entirely new to McMullen. Someone had suggested the idea to her before, and when she asked her teacher about it, she was referred to the city office, where she was informed that all she would need to rent out Mobile Street was $10 and a permit. 

McMullen said that finding acts to perform was quite easy as well. As manager of Je55, she reached out to her band first.

The next person she knew she wanted to have performing was Hunter McClendon, someone who she believes is “great to work with,” and invited the TVA’s to perform as a group. 

She also reached out to Wanda Wesolowski, whom she had been in class with and became friends with, to perform as The Wanda Band. Meanwhile, she debated on having a fourth artist.

Eventually she reached out to PattiCake, in which she had a mutual contact through Jess Downey, who had gone to high school with PattiCake’s drummer and bassist, Ethan Moore. Moore also filled in during Je55’s set for Wes Stricklin, who had unfortunately ruptured his eardrum earlier in the week.

McMullen was personally responsible for financing the entire event, so she started a GoFundMe which reached its $1,000 goal within just two weeks. She said she also received several additional donations for a combined total of around $1,300. 

The event was additionally sponsored by Wildwood Tavern and All the Best, who both donated gift cards to be used in the giveaway.

McMullen said she is open to passing Mobile Street Music Fest along to someone from next year’s senior class to continue as their project. However she said she would advise anyone after her to focus more on one task before moving onto the next.

“There’s a lot of projects within this one project, and I’d say get everything together for one before you move to the next one,” said McMullen.

With a wide breadth of musical talent present at UNA, McMullen said she believes it is important to give students a chance to perform off campus. As part of the Entertainment Industry department, she says she’s noticed that many talented students often lack the connections to book local gigs.

“I love Florence, but it just like- advertises everyone being able to play everything and that there’s so many opportunities when the same four bands get booked everywhere,” said McMullen, “It’s not the best scene for the younger crowd I guess, and I just kinda wanted to make another little space for people to play.”

McMullen said that many venues in Florence don’t cater to college-aged performers. 

“I think the Shoals music scene is missing out on UNA students as a whole…Like the Mane Room is the only thing that is for UNA students, and Florence is just completely dodging that. They’re not advertising to the UNA crowd…” said McMullen, “I’m literally in the Entertainment department and I rarely hear about anything other than seeing a poster at Rivertown or something like that.”

McMullen said she believes UNA is taking a step in the right direction by hosting open mic nights at the Mane Room as an opportunity for all students, including those outside of the Entertainment department, to express their talent.