Two Ladies, Some Wine, and Some Jubilee

This evening’s adventure into Cottage Hill was the medicine I needed for a twenty-four hour emotional roller coaster in my personal life. It was sweet and a celebration of a few lesser-appreciated offerings in Montgomery.

Tonight was one of the few of which the stars aligned and I was able to go out with a dear friend. We took full advantage of a sleepy Monday in Montgomery.

Our starting place was an easy choice: El Rey offers half-priced wine every Monday, which makes it especially attractive to two ladies on a shoestring budget. After raising a glass and splitting a queso, we then relocated to the Sanctuary Showdown, a sort of battle of the bands that takes place a few times a year in Cottage Hill.

The Sanctuary is a space the city of Montgomery is lucky to have. It is a repurposed church that hosts artists and events for the community. Personally, I’m most familiar with the punk rock shows that regularly occur within the Sanctuary’s walls. The character of the original church is preserved not only in the building’s name, but also in its structure. Stain glass windows and a wide open floor remind you of what was once there.

When I think of what I wish Montgomery had to offer, the Sanctuary Showdown is the kind of thing that comes to mind. Local artists flex their creative muscles for members of the community who paid nothing to get in the door and experience a new sound. Grilled cheeses and boozy beverages abound while an ASU student gifts us with a song he wrote when he was sixteen.

The event is special because it is simultaneously intimate and comfortable. Pedestalizing one’s own rawness is a tough thing to do, let alone for a room full of people voting on who will make it to the next round. But everyone is there to support each other and enjoy a grilled cheese in a weird and unexpected space, and that atmosphere makes it’s easy to also feel like you’re in your living room.

But the Showdown tonight was far from blown out. In fact, I’d say it was horribly attended, which makes me want to break something out of frustration. Quick, someone get me that wine glass I was drinking from earlier! The event should easily be packed. It’s free! It’s in an up-and-coming neighborhood! It’s local music!

Montgomery is still evolving and the Sanctuary Showdown is only more evidence to support my case. Despite being one of the only people in the room, I had a blast chatting with the musicians and enjoying the company of others who get it. If we want to control the narrative of this town, this is how we do it. The opportunities are all there.

The next time you’re bumming around with some unexpected free time, I encourage you to try to find something you’ve never done before. Take a friend. Have you been to the Planetarium yet? The Cloverdale Playhouse? That’s My Dog, Jr.?

Montgomery is waiting for you. Seize it.

Cover photo from The Sanctuary’s Facebook page.

Liz Kurtz lives in the Cloverdale-Idylwild neighborhood of Montgomery, Alabama. She has been living here on and off since 2013 and currently works at El Rey and Leroy in Cloverdale. You can email her at

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