By Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
Only in the Southeastern conference would LSU football coach Les Miles be enshrined as the King of Pop in a brewery chalk mural located in the city of the Tigers’ chief rival: Tuscaloosa.
Druid City Brewing Company, a Tuscaloosa based brewery opened in November of 2012 by Bo Hicks and Elliot Roberts, has become renown by University of Alabama sports fans for its satirical chalk murals depicting Alabama coaches (and SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum) in famous works of art.
What started with a Nick Saban and Bear Bryant parody of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, dubbed The Sixteen Chapel, quickly developed into a series of humorous drawings that included Alabama football offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin in The Birth of Offense, inspired by Sandro Botticelli’s 1486 painting The Birth of Venus, a Nick Saban and Paul Finebaum rendition of Grant Wood’s 1930 piece American Gothic, entitled Alabama Gothic and first year Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson Crossing the Black Warrior River.
The latest exhibit from Druid City features LSU coach Les Miles as a Thriller-era Michael Jackson in a chalkboard masterpiece entitled, The Bayou Thriller. Sporting Jackson’s iconic white suit, the mural of Miles watches over the bar patrons with corndog in hand, sprig of grass between his teeth and a tiger cub resting on his knee.
“We started doing it with just Alabama because me and my business partner are huge Alabama fans, as well as the other sports,” Druid City Brewing Company co-owner Bo Hicks said. “Often times people take [Alabama football] too seriously, and we thought it’d be fun to turn the prism on ourselves for the Alabama drawings and show that you can still have fun.”
Known by many outside of Baton Rouge for his eccentric behavior and humorous sound bites as much as his coaching accomplishments, Miles seemed like the perfect subject for the brewery’s latest chalkboard creation.
“I like to imagine that instead of flying on a private jet, Les Miles pilots his own biplane to Media Days,” joked Hicks.
“Miles is one of our favorite coaches just because you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth, and it’s so glorious,” Hicks said. “We thought that if we were not going to do a ‘Bama themed board, then doing Les would be a lot of fun. I think we’re going to grow it to other SEC coaches to show that, at the end of the day, it’s still a game. It’s supposed to be fun, and when people take all the fun out of it, it kind of loses it’s magic. We just want to have fun!”
When asked about the mural at SEC Media Days, Miles offered a humorous self-deprecating quip.
“I am certainly a Michael Jackson fan. Everyone is a Michael Jackson fan, aren’t they?” Miles said. “I don’t necessarily think they did him any service that they put my face on his body.”
As a former indie-rocker who spent his fair share of time playing with his band at several Baton Rouge area bars, including Spanish Moon and Chelsea’s, Hicks has always felt a special connection to Louisiana’s capital city and by de facto, LSU’s head football coach.
“I’ve got a lot of friends who are LSU fans,” Hicks said. “Baton Rouge was the second home of my indie-rock band. I sort of had a connection to Baton Rouge and had friends down there, and I’ve got a lot of friends up here who are Bayou Bengals so I thought it would be a good one to start with.
“And Miles is just so freaking colorful,” said Hicks. “That man says the damnedest things. It’s beautiful really.”
Hicks, who also serves as the Druid City brewmaster typically generates the ideas for the chalkboard murals and commissions local artists to bring his SEC satire to life. One day while browsing through the brewery’s vast record collection, Hicks came across a Michael Jackson album and the idea instantly formed.
“When I opened the album up, I just saw Michael laying there in his white suit with a tiger cub on his leg and thought it would be hilarious if we had Les Miles in this pose,” Hicks said.
The result was the aptly titled The Bayou Thriller, based on Miles’ penchant for winning close games in exhilarating fashion.
“He’s been involved in so many thrilling games, I thought titling it The Bayou Thriller would be kind of fun,” Hicks said.
Ryan Watson, the previous artist of Alabama Gothic and Avery Johnson Crossing the Black Warrior River, spent two days completing The Bayou Thriller. The recent University of Alabama graduate said the Miles mural has probably been the best received work of the three murals he has drawn.
“The face is probably the most time consuming aspect because of getting the proportions right and figuring out where it’s going to be on the board,” Watson said. “The face alone took about two hours to do.”
The murals usually stay on the chalkboard for several months, but Watson admitted the hardest part of the entire artistic process is erasing his work in preparation of the next satirical idea.
“He’s been involved in so many thrilling games, I thought titling it The Bayou Thriller would be kind of fun.”
– Bo Hicks, Druid City Brewing Company Co-Owner & Brewmaster
– Bo Hicks, Druid City Brewing Company Co-Owner & Brewmaster
“They always stay up longer than we think they will,” Watson said. “It’s kind of hard to let go of something that was so popular with everybody. That’s one of the things that sucks, actually erasing it. I’ll start on the parts that I didn’t really care too much for, then the last thing I erase is whatever I thought looked the best.”
For their next chalkboard masterpiece, Hicks plans to combine Nirvana’s Nevermind cover (the album with the naked baby swimming after the dollar bill) with South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier.
“We’re going to use the iconic picture of Steve Spurrier shirtless with a Coors beer,” Hicks said. “We’re going to make it Spurrier swimming after a beer or maybe his visor.”
Hicks plans on sticking with iconic album covers for the near future because he does not want “people to have had to have taken a couple of art history classes to get our jokes.”
“We’re getting to the point where there’s not too many widely known pieces of art left,” Hicks said. “I failed out of community college. I don’t know where I know all this art from.”
On the road back from SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama last Thursday, I made a pit stop to visit the Les Miles mural in person, and the experience did not disappoint.
The mural is the first thing I saw as I entered the brewery, and it’s everything I could have hoped for: an embodiment of Miles’ signature zaniness with a dash of early 1980s Michael Jackson cool. It’s only human nature to be mesmerized by the sheer awesomeness of Watson’s chalkboard artistry.
Druid City’s walls are adorned with local art and several vintage Nintendo video gaming systems occupy one corner of the cozy brewery. “Where the Devil Don’t Stay,” by the Drive By Truckers plays in the background while I enjoy a sampling of the brewery’s wares. Druid City Brewing only plays vinyl, another fun quirk of the local establishment.
With open mic nights, local short film screenings, Nintendo 64 Goldeneye 007 tournaments and weekly trivia on the weekends, Druid City Brewing is filled with lighthearted fun, refreshing drinks and for now, The Bayou Thriller. Any Tiger fans traveling to Tuscaloosa this fall for the November 7 LSU-Alabama football game should make it a point to stop by and enjoy a cold one with some great people.
“I just wanted to make Tuscaloosa more fun and cooler for people who might want to stay,” Hicks said. “That’s my whole end, to bring a little fun to ‘ole Tuscaloosa.”
For more information about Druid City Brewing Company, visit www.DruidCityBrewing.com