Review and Photos By: Mike Gerry
Savannah is one of the most beautiful cities around and a perfect setting for a small SXSW type music festival. The city has a vibrant arts & music scene being home to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). There is a load of art being created in this historic city, yet it doesn’t always have bring a ton of national touring bands through.
Savannah Stopover is in it’s fifth year of existence taking advantage of Savannah’s close proximity to Interstates 95 and 10 as all the bands tour through the south on their way to Austin for SXSW in mid March. Much like SXSW, Stopover occurs in multiple bars and venues around Savannah, from local bars to Wild Wings Cafe to a a beautiful church that regularly holds small concerts.
Unlike SXSW, there is no corporate takeover. This festival is all about the music, just how it should be. There are no long lines (we saw one legit line for Diarrhea Planet), most of the venues are all in close proximity, and easy to walk the few blocks back and forth. So easy that you are easily able to jump to multiple shows and catch parts of sets from bands all playing at the same time. This festival is a music overload, and for music obsessed people like us, it’s perfect.
Stopover has created quite the music ecosystem with fans, tourists, bands, press, everyone all together enjoying the music. You may end up in a mosh pit with a talented folk band who’s set you loved earlier while rocking out to someone like Diarrhea Planet.
Stopover really takes care of it’s patrons and artists, ensuring the ultimate experience for all. The artist’s lounge was a thing of beauty making sure these bands that stopped on their way to play, get to have the time of their life too. (Side Note: the bartender who LOVES shots in the artist lounge can go to hell – hope to see you there next year headache causing bartender) (side side note: did we mention you can take your alcohol to go in a plastic cups around Savannah? Man do we love this city and festival)
Day 3 of Savannah Stopover was chalk full of great bands we already loved, new discoveries, dancing, and lots of rock n roll!
Let’s start with some of the best of the day:
Diarrhea Planet: Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet were one of the headliners closing out the last day of Stopover starting at midnight. There was a line to get in, and the whole festival had been talking all weekend about how they had to catch this set.
Well there was no disappointing here. If you are a rock n roll fan, it’s impossible to resist. There is A LOT of hair and A LOT of guitars. They are loud with massive hooks, and a ton of shredding. So naturally Savannah moshed and closed out the festival right. Just go see these guys live, and enjoy that rock n roll is in fact, not dead.
Surprising New Discoveries We Loved:
Grand Vapids from Athens, Georgia had to be not only one of our favorite surprises, but one of the best of the festival.
Playing an early afternoon show at Hang Fire, Grand Vapids tore it up with their swirling guitars. It’s big, expansive guitars that make these guys great.
Even at their most chill song, the guitars our loud.
And these dudes love to play, having the time of their life on stage. Raw yet perfect, Grand Vapids has our attention, and should have yours. Check out their debut album Guarantees.
Hare and the Hounds is a fairly new Atlanta band, that just released their debut album A Moth, a Flame right after Savannah Stopover. We had heard snippets of these guys that sounded like a potentially beautiful piece of folk music before Savannah, and were interested in checking them.
With a full band playing in Savannah, we quickly discovered this is more than singer songwriter folk, but a full rock band that really brought a complete sound.
They mention a sound of classic literate rock, and songwriter Luke Smith certainly brings smart introspective songwriting with beautiful arrangements. After that set and the release of their debut album, we can’t get enough of these guys.
Weather (the band) is an indie rock band from Brooklyn, and throw some Boston in there. Our friends, Book Club (the band), played with Weather a day before Stopover at Sofar Sounds Athens as they were making their way down to Savannah.
We knew nothing at the time about Weather, but the guys from Book Club insisted we check them out while in Savannah. They couldn’t have been more right. Weather brought a folk lean with a lot of rock and a ton of energy, often switching instruments, vocals, etc. We loved every bit of their set. And we can’t wait to check out their debut album.
Matthew E. White already showed off his soulful chops and skilled songwriting with his first album Big Inner, now release week for his sophomore album Fresh Blood was upon him in Savannah. Playing the Trinity United Church, his first as a four piece band for the new album, there was a large contingent of fans ready to hear this great artist.
Church sounds about perfect for a man with plenty of gospel influences, but at times it takes the man himself to let the crowd know that this isn’t a sit down and take it sermon, but a fun celebration of the good word with plenty of room to dance.
While a few people were dancing on the sides, most of the crowd was sitting in the pews taking in the word. Matthew quickly pointed out a few songs in that there was plenty of room up front in the middle aisle to come dance. The crowd jumped at the opportunity, and the last night of Savannah Stopover was officially on.
This was our first time catching White, and we loved his set. He warmed the crowd right up for what was to come next in San Fermin.
Ruby the Rabbitfoot is a talented folk pop artist from Athens, Georgia who we were able to catch for the first time early in the day Saturday at Wild Wings Cafe.
Ruby has a beautiful voice with intoxicating piano driven melodies that just kicked off the day right. They were joined for a few songs by McKendrick of the Grand Vapids to round at the sound and catch the hearts of Savannah.
Always insanely great:
Trinity United Church provided a big stage for this big band to dance around on, and luckily had Matthew E. White to warm up the crowd before. Not that the crowd wouldn’t have been dancing their collect ass off with San Fermin either way. If you can’t have fun seeing these guys live, well you probably should check your pulse right this second.
Frontman Allen Tate has a growl much like The National’s Matt Berninger, and occassionally San Fermin has a somber like song in the vein of the National. Only a little.
Bringing an 8 piece band with two full time vocalists/dancers/crowd pleasers, violin, trumpet, sax, drums, guitar and keyboard, it’s hard not to feel what this band feels. And they are having fun on stage, something unresistant to the crowd.
And when trumpet player John Brandon jumped into the crowd on top of the very spot people kneel to pray to the gods above every Sunday, the crowd just below him looked up to the sky and danced. Savannah Stopover just had that moment.
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires oozes rock n roll out of every sweat drenched vein that they have. This is everything rock music is supposed to be. As they say, this is real Alabama rock-and-roll.
Whether it’s the killer guitar riffs, hair flying everywhere, loud drums, guitar solos, political statements, or some just good ole fashion rocking in the crowd, on each others shoulders, whatever it is, Lee Bains shows the crowd what it’s all about.
Their music is southern to the core, with their roots planted in Alabama. This is southern punk rock. And you have to see them live to believe it.
The most curious thing about these guys is seeing on their resume the words: Sub Pop. Sup Pop released their great 2014 album Dereconstructed. Yes, the legendary indie label out of Seattle signed these Alabama rockers, and if that doesn’t tell you just how great these guys are, no words are going to convince you.
Savannah now knows, and this was one of the best sets of the whole festival.
Tall Tall Trees is the psychedelic banjo extraordinaire, Mike Savino, who also doubles as a member of Kishi Bashi’s touring band.
Savannah got the treat to see Mike play on his birthday at Trinity United Church. A one man band, looping vocals and sounds he makes from the world’s first remote control light up banjo, Tall Tall Trees’ brand of folk music is a sight to see. Just watching him piece together a song whether playing the banjo, drumming on it, or playing it with a key chain set, the crowd is immediately enamored to watch Mike work. We have seen Tall Tall Trees a few times, opening for Kishi Bashi, or playing with, he always amazes us.
Plus the Savannah crowd got to play with the remote control to the banjo, flipping around colors throughout the set. Crowd interaction, yes please.
Reptar is another great Athens band that we have seen bring down the house a number of times. We were able to make it over to Wild Wings for their last few songs to close down Savannah Stopover right!
Reptar is an experimental dance electro indie pop band that brings the fun. We have seen them do an ATL Collective show covering a Talking Heads album, a perfect fit for Reptar. You can always catch hits of that Talking Heads influence in their songs.
Reptar had a packed out crowd for their set all dancing right along, especially as frontman Graham Ulicny hopped off stage for his last song, then proceeded to dance and sing his heart out to the crowd packed in around him.
Savannah Stopover had come to an end, and no one was quite ready for it. The music may have stopped, but the dance party continued on late into the night at the Artist’s Lounge. Savannah Stopover you were the perfect festival, minus that liver ache, we will see you next year for year 6!