Celebrating its fifth year, the Savannah Stopover Music Festival was held March 5-7 in venues all around Savannah, Georgia. As impishly implied in the name, the Stopover offers touring bands on their way over to SXSW a chance to play for an open and receptive audience, so it’s a great way to catch some acts before their big breaks in Austin.
Eighty degree weather welcomed those who were able to arrive on the first day of the festival. Unfortunately for much of the rest of the country, the weather wasn’t so pleasant. Due to the 4-7 inches of snow predicted to fall along the northeast that day, a handful of bands had to cancel, including ASTR who was one of the main draws that evening. Still, there was more than enough to see and do the rest of the night. The festival kicked off with a special show featuring Turbo Fruits and Southern Culture On The Skids. Both bands did not disappoint and the crowd was excited, especially for some Southern Culture.
Once the opening party ended it was time to be released into town, fans now dispersing on their own to follow their unique schedules of shows they wanted to see. First was the L.A. post-punk band Corners (which includes the touring bassist for Father John Misty) who drew a packed house at Hang Fire and answered with an excellent show. With a somewhat similar sound and also having got their start at The Smell in L.A., Cobalt Cranes followed with what they call “California Grunge.” Once they finished it was over to Wild Wing Café to see the many members in ELEL perform.
Day two on Friday had a slower start, as many of the earlier bands had a softer sound to them, I guess to lull us out of our hangovers and help pace ourselves for the long day ahead. First up was Emilyn Brodsky playing solo back at Hang Fire. Normally with a band in tow, she mentioned she’d been driving by herself from New York down the east coast, also on her way to SXSW. She also released her new music video this day and had funny and sarcastic anecdotes in between sincere songs played on her ukulele. Due to another snow storm in Nashville, some bands had to cancel that day as well.
So it was over to the Trinity United Church which set up a beautiful stage for some of the more ornate bands to play, including Rocco DeLuca. His slide guitar sounded sinister at times, reminiscent of scary, country-gothic backwoods images from the movies, adding to a great, awe-inducing performance. Next, a dinner break before the evening shows, which started off with a bang at the Jinx for local Savannah band, Crazy Bag Lady. Their frontman is a true showman, bounding all over the stage and commanding an audience that ate it up and gave it right back to him. Next up was Capsula from South America, who also put on a great rock ‘n roll show full of energy and enthusiasm. Rounding out the night was All Them Witches, who started off a bit jam-y but ended with some really solid and heavier songs.
Day three started off nicely with Brooklyn’s Little Racer and their UK-inspired guitar pop, another good band with enough energy to get you to shake off that hangover and start dancing around. Then back over to the United Church for the solo act Tall Tall Trees and his homemade “banjotron.” Along with its original purpose of being a banjo, it also enables him to record effects to be looped, as well as utilizing it as a percussion instrument. He even has a remote control that controls the LED lights inside the banjotron that he tossed into the audience to let fans change up colors, which added a nice (if sometimes dizzying) effect. He definitely showed off his unique talents and made some new fans that day, packing most of the pews full. Following him was Parlour Tricks (formerly Lily & the Parlour Tricks) who also filled the church nicely with their retro-pop harmonies and synchronized dance moves.
Once evening fell, it was back to the Jinx to close out the night. This event sparked the first sighting of long lines of folks waiting to get in. Savannah duo Wet Socks got it going with their fuzzy garage rock to a packed house that never thinned out. Next was Houston’s Fat Tony, whose DJ got the crowd dancing before Fat Tony himself came out to perform his smart alecky songs, dedicating one to, “Anyone who has ever felt hungry.” Seemingly having too much fun and perhaps playing over his time limit, Fat Tony and his DJ still entertained until the last minute. Again another local Savannah band, Cusses, came along, bringing in their own LED lights too to help set the mood for their dirty, fuzzy rock ‘n’ roll, with singer Angel Bond owning the stage. And finally, closing out the evening was Nashville’s four guitar-filled band, Diarrhea Planet, who had the crowd jumping and pushing each other around the entire time, and even sparking a few topless crowdsurfers.
A great end to a great night, and a really wonderful festival overall, which had enough diversity for any music fan to find something to jump along too. The whole vibe of the Savannah Stopover in general is nothing but positive, and due to it’s laid back, southern nature, everyone and everything is just a little more charming than your usual overwhelming big music fest.
Photos by Alix Piorun