Savannah Stopover 2015: Review + Photos
Stopover may have wrapped up a few weeks ago, but Savannah is still buzzing about what was certainly the biggest year for the festival yet. While Savannah Stopover has steadily grown in the five years it’s been going, this year marked a major leap. The 2015 festival featured over 100 acts over the course of three days at nine different venues across downtown Savannah. While the city was wrapped up not only with pre-St. Patrick’s Day festivities in addition to various other events that were going on downtown, for certain Stopover stole the show and the attention of tourists and locals alike. Here’s a little wrap up from myself on the Thursday night opening festivities as well as Sarah’s review of Friday and Saturday. If you missed out, there’s start planning for next year!
Thursday, March 5th
Stopover may have gotten off to a wet start but that didn’t hinder the crowd from making the trek to the Trustee’s Garden to check out the opening events for the festival this year. The kickoff party at the new venue to the festival began with The Wave Slaves, a group of Savannah locals who served up some awesome surf rock that included some originals as well as the classics of the greats like The Ventures and Dick Dale. Following The Wave Slaves came Nasheville’s Turbo Fruits. If there was ever a band that could be described as the epitome of modern rock and roll, Turbo Fruits could easily be that band. Their no frills, straight up, rock and roll style was fierce and slightly gritty, just the way it should be. Wrapping up the kickoff party was Southern Culture on the Skids. With songs that varied from surf rock to rockabilly, it was easy to see why they’ve been at it for well over 20 years. Southern Culture on the Skids matched their expertise of their instruments with a good bit of humor and genuinely looked like they were having just as much fun on stage as the people in the audience. Besides, how could anyone not be into a band that sings about fried chicken?
After a stellar opening event, I was a little worried that the rest of the night would have trouble living up to the start of the festival, especially since several bands had to cancel due to inclement weather that hampered some flights. Thankfully, my concerns were totally misplaced. Even after their excellent set at the beginning of the night, Turbo Fruits weren’t done and stepped up to the plate to cover one of the sets for one of the artists that had to cancel their show later on in the night. If that’s not work ethic, I don’t know what is.
I kicked off the latter part of my evening by catching LA’s Corners down at one of my favorite spots in town, Hang Fire. Their garage rock style was a perfect fit for the bar and made for a perfect start. Following Corners, I booked it to another of my favorite haunts downtown, The Jinx, to catch Alanna Royale. A good friend had informed me that she was an act not to be missed and Ms. Royale and her band certainly lived up to that expectation. Alanna’s commanding presence on stage may have been the only thing that overshadowed her powerful voice as she belted out soulful R&B tunes. Unfortunately, and expectedly with a festival this size, I had to cut my time with Alanna Royale a bit short to jet back to Hang Fire in order to catch Cobalt Cranes, another must see act of the festival for me. Another group out of LA, Cobalt Cranes’ hazy, indie rock style was right up my alley. Sometimes heavy, sometimes poppy, they were certainly one of my favorite acts of the night.
After Cobalt Cranes, it was time to head back down to The Jinx one last time to catch the headliner for the evening, PitchBlak Brass Band. I missed PitchBlak last year, and after catching them this year I’m sorry that I made that mistake (like I said, with a lineup this big, schedule conflicts are bound to happen). The New York natives combine, much as one would expect from the name, brass instrumentation along with other instruments to create a live backing track for hip hop. Sousaphone, guitar, trumpets, saxophone, French horn all blend into a masterful track with several different members of the band alternating as the MC. With a majority of the members boasting backgrounds in some of New York’s finest art academies, it’s no wonder PitchBlak was a headliner for the festival. They made for an epic ending to what was only the start of a terrific weekend!
– Petee Worrell
Friday, March 6th
My Stopover started a day behind due to some timing issues unfortunately, but day two more than made up for that. My first stop was to deliver coffee and make a game plan with Petee. This worked out well for me because it set the bar high with Emilyn Brodsky at Hangfire. I’m a sucker for a ukulele, and even more so when a solo singer engages not just in conversation and banter, but does so in a way that is both witty and funny, such as allowing the audience to choose the topic of the next song – heartbreak or death (apparently the winner is always death). On albums, she has a backing band, but I personally, like her a little more as a solo artist. Her lyrics are simple and sincere, and she has a voice that embodies that beautifully. I only caught the first few songs of The Prettiots. They already had my interest as an all- female, ukulele fronted (another one!!) “indie-girl-pop-but-not-shitty” band, but honestly, they won me over when they started talking about Law and Order: SVU. I honestly thought I had made it up, but I didn’t! They were in fact singing about Elliot Stabler. Night = Made. However, I’ve read elsewhere and am in agreement, that while they write songs about boys and dating, they do so “without all the Taylor Swift-esque nonsense.” Unfortunately, I had to leave early to catch Family and Friends upstairs at Ampersand. The local Athens band has made a name for themselves recently and with good reason; they put on a festive live show that puts a little pep in everyone’s step until the whole room is dancing.
Their name is fitting, because they are the family and you, the audience, are their friends. Wishing I could stay longer, but having to leave to catch Rocco DeLuca, I bopped over to a new venue for Stopover this year – Trinity United Methodist Church. Built in 1848, the oldest church in Savannah seems an unlikely place to host a music festival, but it’s surprisingly not. Currently host to the Trinity Sanctuary Concert series, adding it as a festival stop seems a logical step. Ever since I saw his name on the line-up, I knew that I would be at this show. Long before Spotify, if I heard a song I liked I would go ahead and buy the CD. This didn’t always end up in my favor, but with I Trust You to Kill Me, it did. Now a solo artist, it’s easy to see that his strength is in his simplicity. This was definitely the kind of show that was meant to be heard and experienced in the moment, rather than to take pictures of and dance to, in contrast to the show before and the show after. But that’s not a bad thing. It was nice to be reminded in this day of social media to actually be present. Also fascinating was watching him play a resonator guitar (often heard in the Delta blues) in the same manner as a steel pedal guitar is played. It was almost as though his hands also acted as a form of expression for his words.
Following him, was another must-see name on my list, North Carolina natives Bombadil. I had heard their songs before (prior to being TBI’s April 2014 Band of the Month), but I only really knew one song of prior to seeing them. I don’t think this was much of a problem because they played a number of yet to be released songs from their forthcoming album, which based on that sounds like it will be amazing. Where DeLuca had a quiet serenity about him, the three gentlemen of Bombadil took the opposite path of energy and excitement, befitting of singing songs of sad birthdays and building pyramids, that perfect mix of folk and pop. While this venue is one of my favorites in Savannah now, I almost wished they had played somewhere else. I don’t think I was alone in wanting to dance to a few of the songs, but since we were in church, it almost felt a little wrong. At the end of the show, it was a nice surprise to see the softer side, with James (drummer/vocals) and Daniel (bass/vocals) singing acapella to close out the show…until requests for an encore got them back on stage for one more song. After this it was time to meet back up with Peete to catch Crazy Bag Lady at The Jinx.
– Sarah Weitman
Saturday, March 7th
Saturday was a busy day in downtown Savannah. About the time I got down there, two pub crawls were going on and the annual St. Patrick’s Day 5k race was getting started. Good news for me, though, that meant that I was able to get to Social Club in time to catch the end of Weather from Brooklyn, formerly known as Friendly People. The little bit of their set that I caught was enough to make me want to hear more and I will be looking them up soon. Following them was Amythyst Kiah and Her Chest of Glass. It’s easy to hear the influence of older country female artists like Big Mama Thorton and Dolly Parton, as well as contemporary artists like Adele. The most obvious way to hear this is in Kiah’s powerful voice.
Many of the people outside, where the concert was, weren’t all there for the music, but after Kiah started singing, everyone was there to listen. In addition, she covered Jolene, slowed down a bit, but made all the more powerful with her voice and band. All too soon, it was time to head back over to Trinity United to see Tall Tall Trees. I’ve seen this name more and more, and been recommended to listen to him many times. I kept putting it off, and am almost happy that I did. I think that is one of the things that made this show that much better. Made up of a man (Michael Savino) and his Banjotron, he was able to make it sound as though he had a whole band backing him thanks to looping technology.
From yelling, stomping, drumming, tapping, to using a toy laser gun, no sound was too arbitrary to be included and built upon to create a layered tune. Savino was able to take this show and move it beyond a listening experience and into a mental one as well, engaging the mind to follow the building of sounds into a cohesive whole. He was even able to make the audience a part of the show, by tossing out the remote control and allowing them to control the color of the Banjotron. Once he finished, Parlour Tricks took the stage. With the set-up, I was expecting an all-male, four piece band, and based on the black jeans and white t-shirts a sound reminiscent of Elvis-era rock or the like. But I was proved wrong when three ladies walked on stage to prove themselves the singers. While they were still a little bit rock and roll, their sound was made a little softer by the presence of harmonies. The thing that I always love about Stopover is its ability to surprise me in the best way possible. I have never accidentally stumbled upon a bad band at Stopover, and for me Parlour Tricks is this year’s shining example of proof.
After a break for food, I was back to Social Club to see Baby Bee, two brothers out of New Orleans, Louisiana. I had seen them ages ago as an opening act at the Jinx and made sure they were on my list to see again. I think this time around it was better, because there were people who were dancing. I get the idea that that’s part of the goal of Baby Bee’s music: to rock and make sure that people have fun. If you watch The Walking Dead, then you’ve likely heard their song “Love Bug” in Season 3. From there, I headed to The Jinx to try and get in before the place was packed for Cusses, but they were running behind, so back to Social I went to and saw the end of Buxton’s set. Much like Weather, I only caught the end, but will be looking them up as well. Either way, I was in time to see my other must-see band of the festival – Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires. They were at my first Stopover in 2013, and I’ve been following them since. I even followed when they played too loud in Texas and were shut down in the middle of their performance. Thankfully, that was not the case Saturday night, and they were able to rock out to both their heart’s, and the crowd’s, content. There was a lady next to me who commented after the show that she was a little worried because she couldn’t really hear anything. I told her that was normal. It was during their set that I realized that the stage at Social Club had been redone. While it was bigger, it almost wasn’t enough to contain them and their good, old-fashioned, southern rock and roll. Which is supported by Bains’ ventures out into the crowd with his guitar. It was the most dancing (that didn’t turn into a mosh pit) that I witnessed at Stopover, and I’m glad that I was there for it.
To close out the night I took a quick trip over to grab a few photos of Reptar, who I had seen during my time at school in Athens, then to the Jinx to close out the night, and Stopover V, with Diarrhea Planet.
Stopover, we’ll see you for round six next year!
– Sarah Weitman