Savannah Stopover 2014: Review & Photo Gallery
Well the good times come and the good times unfortunately go, but this year’s Savannah Stopover was the biggest and best to date. Not only were there tons of great artists that made their way through for the festival, but the coordinators also worked out a multitude of the logistical problems from last year, one of the biggest ones being the decision to move the free concert in the park from Forsyth Park to Ellis Square which definitely helped those of us who were bouncing around from show to show. With all of the great artists that made their way through Savannah for the festival, there was no way that one person could cover a fraction of the good times that were going on. Luckily, both Sarah and I (Peterson) were able to scramble around the city for three days and catch as many of the sets as we could. Here’s a little rundown of our experiences from the festival:
Last year, Savannah Stopover began their show with two great acts of the singer/songwriter/folksy genre. It was a nice time, but I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘rocking.’ This year, though, they upped the ante and got two opening acts that turned up the volume. Good Graeff out of Florida, and led by twins, was the first indication that this Stopover was going to be awesome. The highlight of Good Graeff for me was between when they sang a song about their Grandfather, (who, by the looks the twins shared throughout the song was very much loved) and their amusing jaunty tune about the wonderful city of Topeka, Kansas. They had fantastic banter/storytelling, where they filled in parts of each other’s stories and responded to each other so well that it could have been rehearsed, but giving the impression that this is how they are all the time. They make you feel, for the time that they are on stage, that if you are not family, then you’re all best friends. Following them was the highly touted St. Paul and the Broken Bones. There are very few people who I’ve seen put on a revival-style show very well and he is by far one of them. It’s that strange mix of feeling as though you are in church. But dancing and drinking with all your friends (which is something that we never did at church – the dancing, I mean). Lead singer Paul Janeway doesn’t look like he would fit in to southern rock/soul upon first glance, but closing your eyes and listening gives a whole new perspective. When covering Otis Redding, he embodied Redding’s voice and allowed me to imagine what it would’ve been like to hear him live. But the energy didn’t stop at Janeway’s voice; he moonwalked around, jumped off stage, climbed on sound storage boxes and sang his heart out. I have no idea how his voice makes it more than maybe two nights, because he gave it all that night.
After the opening concert, it was time to grab food before trekking back to all the other venues around Congress Street. When I finally made it back, I headed straight for Social Club where The Black Cadillacs were just taking the stage. I planned for the rest of this night to be good old southern rock and roll. They were everything I wanted them to be and more. There was much clapping and foot stomping and even a tambourine. The last band of the night was J. Roddy Walston and the Business. They were one of the two performers I was most excited about seeing, since it has been about four years since I first saw them. Unfortunately, it took a while for them to set up (pushing their start time back almost an hour), but when they took the stage, I forgot about how long I had been standing, how many people were around me, and how much I was ready to call it a night. I found my second wind and was ready to go all night, as long as they were my soundtrack. Though J. Roddy has to be close to his piano for most of the songs, he never seems tied to it. He, and the rest of the band give off an energy while playing that makes you feel as though you should return the favor, either by singing or dancing along, or just rocking out. They played songs off both their albums, and I was pleased to hear that songs off Essential Tremors, their newest album, measure up to the rock and roll quality that one expects from J. Roddy Walston and the Business. By the end of the show, I think J. Roddy, at least, was surprised at the number of people who weren’t just dancing along, but singing all the songs as well. He said that they would be back, and I sure hope that he follows through.
There’s not much I can add to what Sarah said in regards to the awesome way that Stopover started up this year. Going into the opening shows this year, I knew the classic soul and rock sound of St. Paul and the Broken Bones would go over like gangbusters, but the big surprise for me, one of many that would happen during the festival, was Good Graeff. Admittedly, I knew that they had been covered here on The Indian before, but I had neglected to check out their music prior to the festival. Their folk infused pop immediately won me over and the intimate nature of their set definitely set the tone for the weekend as a whole. It was less like a festival performance and more akin to a house show put on for friends, filled with banter with the crowd and between the band members in between songs.
After the opening acts at Knights of Columbus, Sarah and I parted ways for a bit as I made my way to Hang Fire to catch one of the local acts I was pretty excited about. Fare The Gap is a trio from right here in Savannah who consistently put on shows where it’s hard to tell who’s having more fun, the audience or the band themselves. Their unique blend of folk and synth laden pop always makes for a good time and was a great follow up to the opening bands.
Following Fare The Gap, I found myself wandering around a bit to catch some bands that I wasn’t too familiar with in order to try to catch some more surprise hits. I wound up back at Knights for a bit to catch a little of Incan Abraham’s psychedelic infused synth pop which was a great time. After a little more wandering, I found myself back at Hang Fire in time to catch Team Spirit and thank goodness I did. The Brooklyn based band put on one of the liveliest sets of the festival. It seemed like every member of the band was exploding with energy and it translated perfectly into their no nonsense, style of retro-rock and roll.
After the conclusion of Team Spirit’s set, I set about downtown once again to burn a little time before eventually heading back to Hang Fire to catch one of the bands I was most excited about seeing, Total Slacker. Another New York based outfit, Total Slacker delivered some awesome garage/drone rock much in the vein of Sonic Youth. Indeed, Rountree’s sound and style even reminded me a bit of Thurston Moore. Keeping with the tone of the night, the show was filled with friendly rapport between the band and the crowd making Hang Fire seem less like a crowded bar and more like a packed basement show put on by friends.
I finished my night by making my way to The Jinx to catch the remaining acts on Retro Futurist’s label showcase. I made it just in time to see just a bit of Burnt Books before they ended their set, and from the little that I saw, I definitely regret not catching more of them. However, I didn’t have much time to dwell on missing their set, since local legends, Kylesa, soon took the stage. I wasn’t sure what to expect as this was my first time catching Kylesa in Savannah, but I definitely wasn’t let down. Kylesa’s drudging style of metal isn’t so much something you listen to as it is an experience that you make your way through. Their slow, churning guitar riffs that give way to powerful blasts from the duel drummers are something truly unique and make for a great show. It was the perfect way to end a great first night.
The second day is always the slowest for me. There are good shows, but they’re never as amazing as the first and last days. Maybe it’s because of the excitement on the first and the need to savor the experience on the last. This year though, this curse was broken by Caitlin Rose. I had never heard of Caitlin Rose before, but I am definitely a fan now. She usually plays solo, but fellow Nashville outfit Los Colognes was backing her up. At the end of her show, she was ready to do an encore, but the sound had already been cut off. Rather than shrugging it off, she hopped off the stage and played a solo acoustic song for the ten or so people that had stuck around. Her entire performance made standing in the cold more than worthwhile. Before Caitlin Rose, I was lucky enough to catch the end of River Whyless’ set. Based out of Ashville, NC and self described as Baroque Folk, River Whyless was a nice surprise on a cold evening. With lovely harmonies and a violin in addition to guitar, bass and drums, they create a sound that is soothing. It created a small escape from downtown Savannah, even though Bay Street was only a few feet away.
After Caitlin Rose, it was over to Social Club for Thomas Wynn and the Believers, a brother and sister fronted band from Orlando. They didn’t look like what I expected, but I do love when bands defy my expectations. Vocalist Olivia Wynn’s voice is a wonderful mix of power and softness, while her bandleader brother Thomas provides the rawer vocals.
The second day of Stopover was very much a bitter sweet one for me. Not only did I managed to somehow lose my SD card from the previous night which held all of my shots from Kylesa’s set, I also got downtown just in time to find out that I had missed one of the sets I was most excited about all weekend. Indeed, anyone who I knew that was going to the festival knew that I was quick to spout off recommendations for Tweens, a group out of Ohio who’ve been making some major waves with their particular style of garage-y pop which they’ve dubbed “trash pop”. I was even more let down when I talked with several friends who said that their set at Hang Fire was one of the best sets of the festival so far.
I did my best to shake off the regret from missing Tweens as well as local act Crazy Bag Lady, but it would seem that Saturday just wouldn’t be my day at the festival. Conflicts are bound to happen for any festival-goer, but Saturday was so stacked with awesome acts that I spent a good bit of time debating which acts to hit. To further complicate my choices, the festival was so well-attended this year that there was the added challenge of venues reaching capacity. I decided stick around the Congress Street area and catch some local acts including the dream-synth style of J. Zagers at Congress Street Social Club followed by the experimental folk music offered up by mumbledust during one of the festival’s secret shows at Ampersand.
Following mumbledust’s set and a few minutes spent talking with friends about the shows they’d caught so far, I made my way to Club One to catch Leverage Models, a pop act from New York who performed with so much energy and enthusiasm I was surprised that they contained themselves to the stage. I was even lucky enough to sit down with the band a little later on during the festival and get their take on Stopover, their music, and the perks of going on tour in the South which you can check out here on The Blue Indian.
Following Leverage Models’ explosive set, I was faced with yet another tough call. I had to choose between checking out The Belle Game and their electronic dark pop style or making my way to The Jinx and catching both Big Ups and Speedy Ortiz, both bands who were sure to fill The Jinx to capacity. In the end, I went with heading to The Jinx, a decision I don’t regret in the least. While Big Ups were a little slow to pick up, once they found their groove on stage, they were a sight to see. Their post-punk style combined with a stage presence that seemed to channel Jello Biafra made for an awesome set. Combined with a great set put on by Speedy Ortiz who’ve been racking up accolades from several press outlets, I was more than happy with the decision I’d made that night.
To close out my Friday, I made my way back to Hang Fire to catch TEEN and their slightly psych-influenced, drone rock. Unfortunately, I had such a good time catching TEEN that I completely missed another one of the bands that I was most excited to see, Those Darlins. I suppose that a person can’t really complain about a festival having too many good acts though!
The last day, was the most surprisingly amazing for me, both this year and last. The day began with The Whisky Gentry at the Jinx. With a banjo, fiddle, guitars and drums, this band is the best image a mind can conjure when they think of modern country music. It has a taste of the classic while giving it a new rock feel. Afterward, it was time to walk over to Moon River where I caught the last song of Wild Child’s set, before Hurray for the Riff Raff took the stage. HFTRR’s band set-up is a folksy as their sound; comprised of an upright bass, a fiddle, an acoustic guitar, a keyboard, and drums, they produce a sound that is both classic and new. Then it was over to Ellis Square to catch Los Colognes. They were as fun to watch on their own as they were backing Caitlin Rose on Day 2. This was their fourth show of this Stopover, I think. Next, it was time for the other of my top two shows of Stopover, Christopher Paul Stelling at the Artist’s Lounge. CPS as always, was a joy to watch perform. It was amazing to watch how he could enchant a room. During sound check, CPS had his back turned as he plucked away at his guitar. Apparently, a gentleman at the bar thought that it was a recording because when CPS turned around, still playing, the man was shocked. Throughout the show, more and more people gathered around, and it was amusing to watch as they grew more and more annoyed with people who walked between them and CPS, though understanding that was the only path they could take. I’m not sure how many encores CPS played, but I think that he exhausted his discography. When at his final encore, he had to refer to his albums to see which songs he had not yet played. Finally, to close out the night, and Stopover IV, it was over to the Jinx. When I finally was able to get through the line and inside, I was lucky enough to catch the last few songs of the PitchBlak Brass Band. The PitchBlak Brass Band is a 10 piece comprised of saxophones, trumpets, trombones, guitar, drums, and a tuba, hails from Brooklyn, NY. They have such an eclectic mix of genres (hip-hop, funk, rock, jazz, classical, etc), that when fused together they create something new and amazing. Next up was Spirit Animal, also from New York. I was told that their sound resembled early Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it was a very accurate description. Finally, was my wild card pick – Peelander-Z. When the schedule was released, I passed over them, slightly scared by the name. Then I skimmed an interview with them in the local paper and was convinced that I was doing myself a disservice. And I was right. I have never been to a show that was more fun, while being simultaneously hilarious and a little bit scary. The promised crowd interactive portion did indeed happen, even including TBI’s own Peterson Worrell, who was pulled onstage to help with a song called “Mad Tiger.” There were a number of other things, ranging from crowd limbo, to Peelander-Green bowling Peelander-Yellow, to jumping rope and sending a crowd member who was pulled onstage crowd surfing out. It’s honestly hard to find the words to describe the show, other than it is one of the most fantastic things that I’ve ever seen and I hope to see them again, sooner rather than later. (Also, if you are thinking about going to a show and have never seen them, don’t look at videos, just let yourself be surprised.) The downfall of the last night was daylight savings time, causing the Jinx to close just as the show finished. It was a sad way to end Stopover IV, but also possibly the best. I don’t know when I would’ve left without being kicked out. I might’ve just stayed longer, hoping that it wasn’t really over and that there would be one more show or one more song. Alas. Until next year Savannah Stopover. I can’t wait.
Saturday was yet another whirlwind of great shows that started off with me getting the chance to sit down with Leverage Models early on in the day after they wrapped up their Off The Avenue session at Dollhouse Productions. The first set of the day for me was COEDS, a fairly new band on the scene comprised of local veterans of the music scene. Rowdy, loud, and carrying a swagger akin to the B-52s, COEDS have been making some major waves locally and are sure to explode sooner rather than later.
After catching COEDS and a bit of the band following them, Sun Club, I made my way down to Congress Street in order to see a bit of Furious Hooves’ label showcase which featured some local artists like Black Rune as well as some out of town artists like Bedroom from Tennessee. I was lucky enough to sit down with Bedroom during the festival as well in order to get their perspective on Savannah, the festival, and what it’s like to be one of the younger artists featured at the festival.
After the Furious Hooves showcase, I met back up with Sarah to catch a few acts until we once again parted ways so that I could head to The Jinx in order to catch another local upstart, Ambrose. Ambrose is yet another band comprised of local music veterans who’d teamed up in order to provide Savannah with a little bit of much needed soul and funk. Following Ambrose, I made my way to Hang Fire to catch two of the bands I was most excited to catch during Stopover. First up was Philadelphia’s Bleeding Rainbow, who combined equal parts shoegaze and noise rock to create something as hypnotic as it was abrasive. After catching Bleeding Rainbow, I debated making my way to The Jinx in order to catch Spirit Animal, but I decided to stick around at Hang Fire and make sure that I didn’t jeopardize my chances of getting in to see Ex Hex. As a fan of the early 90’s indie rock genesis, getting the chance to see a band fronted by Mary Timony was a bit surreal for me and Ex Hex’s set did not disappoint.
After catching Ex Hex, I was sure that my night had reached a pinnacle that couldn’t be topped. I made my way back to The Jinx to close out the festival with Peelander-Z, a raucous punk outfit from New York known for their wild antics and enthusiasm for getting the crowd involved. As awesome as it was getting to hop up on stage myself, the best part was probably seeing other locals heavily involved in the music scene hop up on stage and give Peelander-Z a bit of help as well! It was the perfect ending to yet another great year for Stopover and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store.