This past weekend marks my third anniversary of covering Savannah Stopover Festival. The festival was held in downtown Savannah at different local venues, and it highlights rising indie music talent as well as the defined tried and true crowd pleasers. Stopover has a knack for having their pulse on the ‘ones to watch’, so it was obvious I would be there to cover it.
If you were to take away many of the bands at Stopover, I would still attend because it is a whole heck of a lot of fun. Savannah is an amazing city, the people are genuinely friendly, and the weather provides the perfect respite from winter’s firm grasp. Swirl into all of those postives, 80+ bands to see, and I am forever hooked.
Each year provides a new round of interesting acts that peak my interest. This year was no exception. Of the three days, I was most enamoured with opening night (Lucy Dacus) and the final night lineups (The Beths, Susto), but was overjoyed to be a part of seeing the emerging Faye Webster and Georgia’s own Deerhunter on Friday. I truly found some real joy in the smaller shows too.
Thursday was a power packed lineup to open Savannah Stopover. You will see I made it to 9 out of the 20 available shows. I carefully listened for weeks and wrote up my favorites, but there were still some I missed that will forever be on my radar due to the positive response from Stopover attendees. Follow along as I recap my favorite moments.
When I arrived at The Ships of the Sea outdoor venue, there was a long line of people. From the entrance to the music area, we walked through an open garden. I was disappointed SCAD’s artist posters weren’t displayed or any of their art. The art of year’s past was always a plus to visiting this venue. I worried that the festival was curtailing the fluff a bit, but as the night wore on I knew it wasn’t the case. The music took center stage.
Aaron Paul Zimmer
Aaron is a local musician and had a growing audience of those eager to see the headliner acts. Fortunately, he surprised those who hadn’t seen him live before, and he put on a flawless set. His folk, rootsy Americana is story filled and listening pleasure. A solid and steady performer, the evening began with loud conversations echoing throughout Ships of The Sea, then Zimmer’s music strategically hushed and wowed the building crowd.
He even made me stop my photography to simply enjoy. I have to mention the stellar slide guitar support….I get weak in the knees with the sound. After he left the stage to many claps and cheers, I happened to be standing next to his lovely wife. They are expecting a child in August (if I recall accurately), and I admit I felt a little envious. Their sweet baby is going to grow up in a music filled home of soft crooning, magical storytelling, guitar strums, and harmonica diddies. I can’t think of a better way to introduce a baby to music, or a more thoughtful genre to begin a Stopover weekend. Check out his new album, Saints and Heretics, which was released in January.
The next band, SONTALK, was rolling rock accented by a slide guitar with wailing distortion. SONTALK maintained the folk roots of lyrical storytelling, but emphasized his pain and vulnerability with lovely rhythms in hazy atmospheric electronica. “The One Who Breaks your Heart” is the latest track included in the album, Stay Wild, which releases this Friday (March 15th). As beautiful as the song is, it is a bit dark and explains the pain of destroying a relationship, which he regrets. It is a raw admission which emphasizes his outstanding song writing, steeped in his vulnerability and humanness. He sang almost all of his set with closed eyes and cautiously emptied his emotions. It felt personal and as I looked around I saw the connections made in the eyes of the most avid listeners. He brought the house into cheers and roars when he played his hit, “I Am A War Machine”. Anthemic and catchy, we all participated in the chorus, emitting a positive power into the chilly night air. The packed outdoor venue was abuzz with excitement.
Lucy Dacus, the indie breakout of 2018, performed at Stopover a few years ago. As I waited for her to set up, I chatted with those around me who remembered her playing the late afternoon show to a handful of listeners. Back then, she was a fine print name on the lineup. With her hit 2018 album, Historian, she was now playing as a headliner in a venue meant for @1,000. I saw the first few rows were shoulder to shoulder in youthful faces clearly excited to be attending her all ages set.
Her songs, soft and emotional, are meant for careful listening, so I was curious how it would translate in a large outdoor venue. When she walked on stage, an explosion of shouts and approval sounded. I was excited she added her latest a cover of La Vie En Rose. I happily acquired her setlist at the end of her performance. I am not positive she stayed with it and if it is accurate. Looking at Setlist.com, there hasn’t been an entry for this show. So if you are reading this and you are in the know, I would love an update.
Her quiet vocals proved to stand equally with the band’s sound, and she confidently worked the stage. She seemed so approachable wearing worn black jeans, a simple white blouse and a jean jacket with Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in red stitching on the back. The hype and buzz surrounding her songwriting and well received album were questioned at first, but I can positively say she confirms it all to be truth. I think among the cheers and claps, I captured a few wiping away emotional tears. Powerful songs, soft thoughtful delivery, powerful set.
This is when an out of focus photo makes me sooo very happy. This confident, lovely smile is her whole vibe of thoughtful songwriting and song sense. I love the movement in the shot because it shows her shifting in a new direction. I clearly see her inner strength and being at peace with where she is in life.
The Train Wrecks
The Train Wrecks from Savannah were a happy accident. I rushed to the next venue, The Jinx, to capture another act, but they weren’t up yet. So I happily surrendered to the outlaw alt-country sound of The Train Wrecks. Entering close to the end of their set the experience was a raucous rowdy one with full on slide being played by the lead’s teeth? It was a fun, jamming, old style country, meant for a bit of hell raising! Yee Haw!
Waiting for The Artisinals to set up, I was trying to adjust my camera to the light changes. Going from venue to venue proves to be a little bit problematic for my skills and my ever changing camera settings. As you can see it is very dark at The Jinx, and I am not a flash throwing photographer. It would be ultra annoying to the bands, because I snap so many shots. Because of this, I have some funky ones, I have to toss. Or maybe, they are post worthy to provide a healthy chuckle.
At the end of the rainbow is the pot of gold, that is Savannah Stopover!
Welcome to the wild and wobbly rock world of The Artisanals. They move across a stage quickly, sometimes jumping, while tossing their heads to and fro. It takes a serious steady hand to find a shot that comes out in a dark venue. As you can see, I captured their deep rock and roll guitar roots, with their insane motion. Haha, it was most likely my motion responding to their music.
Their self-titled album was released last fall, and they are touring non-stop (See HERE). Their album embodies the importance of rock and roll from the past with a shining new, guitar deep perspective. The music is meant for listening in a car on open road, with the windows rolled down and the sun warmly shining…think Steve Miller band meets Tom Petty but The Artisanals are wonderfully wrapped in Johnny Delaware’s warm vocals. Seeing them, you will believe in them!
Once we made it across town to the next venue, Club One, we realised how exhausted we were. Going to a dance club for the next show, might be a bit harsh. But as I entered, I was greeted by a swirling mirrored disco ball, and all seemed right in the world. Billy Moon was up next, and I couldn’t help but notice as they were setting up, each band member was wearing a turtleneck and Billy was sporting a khaki skirt, pink tinted heart glasses, and a cowboy hat.
They embodied a funky, punky, garage rock style with catchy beats. The energy was surging in the room and my batteries were recharged easily. Fun as all get out, I only wished there were more people to enjoy the vibe. They played their music from the album, Punk Songs which released last fall. Everyone there was into it, dancing, clapping, and partying! Billy Moon had a winning set, with an all inclusive (boy wearing a skirt) message. I am totally digging it.
We were so energized, we ran back across town to The Jinx, to see the Ruen Brothers. We only caught a bit of their set, but they had a generally pleasing old school sound. All the way from the UK, the Ruen Brothers gave off a steeped in the 60’s folk atmosphere. They told charming stories in between songs, giving the set an intimate vibe and it mirrored their lyrically strong songs.
I have to admit, I know very little about Paul Cherry, but when researching I saw that he has millions of listens on Spotify. Listening to his set, he has clearly merged pop songs with organ/piano and jazzy elements, sorta 70’s style. Twangy and oddballish, he has a following, but the audience from Stopover was thin, as I listened to his funky millenial inspired songs. It was fun, so I was all ears, He proved to be an interesting performer, clearly working the people who made it out to see him.
The Bright Light Social Hour
I was really boned tired, but determined to make the walk several blocks away to see, The Bright Light Social Hour. I was so overjoyed that I made the effort. Their neo-psychedelic sound was what my aching bones needed. I sat enthralled by the ever changing lights of their backdrop, smooth vocals, harmonizing choruses, impressive guitar/keyboard work, and steady beats with synth accents. They performed many of their songs from their recently released album Jude Vol. 1. They come back to Atlanta in April (at Vinyl April 29th), and I will check them out again.
After 1 am in the morning, I made my way back to the hotel. I was overjoyed at my first night of Stopover. Tired and ready for my head to hit the pillow, I spotted this gem in a SCAD window expressing my giddiness! I was going to dream sweet dreams.
I hope you have enjoyed reliving this incredible opening night with me. I still have so much to share, so stayed tuned for Day 2 of Stopover. Coming soon!