Well that’s a wrap, Savannah Stopover 2022 has officially ended. Sunday scaries are real. They are especially dark when you have truly enjoyed an epic weekend. I happen to be super lucky this time because I can take the week after and reminisce Savannah Stopover, while I go through hundreds of my photos.
On a deeply difficult note, the entire drive home we caught up with all the fast breaking tragic news out of Ukraine. Witnessing this kind of bully aggression in my lifetime is devastating. I was able to tune it out over the past weekend, but now, the war in Ukraine dominates my mind and my heart. The civilian toll and worrisome humanitarian crisis is upsetting. It seems almost horrible to enjoy the freedoms of a newly open Covid-USA. But despite my sadness, worry, and fear for Europe and democracy in the world, I made the decision weeks ago to cover my first music festival since Covid lockdown in March 2020. But please know, this tragedy continues to weigh heavily on my mind.
It feels purposely defiant to return two years later to the music festival that was my last before Covid lockdown. I fondly remember dancing with happy strangers to the band, The Districts at Service Brewing Company in Savannah. It was my last live festival show for almost two years. So, I jumped at the chance to cover the returned festival. It brings me the utmost joy to help promote Savannah Stopover which brings together a plethora of musical talent and incredible people who genuinely appreciate each band’s gifts and talents.
This year, the Stopover crew made some serious changes. Instead of racing from local pub/bar to set stages, we experienced all of the music in one local spot….The Georgia State Railroad Museum. I worried it wouldn’t have the same intimate feeling, and just be another giant festival that duplicated the thousands of festivals around the country. I was somewhat skeptical, but after experiencing it, I was dead wrong. The architecture and the atmosphere was like none other. It was hard to separate walking around the grounds to appreciate the beauty, from making it in time to see all of the bands. Here are just a few of my pics. I wish I had more time to take it all in.
There was so much to see…but I was there for the bands. This year, the Friday lineup had 19 bands between 4pm and midnight. I made every effort to see them all, but the early bands were the most difficult because I was trying to navigate an area I wasn’t familiar with. I am over the moon that I made it to see 15, and enjoyed each of them. All photos were taken by yours truly. It was a blast to have so many shots this year!
Here is my list….Silver Synthetic, Lo Talker, Little Gracie, Christopher Paul Stelling, Glove, Basically Nancy, The Bones of J.R. Jones, Sasami, Surfbort, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, Daniel Donato, Cece Coakley, of Montreal, American Aquarium, and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.
Silver Synthetic had an early set at 5pm. They had a built in audience at the Roundhouse stage, due to the long line of ticket buyers. People stayed to hang out with them and listen long past their ticket purchases. Well received and rocking, they were a jamming welcome to the weekend festival. Guitar leading and sway worthy tunes, their boogie rock was a nice way to cheer the weekend! Silver Synthetic released an album by their name in 2021, through Third Man Records. A nod to the golden ages of 70’s rock, it jams with dueling guitars, head bobbing beats, and soothing vocals.
Lo Talker out of Athens has a colorful history beginning as Roadkill Ghost Choir. The many years of success with that band set the stage for this new band to emerge. Lead Andrew Sheperd was highly successful with Roadkill, but was feeling the need to break out of the mold of what was expected from that band. Lo Talker is a full five-piece band which delivers lush vocals documenting the strangeness of the past few years with clever lyrics. They played the tunes from their 2021 release, A Comedy of Errors, to a supportive welcoming crowd. With a relaxed enjoyable vibe that resonated with the listeners, it was the perfect escape from the gray sullen day.
I am so thankful that the Savannah Stopover band pickers, keep their local talent in a special spotlight for the festival. It allows the many visitors to experience the vibrant music scene of Savannah. With each year at Stopover, I witness it growing and changing. Little Gracie is a gem among this scene. I am assuming the band name is after one of the most visited gravesites in Savannah. The story goes that Little Gracie was the daughter of The Pulaski Hotel manager, born in 1883. She was quite the center of attention at the hotel putting on little shows and entertaining the guests, but tragically she died of pneumonia at a young age.
The band’s name, Little Gracie, may begin with a storied history, but it doesn’t end there. Their haunting guitar riffs and nimble keyboard, produced a Southern bluesy rock and roll with subtle hints of Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band. They had a powerful, solid sound and performance. Their latest album, Dump Station was released in October of 2021. They are a nice find for me, and I will definitely add them to my playlist.
Christopher Paul Stelling
Every time I see this guy on the lineup, I stop whatever I am doing and go. Because I have seen him so many times, I thought I could skip this performance…..WRONG! He surprises and wows me
Christopher Paul Stelling is a powerful guitarist, ‘picker’, and troubadour who was shut down like we all were for Covid. As a traveling storytelling songwriter, I imagine it almost took him down. But the grace of his never ending creativity and his natural artistic leanings, he wrote his latest album, Forgiving It All, that was released in September of 2021.
His set at Stopover was haunting as he performed with a single instrument in a dark, history filled space, illuminated with only a few spotlights. Soaking in his sound proved to be an emotional experience that won’t soon be forgotten. His folk ballads draw in the listener, trying to grasp his words and his meaning among the multiple movements and sounds of each individual finger pick and thumb thump. He delivers complicated strums, picks, and speedy changes that make your head spin at the miraculous dexterity. The normally chatty festival goers were struck silent in awe and appreciation of his talent. He is a gifted songwriter and performer that forever wins my heart.
The wide array of musical genres at Stopover is the strength of the festival. Leaving a gifted folk guitarist and ballad writer, we braved the spitting rain to find ourselves in a swarm of sound accented by the bleeps and boops of computer generated sound. Tampa band, Glove, immediately transported all of their listeners to the 80’s and a place where punk was king. The band mates exuded a natural chemistry as each song unfolded and the musical tension built as their performance progressed. Visually enticing as well as talented musicians and choreographers, Glove, was a blast to witness and dance to. It was a wild but welcome jump from the southern rock and folk leanings of the earlier festival performers. Post punk masters for sure!
Basically Nancy was a buzz worthy name of the local band must sees. I had to run and jump to catch a song or two. The Savannah trio, riot girl rockers, blasted a 90’s sound with hints of Sleater Kinney, Nirvana, and Bikini Kill. Deep punchy guitars, weighty, agitated lyrics combined with sultry vocals and periodic screams created a unique musical combination sending me way back in time. The combination worked solidly. Unique and distinctly their own sound, they have a talent at musically expressing pain, confusion, and frustration. Basically Nancy is music meant to be a wild space for tension release.
The Bones of J. R. Jones
The Bones of J. R. Jones provided foot stomping jams for a large Stopover crowd on the blacksmith stage at the Georgia State Railroad Museum. Looking closely at his well worn guitar, you sensed that each of the shared songs were strummed out and built tenderly with this treasured instrument. Playing one-man band style, stomping out rhythm while picking guitar or banjo he is entertaining to watch. Many of his songs were from his latest album release, A Celebration. Each song provided much needed hope among these dark times, as does his talent for vintage blues and folk.
I have to say, this was the one show I could not miss! Sasami has been on my radar for a while now, but with her recent album release, Squeeze, I have to admit I was UBER curious. She has defied musical genres and created her own genre with her metal, hard rock leaning, indie rock. She defies any parameters and creates her own genre and subgenre. Sasami entered the stage with a powerful presence and never relented. She held an intensely fierce set with music that brought about cheers and support due to her vocal range and lightness in contrast to the music. But the music that brought us all there wasn’t the only interesting surprise. Her stage presence was palpable, powerful, and demanding. Choreographed or intensely raw, it didn’t really matter because we all were drawn to her power and obvious defiance. Between her two guitarists dressed in authentic kilts, she exuded a potent energy of strength and intense beauty. Every eye tracked her movements to the music as I did, with awe and complete admiration.
Right now, our crazy times seem to support musicians with emotional and contentious music helping the listener to release their important impassioned frustrations. Sasami is a leader in pushing this to the edge, and I am down for it.
As if Sasami didn’t break all the sound barriers and totally rock us out with her stage power, Surfbort came in with a very similar energy. Directly summoning the crowd to participate, Surfbort a four piece punk rock band, blasted guitars and chanted their songs with the anticipation of loyal followers to sing along. Their fans all pushing toward the stage, sang along and cheered uncontrollably. It was infectious. I wasn’t really sure what I was witnessing, but I was really welcomed to the crowded front to take photos. It was photo gold! I have to admit, I made a terrible mistake by passing the giant speakers at the wrong time without my earplugs. My left ear was ringing for the rest of the night. Live and learn. Surfbort was defiant and proud of it, drugs, sex, and rock & roll. Their latest album, Keep on Trucking, came out in 2021. They are out on the road for the month of March, and I promise, it is an experience!
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
I tried to fit in a bite to eat at this point in the night. With so many great bands, I had a tight window to get any sustenance at all. So I sadly missed a couple songs at Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. They are a tried and true, hard working, steady 5 piece country music band, with a “high lonesome” style that incorporates country-punk and twang, and shades of outlaw country. I really enjoyed chatting with the bass player, he was thrilled to play music at such a cool venue. That is the fun of Stopover, you get to meet many of the band members organically. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers have an album, Nightroamer, that came out this year. New music and enthusiastic, they put on a solid foot-stomping country show for their loyal crowd. Who doesn’t love a pedal steel guitar?
Daniel Donato performs a roots leaning country, but more modern and infused with a Grateful Dead-esque Americana. I witnessed his guitar driven creative riffs that blew my mind. He is a Nashville star on the rise. Check out his latest album, Cosmic Country & Western.
Cece Coakley graced the VIP lounge with her soft songs of folk/pop. I wish I could’ve stayed longer to sit for a spell and truly appreciate her unique voice and style. She doesn’t have an album out yet, but her acoustic version of her songs were relatable and a pleasure. I hope she can tour with a full band soon. It would make her songs have more life.
How do I describe a Kevin Barnes, of Montreal, concert? Each one I have attended have been energetic and joyous. Savannah Stopover’s appearance also proved to be a fantastic, surreal world of dancing dreams. Kevin diligently mastered the vocals while moving (even jumping) rhythmically and playing guitar among many costumed dancers. He seemed to have endless bouts of energy and focus. The dancers came and went with different costume changes to the happy excitement of the large crowd gathered. They provided visual stimulation and fun entertainment. Of Montreal played many of their most popular songs and they were the favorites, as people danced and sang along. It was once again a theatrical experience solidifying that of Montreal are the darlings from the Athens music scene.
American Aquarium‘s BJ Barham has a true gift for song story telling. It was fitting that the lights were low except for the spots on each individual band member. The shadows and silhouettes echoed the tone of his stories and their slow building jams. Their recent releases are two volumes of cover songs titled Slappers Bangers and Certified Twangers. They were an homage to all of the songs that inspired Barham. American Aquarium is a North Carolina alt-country band which continues to prove their grit and love of country/rock&roll and continues out on the road sharing their stories.
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band was the perfect jam for the end of the night! The small crowd that gathered continued to grow as their voices and music continued to build. It was pure merrymaking and exciting to sing along to the choruses! They were electrifying, knee slapping fun. I felt transported to a big front porch on a balmy evening where a group of talented musicians decided to jam. Watching Peyton strum and pick the many guitars he brought for the show, was a marvel to witness. I must say, the most joyous jam of the evening was when Breezy, Peyton’s wife, played her washboard until her fast moving fingers set it on fire (see video).