Only last week, I was immersed in one of the most exciting music days of my life! I was in Savannah to experience a music festival, Savannah Stopover, that brought multiple bands and genres to an historic Savannah site, The Georgia State Railroad Museum. Despite my tired legs from covering the Friday bands, I was determined to see as many bands on Saturday as I could humanly cover. The Saturday lineup boasted 26 bands in all. Could I do it? Well, I am pretty proud to say that I covered, 22 of them. Phew, I did it even with 5 stages, blustery winds, and freezing temperatures. It was a feat that I look back and don’t know how I physically pulled it off. I bought lots of band merchandise just to layer up and keep warm. I wasn’t the only one. So many loyal fans stayed till the bitter end like I did, even though we were tired and cold. I can honestly say it was worth sticking it out, and I knew I was instantly connected with all of the musicians and festival goers for ever!
Stopover is all about music discovery. You go to see a band or two that you love, but in the process you find many more you want to listen to again and again. This is my fifth year of attending the festival, and each time I am blown away by the music.
The day started out windy, but sunny and we were so thankful we didn’t have the spitting rain we experienced the night before. With high hopes, we went to the first band of the day, a local musician, Anna Kellam. Her first time with a full band, she crushed it. Her nerves were instantly dispelled when she hit some difficult notes, and the audience cheered in support. This singer/songwriter thoughtfully performed her lyrical reflections with a band arrangement that highlighted the mood of each song. Yes, I am a sucker for violin, guitars, and soul searching lyrics. Savannah’s local music scene has some real promise, Anna Kellam is one to watch.
Fighting the ever growing winds, we made our way to see Crumbsnatchers. Their tunes were decisively catchy with an upbeat party vibe. One couldn’t help but sway and dance along, listening to the baritone voice of Samuel “Guetts” Guetterman. He has a gift of tossing his deep voice in and commanding your attention. They definitely brought the party to Stopover, and we were all for it. Guetts, talked about his guitar having a broken part that needed fixing, and a local guitar builder came to his rescue. The only cost would be that he wanted Guetts to play one of his hand built guitars during his performance.
You can see the beauty in the later photos. It was truly special, and I made a point to meet the guitar building artist after the show, Ian Reddick of Reddick Guitars. The guitar he shared was a modular guitar that had an interchangeable part so the player could have control over its sound in real-time. The control module easily breaks away for even more options and re-attaches solidly without tools. You should check out the website. Music festivals bring so many creatives.
We marched over to the only outside stage, where the winds were blustery. It didn’t seem to bother the Athens band, Hotel Fiction, in the slightest. They performed with hair whipping fury and a cool onstage chemistry. Their pink hats were a prominent feature as well as their beautiful voices. Hotel fiction was fun to watch and I couldn’t help but get caught in their poppy vibe.
It was easy to be drawn to the scorching guitars and raucous vocals of Weakened Friends. They packed a powerful set that was jamming and masterful. Their new album, Quitter is a must listen if you like the 90’s indie vibe full of punchy grunge. As they performed the title track, it was a blast to watch the bass player jump and dance all over the stage. Their spirit was infectious. They are touring extensively with We Were Promised Jet Packs, so try and catch one of their shows.
Peel Dream Magazine
The welcomed soft and hazy dream like sound on the Paint Shop Stage was from Peel Dream Magazine. They owned the lush, atmospheric music which became almost mesmerizing. It was pleasing to take a quiet chill pill, with the occasional addition of guitar fuzz, and simply soak in the vibe. This artsy, experimental band is touring with Soccer Mommy, so be sure to check them out.
Quinn Christopherson brought on a powerful emotional set. Despite the chuckling, casual discussion and song set ups, Quinn’s musical content was haunting and had true depth. Belting out songs about confusion, coming of age, and Quinn’s family hardships, they were each riddled with lyrics we can all easily relate to even though we are all vastly different. Quinn has a gift of laying out fond timely memories which are heartfelt and innocent, while also piercing your heart with emotion. Quinn’s vocal power haunted the mesmerized listeners as they sang about their relationship with their sister. I felt tears and enormous respect for the bearing of Quinn’s deepest feelings bared in the music. It was a privilege to witness this beauty, strength, and realness that came all the way from Alaska. Touring with two of my favorite artists, Thao and Black Belt Eagle Scout, don’t miss a chance to see Quinn Christopherson.
Brooklyn based band, Boyish, was the surprise of the day. The two members of Boyish had such a beautiful connection on stage and it was a wild to witness and watch it unfold. Their dynamic performance made me a new fan. They mostly sang about the difficulties of love and life’s coming of age frustrations. As the set progressed their compatibility, and India Shore’s simmering vocals drew the listeners in. Boyish’s newest EP, My Friend Mica, comes out in May.
What’s not to love when you see a band in all matching white suits? I knew we were in for a real treat. Even though they were all dressed the same, each band member had personality plus on stage. Ceramic Animal had a way of merging multiple genres, but were most entertaining when they leaned into their 70’s pop sound, dashed with a hint of groovy. Fun loving and clearly gregarious performers, it was a top to bottom enjoyable set meant for boogying.
Waiting on the next performance, I met this guy in line, Jameson. He is a huge fan of Tall Tall Trees and the Savannah Stopover Festival. It is always fun to meet new people who share my musical interests.
Tall Tall Trees
Tall Tall Trees is a fan favorite at Savannah Stopover. This year, it was cool to see him perform in a smaller venue, for a VIP audience. It was an experience to witness his adept ability at mastering his instrument and then connect it with multiple loops and sounds. Mike Savino is a gifted multi-instrumentalist but today his electric banjo ruled. He had the ability to make the banjo sound larger than life through his unique loop techniques. Tall Tall Trees is a talented, engaging, and always evolving one man band.
A little sad that Buffalo Nichols didn’t make it to Stopover, I went to see who was there to replace his set. To my happy surprise it was a band chock full of talent, Fauvely. With a history of performing throughout Chicago and supporting highly popular indie bands, she has now settled in Savannah due to the pandemic. When I heard her sound from the back of them room, I immediately needed to know the band’s name. A friend gave it to me, and I checked Spotify to tag a song so I would remember. I have been listening to their latest album release, Beautiful Places, ever since. The Blacksmith Stage venue was filled with a dramatic dreamy vibe, soft tender vocals, and elegantly sparse instrumentation. Good listening for sure.
Post punk five-piece band, Been Stellar was a welcome jam on the Paint Shop Stage. They had a youthful Strokes sound and a tight stage performance. Screamy in all the right places and soaked with bouncy guitar riff pauses, this band was a crowd pleaser. Fast paced lyrical phrases kept the lead singer, Sam Slocum, on his toes. He was a potent presence and swung his body dramatically as he emphasized his lyrics. I was fascinated and wanted to go home and listen to the music again and learn the lyrics. Slocum presented the songs in such a fast paced way with the total support of the band, that I just felt the emotion of it and didn’t know the story behind the songs. That’s when I know a band connects, it is when you want to know more, hear more, experience more.
I only caught a couple of Boulevards‘ songs, but by the time I arrived, the crowd was popping. All the songs I heard were full of funky grooves. Commanding the crowd with his strong presence, I was struck that we were all freezing in the high winds of the day, and he had ripped off his shirt revealing not a shred of fat that would keep him warm. That, my friend, takes chutz·pah!
The 5 piece, Gustaf, created the perfect jammy danceable post punk. Strong bass lines set the beat, and Lydia Gammill spoke/sang the frenzied lyrics with grinding emphasis, as the band backed her up with choral chanting. Hints of the B-52’s and Talking Heads came to mind. Their mastery of the artsy punk scene was compelling and irresistible. They are touring extensively right now, so be sure to check them out.
Nordista Freeze has played Stopover before and built a reputation for unusual antics and surprises. So when I was grabbing a quick bite to eat and he ran in and yelled that their show would start in a few, on the Paint Shop Stage, we all knew to hurry up and go. This guy is a bundle of energy and stirs up the crowd into a bubbling frenzy. We were absorbed in the Beach Boy-esque rock psych pop. But, the real show was witnessing Freeze’s connection with his fans. Crumbsnatchers lead, Samuel “Guetts” Guetterman, arrived on stage in a blanket and tossed it aside to play guitar and jam with the band. I was so mesmerized behind my camera, that I tripped over a fence. Luckily, I caught myself and saved my camera and pricey lens. Once I finally got myself together, Freeze jumped off stage and ran around the venue in his underwear. He disappeared as the band played on and then surprised us all by calling to the audience from the top of a train car. Like a magician and a lightning runner, he quickly climbed down and returned to the stage among boisterous cheers! This show was my first, but won’t be my last. This guy mastered the stage with his presence and his songs. I am a fan.
Savannah Band, Chipper Bones, played woozy indie rock on the Paint Shop Stage. Originally from rockers, Reverend Bro Diddley and the Hips, bassist Kyle Brown, was ready to lead his own band. I was running from stage to stage, so I only popped my head in for a couple of songs. A local favorite, they had a packed audience, and easily won over many new fans. Subdued vocals and guitar heavy tunes were their strength.
I didn’t really have Danielle Ponder on my list of must sees, but I caught her set on my way from one stage to another. She had a captivated audience in the freezing cold, which is a feat in and of itself. Bluesy soul and commanding vocals, Ponder was a force on stage. Her vocal style began the songs softly and built her sound into a powerhouse instrument. She quickly melted the crowd into swaying to the music. It was a pleasurable time travel to the early 70’s. Her soulful songs resonate, calling for justice and change.
Pylon Reenactment Society
Pylon Reenactment Society returned to Stopover to play Pylon’s entire album, Chomp along with some new material. Vanessa Hay continued to be a stage presence as the band jammed and periodically danced in unison. Their art punk pop is so danceable and still stands today as a defiant artistic expression. It was bone-chilling cold, but the band warmed the loyal fans with deft guitars, vocal phrasing and textures that were emphasized with her classic shrieks and guttural howls.
Kristine Leschper presented an ethereal aura of sound among the vast space of the Paint Shop Stage. People gathered quickly and hushed to experience the surround sound of her newest music, from her recently released album, The Opening, or Closing of a Door. Leschper’s vocals stood out creating a sonic landscape in a chamber rock style. Her voice was used as a prominent instrument and was accompanied by her soft acoustic guitar strums, graceful flute, keyboard, and an uncomplicated drum beat. The lyrics were thought provoking and questioning as they progressed to choral rounds and echoes. The set was so fresh and riveting.
Tré Burt performed to a packed Blacksmith Shop at Stopover. I came in to listen about halfway through his set, and had difficulty making my way to the stage to get a photo or two (thus the grainy dark pics). His rootsy folk songs were engaging and entertaining. He is talented at putting his life experiences into verse and translating them to others in a masterful heartfelt performance. Bravo!
We Were Promised Jetpacks
One of their first performances state side since the pandemic, We Were Promised Jetpacks was a highly anticipated headliner at Stopover. They recently released a new album, Enjoy the View, so new material was an exciting prospect as well. They presented emotional songs with tight drumming and meaty guitar work, to a packed audience on a freezing cold outdoor stage. Letting the music lead, there was no fanfare or theatrics, and we were down for it. They gifted us with band professionalism and talent, full of catchy tunes with serious post punk content. A favorite was “Fat Chance”, from their new album, it left us with brimming optimism.
I was over the moon to see Soccer Mommy. I had tickets to see her after the release of her acclaimed album, Color Theory, but it was cancelled because of the pandemic. One of her songs off of the album was my most played song last year on Spotify. Okay, you get it….I am a true fan of her work. So despite the cold bitter winds that blew through my layers of clothing and my aching legs from being on my feet all day, I stayed till the bitter end to see all of her set.
Earlier in the day, we watched in awe as Sophie Allison (Soccer Mommy) appeared with the sound engineers, when Peel Dream Magazine was on stage. After googling her tour info, I saw that they were touring together. She was almost incognito in glasses and casual attire, easily blending in with the guests in attendance. Little did I know, witnessing that encounter might lead to trouble.
Halfway during her set the sound went out. It was frustrating for her I am sure, but she seemed to handle it in a weird way. No one appeared to be at the sound boards! No one was there to correct the problem for a good long while. The patient audience waited and waited. By the time it was fixed, Soccer Mommy seemed to hurry through the rest of her set and seemed to cut it several songs short. I looked up her other concert set lists and she typically plays around 15 songs. I don’t think we had that many songs. I danced and sang along and made the most of what she shared, as did all of her loyal fans that stuck it out. I am so thankful she played “Circle the Drain” which I caught a snippet of on video.
Rumor has it that she had the sound completely rewired for her performance and it was a mess. What a bummer that all of this took place. It kind of made me change my mind about her. I almost got the sense that she was a little pouty, which is a shame. Who knows what the real story was, bad day…bad weather…personal issues? Still, we all felt a little sad at the way the incredible weekend of Stopover ended.
Savannah Stopover outdid itself again with an interesting multiple genre lineup and provided so many bands in such a short period of time. The festival was well managed and everything seemed to go smoothly up until the last act. Bands performed on time, and didn’t overplay to throw the schedule off. The new venue, The Georgia State Railroad Museum, proved to be a wonderful setting for five stages, food, beer, cocktails, and band merchandise. Because most of the stages were indoor, the weather was a factor, but not a deal breaker.
What was your favorite performance at Stopover this year? I would love to hear from you.
I feel so lucky to be a part of this festival and I honestly can’t wait until next year! The countdown is on!