Saturday at Savannah Stopover started out with a rehashing/learning how the previous night’s escapades unfolded. After being generally unpleased with myself, I was able to shrug off my disappointment and embrace the sunshine and low-70-degree temperatures outside. It was a new day and there were new bands and venues to discover.
Since the music didn’t start up until 4 p.m., our Savannah tour guide, Hanna, showed us the finer points of being downtown that she’d picked up in her four years at SCAD. In no particular order, these are the places you absolutely must visit next time you’re there:
- Savannah Bee Company – Likely the best honey you’ll ever taste. They have samples of every variety of organic honey they offer, as well as various honey infused/bee produced products. I highly recommend the Earl Grey Beeswax lip balm (which is available at Earth Fare here in Columbia). It puts Burt’s Bees to shame.
- Crystal Beer Parlor – Beer is in the name, so we’re off to a great start. This local joint is known as much for their draught selection as they are for their burgers. I tried both the bison and lamb burgers and nearly experienced touch-less orgasm.
- Form – The cheesecake to end all cheesecake. DO YOU HEAR ME? Cheesecake Factory doesn’t even get a slot on stage at Amateur Hour next to this stuff. It’s also available in local eateries across the downtown area (I got my slice at Coffee Fox).
Once we finished galavanting about town, we headed back toward Congress Street to find some music to listen to. Thankfully, we stumbled upon Autumn Owls‘ 6 p.m. set at Congress St. Social Club. Owls’ sound forgoes the simple rock formula of many power trios, instead opting for an interplay between instruments that makes their melody lines as important, or more important in some scenarios, than the vocal melodies they accompany. Their use of harmonies between guitar and bass, odd time signatures, dark minor keys and an Alesis drum pad on some songs tells me these guys have listened to some Radiohead in their day.
Autumn Owls set a high bar for the rest of the acts I would see that day. Thankfully, the bands at the Georgia Music Showcase rose to the occasion.
Walking into the Knights of Columbus building that the showcase was being held in, I immediately felt like we shouldn’t be there. The scene was one of high A-frame ceilings with fancy chandeliers hanging from them like stalactites of upper status and glossy hardwood floors that cast your reflection back at you even in dim light. Yet for some reason, roughly 500 music fans, a full service bar and a stage had been plopped right into the middle of it. However the Stopover organizers were able to obtain that space, I thank them. Beauty aside, the room had the best sound of any I was in that weekend and seeing a show there felt like a special occasion.
Once I came out of my state of shock about the room, I approached the stage and tuned in to Ponderosa, who were already in the middle of their set. The Atlanta quintet featured atmospheric harmonies and a dual guitar attack atop pounding drums and I was instantly in the palm of their collective hand. Also, their keyboard player was a functional and integral part of the band, which excited me since I’ve seen so many useless keyboard players recently. Maybe it was the music, maybe I was still in awe about the room, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been so concretely focused on a musical act. Every crescendo, every drum hit took me along with it to a new place. It was something I can’t properly put into words, I just know I won’t ever forget it. I’ll be buying their album ASAP to relive it.
After Ponderosa came The Whigs, an Athens favorite who’s made a name for themselves nationwide – and I was about to find out why. Remember the rock formula power trio I mentioned earlier? These guys do it better than just about anyone else. Singer/guitarist Parker Gispert brings the charisma, grit and searing guitar of a Neil Young, while drummer Julian Dorio and bassist Timothy Deaux flesh out the rhythm section with bone crushing presence to form a garage outfit that hints at their southern roots without crossing the line into Lynyrd Skynyrd territory. The trio took the crowd on an hour-long ride, with each player having ample room to show off their chops on their respective instrument, followed by a two song encore. At one point, Dorio made a stink face while beating his drums mercilessly that will forever be etched in mine and my friend Mike’s brains. As I said on Instagram that night, The Whigs are those dudes.
[Side note: I always try and figure out what obscure people the people I’m looking at resemble. For The Whigs (click for photo), the guitarist was Neil Young, the bassist was the Buddy Christ and the drummer was a mix of Martin Short and the warlock kid from Disney Channel’s Halloweentown. Solid lineup.]
While most excellent, over an hour of listening to The Whigs was physically and emotionally draining, so Mike, Ned and I holed ourselves up at a table inside Congress St. Social Club and stumbled upon the folk of Henry Wagons. As I was falling asleep in my chair, I don’t remember much of Wagons’ set outside of him dedicating a song to Fat Elvis, saying “he’s the version of Elvis we all aspire to be.” Well said.
At the end of my musical run at Stopover, I looked back on what had been a great weekend and officially changed my opinion on Savannah. I will no longer fear returning there, but will look forward to and embrace it instead. Stopover is largely responsible for that, as they proved for the third year in a row that a crawl-style festival through the streets of their fine city is well worthy of both big-time bands and music fans from around the country not passing them over on I-95, but instead planning to be there.
Stopover, I tip my cap to you, thank you and your city for a great weekend and hope to see you again next year.