The weather was at its most accommodating for the last night of Savannah Stopover. Festival concertgoers mixed jocularly with the downtown weekend crowds and pre-St. Patrick's Day revelers, which brought out all the best attributes of the Hostess City. Bands began as early as 2 p.m., and some locations saw the party go on until the wee hours of the early morn. We did, after all, lose an hour that evening with daylight savings, so an already late-night party turned into an even later night party.
Most venues saw a fantastic turnout for what will hopefully be a signature "must-do" music festival for years to come. The Moon River Beer Garden was consistently packed with jostling audiences of brew-happy music lovers. When this writer arrived, the indie-folk band Wild Child from Austin, Texas, was bringing their boot-stomping energy to the proceedings with infectious results. They were followed by the wonderful New Orleans-based Hurray for the Riff Raff, who seduced everyone with their countryfied roots Americana. Lead singer/guitarist Alynda Lee Segarra even gave a shout-out to The Sentient Bean, which she had visited years ago in her only other foray to Savannah. The crowd hooted and applauded wildly as she commented on how amazing Savannah audiences were - which incidentally seemed to be an ongoing theme throughout the night.
Over at the free concert in Ellis Square, the audience crowded the stage for the blues-rock of Clear Plastic Masks, where pre-St. Patrick's Day stragglers mixed with music fans and casual spectators. It's probably fair to say the grown men in penguin costumes and bedazzled green dresses weren't there primarily for the music, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as anyone. Free concert headliners The Weeks rocked the stage with their Mississippi-grown rock and soul, and their keyboardist tickled the ivories with his right hand still in a cast like a true rock star.
Over at Club One, TEEN took the stage a bit lethargically - possibly due to the fact that they were one of the few acts who performed two days in a row - but they quickly gained momentum and roused the audience to great heights with their lilting, singer-songwriter indie-psych sounds. Lead singer Teeny Lieberson absolutely mesmerized the room with her voice.
Meanwhile, over at The Jinx, the New York-based PitchBlak Brass Band was tearing down the walls with their overwhelmingly energetic hip-hop set to a backdrop of live funk/jazz brass harmonies and driving beats. They produced one of the most lively crowds of the night and after finishing their set, the band members positively glowed with joy at how responsive their Savannah audience had been. The feeling was indeed mutual. Dance-funk Brooklynites Spirit Animal kept the party going with their own brand of energy and though the PitchBlak Brass Band was surely a tough act to follow, they gave it every bit of their all. This writer had to forego the following zany act of Peelander-Z - a "Japanese Action Comic Punk Band" out of NYC - so I could head over to Knights of Columbus for the closing band, Small Black.
The Savannah Stopover Music Festival is full of hard choices. There are far too many great bands playing at so many different locations that you can never hear everything you want, but when you catch a great band unexpectedly and your mind is opened to something you hadn't known about before, that's when the festival is at its surprising best.
Small Black was one of those bands for me. Their indie-electronic, bass-heavy synthpop was heaven to my ears. The band was in early New Order mode at times and at others, they were purely their own thing. As the smoke swirled around the band members, they jumped around the stage as the crowd danced and pogoed like their lives depended on it. The energy in the room swept everyone away and it was the perfect end to a stellar festival.
All of the Stopover folks should be commended on putting together what is definitely one of the best concert series around. There's no reason why this festival shouldn't become one of the premiere festivals in the country in the years to follow. Almost without fail, each and every band had something genuinely great to say about Savannah and their audiences here. Stopover could very well prove to be the fun-filled playground that SXSW used to be now that SXSW is being overcome by the corporate mentality and is increasingly becoming a grind for most bands to play. At any rate, Stopover certainly fulfilled many music lovers' dreams this past weekend, and here's hoping for many more to come.