I, like so many in Savannah, stumbled into Sunday with pain. But what glorious pain it is.
From head to toe, nerve endings signify you have survived Stopover, but the brain strangely responds with a shot of endorphins — an opiate for the gluttony of good times.
The Savannah Stopover Music Festival delivered another stellar year of live music to the local music junkies, passersby and casual fans alike.
It’s a lot to digest; more than 100 bands in three days, all playing in 10 venues across the Historic District. By the end, everyone finds themselves saying, “Well, you can’t make everything.”
Only the most ardent and experienced festival fans make the majority of shows. One such patron, who we will call “Jack Larry,” claimed by the final day that he had completely lost track of what bands he had seen that day.
You always start into the wormhole of a music festival with the best of intentions. You rarely fulfill those intentions entirely. I was lucky this year to get pretty close. I am sure Jack Larry did as well. Another patron, who we will call “Tom Hero,” probably did as well.
The sixth Savannah Stopover was stacked with performances from the exceptional to the mediocre, outright raging parties, annoying EDM, plenty of juvenile behavior and a lot of assorted moments no one will remember.
Here’s a notebook with highlights:
Scotty doesn’t know
Let’s start with the fun stuff (*sarcasm*).
At 8:40 p.m. Saturday, Stopover tweeted that Atlanta’s Scotty ATL, one of the only hip-hop acts playing the festival, “cancelled his Stopover performance because he is unwilling to perform at Club One.” Local one-man band Sunglow and the fantastic French Horn Rebellion filled in for him, and by all accounts (I was not there), did an excellent job doing so.
Since every other act on the Club One bill throughout the fest seemed to be happy with the accommodations/stage/sound system, the cancellation was perplexing, to say the least.
On the street and on the ’net, the rumors began to fly and the reaction was immediate. Club One took to social media with a GIF featuring a member of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” saying, “Talk about being a drag queen.” Several members of the local music scene also jumped in with thoughts on the matter, and they were not amicable to Scotty ATL.
I will not speculate on Scotty ATL’s true reasons for not showing up. The only word from him came in an enigmatic social media post (since deleted) that said, “Tip: people only gone go as hard as they see you go. Lead by example. Savannah. #NoHandoutsTour.”
Who knows what that really means. I will, however, speculate on the chances of Scotty ATL ever playing Savannah: Poor to never.
(Editor’s note: Do Savannah requested comment from Scotty ATL via phone, email and Facebook message. As of Monday, he had not responded.)
Clearly, Scotty doesn’t know anything, whatever his reasons for dropping out of the fest may be.
In a Capsula
Now we venture from the worst to the best.
The Spanish/Argentinian rock outfit Capsula was my highlight of the year.
I caught them closing out last year and when I saw them added to this year’s schedule, I made note. However, a few weeks ago a very special second show was added to this year’s bill at Trinity United Methodist Church.
In 2012, Capsula, who derive their name from David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” released “Dreaming of Ziggy Stardust,” a cover album of Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.”
In light of the rock god’s recent passing, Capsula is reviving the album for live shows. They had scheduled a show for SXSW, and in a sort of last-minute bid, added a live performance of the record to Stopover this year.
If at any point in my life you would have told me I would have the opportunity to hear “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” performed in its entirety by a Spanish rock group, in a church, I would have written you off as mad.
As one festival worker put it, “only in Savannah.”
It was a spiritual experience to hear that album in that venue, this year. Personally, that is one of my all-time favorite albums, and had a spectacular impact on a young me. I have a very old vinyl pressing, which during the appropriate mourning period this year, has gotten a lot of play.
Further augmenting the performance was Capsula’s approach to the album. They are not trying to be Ziggy. They are only dreaming of Ziggy and interpreting that dream as Capsula. The performance was brilliant in execution and style. There are only a handful of bands that can completely own a cover. It’s a hard feat to accomplish not only because the music is not your own, but because your version is immediately judged based on the original.
Capsula closed out Stopover at The Jinx on Saturday night. They coursed through new and old original material for a crowd that never stopped moving. The rock goddess Coni even got a surf/ride through the crowd, thanks in part to Do Savannah editor Heather Henley and myself.
After finishing their set, they came back onstage for an encore after the raucous crowd begged for it. They closed out with two Bowie songs, even snatching Dollhouse’s Peter Mavrogeorgis to help with the closing guitar parts in an unplanned moment.
It was an emblematic staging of Savannah’s music scene; an excellent rock ’n’ roll band, playing quintessential rock ’n’ roll on the Savannah rock ’n’ roll stage with a local rock ’n’ roll star.
A variety of venues
It was sad to see Hang Fire go at the beginning of this year. They were not only a staple venue for Stopover, but for the entire scene. It has certainly left a vacuum for venues in this city.
Picking up some of that slack this year was The Rail Pub and Ships of the Sea. Both were great venues. Ships of the Sea’s stage was set in the back of the museum, and provided plenty of space for the opening night shows and poster contest exhibition.
The Rail was good, but only because the weather was good. It didn’t seem they had a back-up plan in case of rain. The Rail’s bouncers are an unpleasant crew to deal with, though. It’s understandable. That particular bar is often patronized by unpleasant drunken tourists. And I certainly would not want to be a doorman in this city.
The Jinx is, as always, an exceptional music venue handled by professionals. Wild Wing Cafe is OK, but nothing special. Congress Street Social Club is a great venue. Thankfully, a very beautiful Saturday led to an outdoor stage at Social. I could stand more of that.
Abe’s was small, but inviting and personal. Cool bar, decent music venue. Club One is fabulous, as usual. It’s becoming — or is? — a legendary gay bar that’s great for dancing the night away.
Which brings me to Ampersand.
During last year’s Stopover, and at several shows throughout the year on Ampersand’s second floor, a DJ churning the most annoying EDM was booked at the same time on the first floor.
The floorboards between the first and second floor are not as razor-thin as say, my apartment’s floors. Normal bar noise would have trouble making its way upstairs, unlike my neighbor’s voice, which tends to drive me out of the best dreams every Sunday morning.
However, bass and drums at high decibels create a thumping on the floor, interfering with quieter music and even some medium-loud rock.
The first few times this happened on the second floor of Ampersand, I believed it was an accidental double booking on the part of the venue.
During a particularly wonderful set from PWR BTTM this year, I came to believe Ampersand simply doesn’t care.
The frontman from PWR BTTM began to vocalize his frustration with the downstairs thumping during the set, and rightfully so.
From a business perspective, it’s understandable that a three-floor bar has a high monthly overhead and needs to bring in business on a regular basis. If you’ve ever ventured there on a Friday or Saturday night, it’s clear the first floor is doing what the business model intended it for.
I don’t particularly have a problem with bad EDM. I’ve been known, possibly while intoxicated, to stumble into such a dance bar and proceed to make a fool of myself.
What I do have a problem with is a venue intentionally (apparently) dissing one of the city’s best music festivals by booking a DJ, which they know will interfere with the upstairs show, all in the name of making a buck. I get it. A bar is hard work. It’s not easy to keep afloat. If it was, everyone would own a bar.
A little respect is probably what I am asking for here. Not only is Ampersand disrespecting patrons who pay for shows upstairs, but they are potentially giving Stopover a bad name. PWR BTTM, and other bands, could get a bad taste in their mouth and spread the word. I am not saying this is happening. I am only saying it’s a possibility.
Over the last six years, Stopover has built a reputation as band-friendly festival. They take care of their acts. Over the three years I’ve covered it, time and again, I’ve seen bands sing Stopover’s praises. The evidence is clear when a lot of them, like Capsula, come back and play a second or third year.
Ampersand should at least give the appearance of caring by either working with bands and promoters, or stop using the second floor for live music. If you want to be relevant, you must work to fill the vacuum, or someone else will.
This review is getting pretty long. So, here are some short thoughts on other things.
Scheduling: Stopover staggered many of the performance times this year, which was an excellent idea. I was able to catch so much more in a shorter period of time. Although some shows were not on time, it seemed most of the festival ran pretty smoothly. You’re bound to run into scheduling hiccups with more than 100 bands playing in three days.
Local bands: The more local bands whose shows I wandered into, juxtaposed against the touring acts, the more I realized the deep talent pool we have here. In a of lot cases, the locals outshone the touring bands. I caught a bit of the Furious Hooves and Graveface showcase at Social on Saturday. Although it was a mellow time, I liked most of what I heard. No surprise. The Ryans who run those labels aren’t getting recognized because they sign EDM DJs.
New faves/best shows: Following one of Stopover’s mantras, “Find your new favorite band,” here are a few of my new favorites found this weekend: Mothers, Say Brother, Sun Club, Ancient Warfare, Porches, Susto, Des Ark, Blank Range, Quiet Hollers, All Dogs, Chief Scout, PWR BTTM and Garden Giant.
Let-down: Ra Ra Riot was the biggest disappointment of this year. I was thoroughly looking forward to their show. The music was not terrible, but the show itself was flat. Perhaps they had a very long day and were exhausted. It’s understandable. They didn’t lose a fan in me, but I feel a little disappointed.
Mediocre: I encountered several mediocre acts, which is par for the course. Given the subjective nature of music, and art for that matter, I always like to see if someone else around me is enjoying the music. Not once did I see an entire crowd completely lost on the act. I did over hear an older gentleman say, “That band needs music lessons.” Which I thought was funny. There was always at least a handful of people enjoying what was going on.
Thanks, Stopover, for another great year. Let’s do it again in 12 months, please.
Joshua Peacock is an online content producer for Savannah Morning News and a music columnist for Do Savannah. He studied playwriting and music at the University of Iowa.
I will own up to what I say in this column. Especially when I make a mistake.
I received some enlightening and constructive feedback concerning this review. After some thought, I believe I need to clarify some of the points here.
After re-reading what I originally penned, it became clear that I failed to paint a complete picture. This year’s festival was not without its problems, as I clearly laid out here.
I cannot pinpoint why I focused so heavily on several derogatory points. I could have easily focused more energy on the wonderful experiences. There were plenty of them. It would be easy to blame a fog brain, or an exhausting lifestyle. I won’t write it off that easily, however.
The Scotty ATL issue received more play in this review than it deserved.
It’s unclear to me why I came down so hard on The Rail Pub. I actually like that bar a lot. One doorman was a jerk, and I took that too far. That was a mistake. Every show I saw there was handled well. It was an exceptional venue location, and there really is no other reason to complain.
I used the word mediocre, and that was a mistake. In an attempt to write a balanced review, I tended toward too much negative rhetoric. I would blame Drumpf, but that would be too easy as well.
Stopover this year was anything but mediocre. It was, as it always is, an exceptional music festival. What I intended with those remarks was to simply note how not every band I saw was to my fancy.
The review I wished I had written would have focused on bands like PWR BTTM, Susto and Say Brother. Acts that were not on my radar at all, with whom I fell in love. This is the entire idea of a festival like Stopover. It’s an introduction party. It’s speed dating for music lovers. I had a lot of good dates this year, as I always have.
I can’t for the life of me recall why I picked out the ugly dates to focus on, when I was hanging with the hottest for most of the time.
My hope with this column is not to be judgmental or dismissive for no reason. Plenty of people do that already. I approach my writing with a desire to be honest, in the hopes that it is constructive and not deconstructive. In some respects, I failed that mantra with this review.
I will do better.