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Empire of Sound: Live shows, fresh albums highlight Savannah’s 2016 music scene

  • Capsula (Photo by Adriana Iris Boatwright)
  • Garden Giant (Photo by Adriana Iris Boatwright)
  • COEDS (Photo by Adriana Iris Boatwright)

Empire of Sound: Live shows, fresh albums highlight Savannah’s 2016 music scene

26 Dec 2016

This was a strange year full of shifts and plot twists that rivaled the best fiction.

Savannah shifted as well, while some things remained intact. A new mayor brought alleged change while the city continued its bloody zeitgeist from the previous year. Next year we will have a fully staffed police force, and a new alcohol ordinance will bring some much needed change to entertainment venues in this city.

A new city manager was pushing to defund the arts to balance the budget, and was rightfully met with resistance. Clearly, he hadn’t met fellow Do Savannah columnist Clinton Edminster.

Tourism continued its important impact despite the homicide rate, and the Coastal Empire is well into its transformation into a “destination city,” whatever that means.

We had a hurricane. That was weird. There was a lot of fallout from Hurricane Matthew, including the future introduction of a new person to the world via two of my dear and lovely friends. (Congratulations! Or, surprise!)

Personally, this year I lost some friendships and gained some new ones, changed careers again and forgot to get a haircut.

It was a year full of an equal amount of heartache and beauty for a lot of people, myself included.

The music scene in Savannah had its ups and downs as well. There was a lot of exceptional live music in 2016, and several local bands released fantastic new material. I spent half the year as a recluse and the other half going out way more than I should have, according to my empty wallet.


The sixth annual Savannah Stopover was a tour de force of three heavenly days. Capsula’s rendition of “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” at Trinity United Methodist Church was a major highlight, as well as so many other great shows from more than 100 bands playing downtown.

This week, I got a peek at the mostly completed lineup for 2017’s Stopover and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Into its seventh year, Stopover is helping to put Savannah on the musical map not only with bands, but also with public relations agents, producers and labels the world over.

Savannah will no longer be the passed-over city for touring acts, but rather a true stopover in years to come, in large part to the work being done by Stopover’s parent company, MusicFile Productions, as well as the renowned, three-week Savannah Music Festival.

Murder By Death doesn’t really play a lot of small clubs anymore, but they will play The Jinx, and in May they rocked a sold-out show there. The Savannah Philharmonic’s opening night was absolutely one of the most entrancing and exceptional symphonic shows I’ve seen. I’d watch conductor Peter Shannon direct anything, even a flock of geese.

Blouses, a ceremonial Prince cover band, reunited for a tribute and brought down the house. For The Jinx’s Halloween cover band show, Brass Monkey Junkies, a Beastie Boys tribute, absolutely stole the show; a show that included an almost all-female Black Keys tribute, The Lonely Boys, which was fantastic and should be revived every year, in my opinion. Deathcore giants Fit For An Autopsy put on one of the best metal shows of the year at Dollhouse Productions.

COEDS, Cray Bags, Nightingale News, Casket Girls and Garden Giant all kicked out new albums this year. You should listen to them all in order and on repeat.


A considerable amount of wonderful musicians left Savannah in 2016, and more are planning an exodus in 2017, according to unconfirmed reports. Several music venues closed doors, and some will be missed. Hang Fire most notably, which sort of had a revival in El-Rocko Lounge.

The intrinsic nature of a port city is its transient population. Savannah has always hosted visitors in varying degrees of movement. Temporary or mostly permanent residency is par for the course in a city with several universities, two military bases and an economy built mostly on tourism.

The vibe in the music community varies from sincere worry about its future to nonchalance about the present. There is reason to be excited and concerned. Into next year, there will certainly be a void in the scene.

Some of the problem lies in the size of the community. In a scene like Brooklyn, 12 people leaving would probably go unnoticed. In Savannah, where less than 100 or so musicians know each other and typically support each other, 12 people leaving creates a vacuum. The value of several recently departed musicians seems irreplaceable.

What I think should happen is simple: If you like live music, go to shows. If you like playing music, start a band. The more people involved in making and supporting live music, the more the scene is empowered. Helping things along is a new alcohol ordinance permitting 18- to 21-year-olds into bars and clubs for entertainment, which goes into effect in January. Finally.


Tom Cartmel, an OG rocker in the music scene here and a contributor to Bill Dawers’ hissing lawns blog, is one of the best fellow concert goers you could ask for. He corrects me, correctly, when I am wrong about music or anything else for that matter. I am wrong a lot of times. A fellow music nerd, he shares some of the best rock ’n’ roll I’ve ever been exposed to. I would have been lost without our conversations this year. Tom is an invaluable asset to the music scene in Savannah. Thanks, bud, for being that cool punk dude at all of the shows, and thanks for not moving away like everyone else.


Next year will bring even more change to our evolving, or devolving, society and Savannah will not be insulated. There are a lot of exciting things happening and new bands forming. Art in the next four years will be really good. So cheers to the end of a strange, shifty year, with some decent highlights. Happy new year!

Joshua Peacock is a freelance writer for Do Savannah. He studied playwriting and music at the University of Iowa. Contact him at