For the eighth consecutive year, Savannah Stopover Music Festival will permeate its host city with three days of live music the second weekend of March, as an estimated 71 touring bands and 13 local acts play almost 90 concerts in 11 venues across the city's Historic District.
The festival began as a precursor to the famed Austin, Texas-based festival SXSW, happening each year the weekend before, as a way to catch touring acts en route to Texas.
But Stopover's evolution over the years has also been guided by the notion of introducing fans to new music. Paired with more prominent names, like this year's headliner of Montreal, newer acts and bands on the verge of breaking into a larger stream have been the meat of each year's lineup. This year is no exception, as a host of great touring acts and locals dot the final schedule.
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Leading up to the festival each year, CEO/founder Kayne Lanahan and her staff rely on a giant board in their office speckled with colored sticky notes to get a bird's eye view of the overall festival. As they develop each year's schedule, which involves venues, times and band pairings, the wall shifts in size and color.
"We look at so many different factors," Lanahan said. "Which day the band can play and how they fit musically with others on that day, but there are also lots of logistical variables for out-of-town bands, like how far they have to travel on the day of their show, which impacts how early they can get to Savannah.
"Other scheduling factors include the size of the band and what their sound and stage requirements are. Once we have bands confirmed by day, we then begin assigning venues and times, taking into consideration who they would be playing against.
"We'll often counter program or put a more well-known act in an earlier time slot if we feel it's going to get them the best possible turnout. The local Savannah bands are so wonderful because they often play in the opener slot because they are here in town, and if a touring act is late getting to town, we don't want the whole schedule to get thrown off."
This year gets kicked off with a March 7 "Night Before Stopover" show, which you can read about elsewhere in Do. On March 8, Stopover eases you into the three-day gauntlet with an all-Georgia showcase at Ships of the Sea Museum. Savannah's Payne Bridges, Atlanta's Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics (Revival Fest alums) and Atlanta's Larkin Poe play back-to-back starting at 6 p.m.
Soon after the sun sets, though, the madness begins.
Scheduling close to 90 concerts and bands in 11 venues creates either conflicts or escape routes for patrons navigating the festival. The first choice will be to either catch Isaac Smith at The Jinx, Lakin Crawford at Congress Street Social Club or Zuli at Barrelhouse South. They are all playing at 9:30 p.m. March 8. From there, the choices only get tougher, or easier, depending on your speed and taste.
When asked about her biggest conflict this year, Lanahan said, "I think it has to be Nation of Language at Club One on Saturday night up against Pylon Reenactment Society at The Jinx. I'm timing out how fast I can power walk between the two venues. I think it's about 6 minutes. I can do it!"
As is apt for any festival of this size, there are last-minute drops and adds as touring bands' schedules might shift at the last minute. After seven years, Lanahan and company have learned to be flexible.
"We purposefully leave a few slots open because a lot of bands that are playing SXSW in Austin the weekend after Stopover don't get their confirmations until January, so their plans are coming together after our lineup announcement," Lanahan said.
"We've added Low Cut Connie from Philly, Jonny Couch from NYC and TWEN from Nashville in the last few weeks. We've also added two additional local bands, Danielle Hicks & The Resistance and Isaac Smith's band. Isaac is also one of our sound engineers. Colin Caulfield of DIIV unfortunately had to cancel his spring tour, but he's already our first submission for 2019."
In addition to what have become standard Stopover venues, a few new ones have cropped up this year. Barrelhouse South, East End Provisions, B. Matthew's, and the DeSoto Hotel were added to the regular list, which includes Club One, Congress Street Social Club, El-Rocko Lounge, The Grey, The Jinx, Trinity United Methodist Church and Ships of the Sea Museum.
The four secret shows this year, which are announced an hour prior via the Stopover Twitter account, will take place at Lot 33 on the lower level of East End Provisions, B. Matthew's and the patio at Edgar's Proof & Provisions at the DeSoto Hotel.
Barrelhouse South, located next to The Jinx, has been hosting live music since it opened a number of years ago. This will be the first year it plays Stopover host.
"It's something we've been wanting to do for a few years," Lanahan said of Barrelhouse South. "They've been great to work with and we're thrilled it worked out. It makes the club venues even closer to each other this year so that people can hop around and see as many bands as possible."
IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Stopover Music Festival
When: March 8-10
Where: Downtown Historic District