IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Stopover
When: March 10-12
Where: Downtown Savannah
Cost: One-day pass is $34; two-day pass is $59; three-day pass is $79
As always, the walls are covered in multi-colored sticky notes touting the names of more than 100 bands, the phones are ringing, the computer keyboards are furiously clicking and the team is usually putting out their latest fires.
But this year, instead of being greeted with frustrated, tired faces, the energy is upbeat and everyone is smiling — they have just put the finishing touches on Capsula’s David Bowie Tribute Concert and everything is falling into place like magic.
Why would anyone who is planning to host more than 100 bands during a three-day music festival decide to add one more event to the lineup weeks before the festival begins? Because putting together a once-in-a-lifetime music event is what the Stopover team lives for.
2016 marks Stopover’s sixth year. All the research, bookings, logistics and scheduling is done by a small team: Kayne Lanahan, CEO and founder of MusicFile; Peter Robaudo, director of talent and systems maintenance; and Jared Hall, operations and venue coordinator. They are supported by a handful of social media superstars and other self-proclaimed music nerds, but it’s an undersized group responsible for bringing together such a high caliber of talent to Savannah.
Lanahan, Robaudo and Hall sat down with Do Savannah to break down what’s new, what’s hot and why they do what they do.
What’s new for Stopover 2016
Venues: With the closing of Hang Fire, a new venue needed to be added, so The Rail Pub joined the list along with established venues Wild Wing Café, The Jinx, Club One, Congress Street Social Club, Trinity United Methodist Church, Ampersand, Abe’s on Lincoln and The Grey. The ticketing headquarters is once again located at 110 W. Broughton St. Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum was used several years ago, but this will be first year the venue will be used all three nights and it will also host food trucks on opening night.
Dosti Music Project: According to Lanahan, the Dosti Music Project originally wanted to come for the Savannah Music Festival but the dates didn’t work out, so they were recruited for Stopover. Each year, the Dosti Music Project invites 10 world-class musicians from India, Pakistan and the U.S. to spend a month working together. Lanahan adds that the group will play some covers as well as original music created specifically for Stopover. Savannah will be the first stop of only four cities during their tour. The all-ages concert is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Trinity church.
David Bowie Tribute Concert with Capsula: In 2012, the band Capsula (whose name is derived from David Bowie’s 1969 song “Space Oddity”) released their version of Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” The band will perform the album in its entirety at 11 p.m. Friday at Trinity church. Admission will be available to Stopover pass holders on a first-come, first-served basis. Capsula is scheduled to perform the same show for the opening night of SXSW, so the Savannah audience will be the first to experience the show live. According to Lanahan, “It’s going to be super cool.”
Secret Shows: While Secret Shows are not new, the concept behind this year’s shows is. At least two of the three secret shows will not be second shows, which means the bands playing these shows are not on the published lineup. A fourth show may be booked as well. And according to Robaudo, the bands they have confirmed are very popular in the indie music world.
“People are going to get the Twitter announcement and be shocked,” he adds. “These shows have gotten exponentially more popular and people get upset because they wait in line and can’t get in, so be ready and plan ahead.”
Stopover in the Yard at The Grey: Lanahan says that after doing six Stopover in the Yard events, it doesn’t make sense to keep the attendance limited to VIP ticketholders, so this year, admittance is first come, first served. The event combines food, music and drinks at The Grey in a family-friendly outdoor area. The concert featuring The High Divers begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, with food service from noon-3 p.m. All Stopover pass holders gain entry to the show and food is available for purchase.
#HappyStopover: For all those social media-savvy Stopover guests, there is a new hashtag this year: #HappyStopover. “We just noticed that last year, particularly with the locals, people would come to pick up their tickets and a lot of people were high-fiving each other and saying, ‘Hey, happy Stopover!’” Lanahan says.
Highlights for 2016
According to the team, one of the biggest highlights this year is, of course, the stellar lineup.
“We are back to being the weekend right before SXSW,” Lanahan explains. “... That impacts a lot of things, mainly booking, so we are back to having a lot more bands that are actually traveling down I-95 and going to SXSW. We have more Brooklyn bands, we are a little more indie rock focused this year and we have a few bigger headliners like Ra Ra Riot, Blitzen Trapper and Yuck.
“An interesting story about Yuck; they were actually confirmed on the first wave of SXSW, and they are from London, so we reached out to their booking agent. They were just going to fly to Austin but were intrigued by Stopover. A week later they had added Stopover ... That was probably something that probably wouldn’t have happened five years ago; where a band kind of rethought their plans for us.”
Hall notes that one highlight he is looking forward to is the shows on Friday right after work at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Those events will feature more intimate shows from headliner bands. The idea is to bring more people out during the day instead of keeping all the headliner shows for late at night.
Robaudo says he is looking forward to the all-ages Furious Hooves, Graveface Records and Noisy Ghost PR Showcase starting at 2 p.m. Saturday at Congress Street Social Club. The show features Furious Hooves bands Curbdogs, Grand Vapids and Dear Tracks as well as Noisy Ghost/Graveface artists Ancient Warfare, The Stargazer Lilies, Hospital Ships and Des Ark.
Another highlight for the crew is increased ticket sales. VIP tickets sold out and passes are going fast, but Lanahan warns locals that outside sales are way up. So if you plan to do the typical Savannah thing and wait until the last minute to get your passes, you may miss out on the entire festival. Low ticket cost, great venues and Southern hospitality are a big draw for outsiders.
Making the trip
For the past three years, Amy Miller and her husband Matt have made the 10-hour drive from Harrisburg, Penn., to Savannah for Stopover and they say the trip is well worth it every year.
Amy says the duo originally looked at going to SXSW, but the schedule was overwhelming and the cost was way out of their budget.
“So, we looked at other music festivals in the Southeast and Savannah was the first one that popped up,” she says. “We couldn’t believe the lineup and the cost was so inexpensive.”
The Millers say they enjoy going to concerts together and keep up with new music and bands by watching “Jam in the Van.”
But the couple says the downside to this year’s Stopover lineup is that there are too many great bands playing, and they are worried about conflicting schedules.
“We hate to miss anybody,” Amy says. “We are definitely there for the concerts, so we start our evening as soon as the bands start, and we are going until they end.”
They also say they love Stopover because the venues are small and it gives them that once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience an intimate concert with some of their favorite bands.
“We like The Jinx and I like the Congress Street Social Club,” Amy adds. “We spend a lot of time there hanging outside. Being from up North, it’s nice to be outside enjoying the nice weather. Sometimes it makes it hard to go inside to see the bands play.
“... And everyone is so friendly there. We are very appreciative they have this festival every year. We really appreciate their efforts to put this together and it’s something we look forward to every year.”
Lanahan agrees that the smaller venues make for some of her most memorable moments from Stopover.
“Like seeing Christopher Paul Stelling doing Tall Tall Trees at Abe’s; these smaller venues where you look around and you’re like, this is just such a cool moment where the audience is so connected to the band.
“So many festivals these days, you are in the field with 30,000 other people, so to have that kind of connection to a band is pretty cool, and to do it in Savannah’s super cool spaces, that’s when I’m like, yes, this is why we do this.”