Like each year, the eighth Savannah Stopover Music Festival has sprinkled in local support for the 70-plus touring acts that will visit the Hostess City during the three-day festival.
In an attempt to represent the full gamut of the local musical offering, Stopover mixes stalwarts of the scene with up-and-comers, barely knowns, or first-timers - much in the same way they pair well-known touring acts with brand-new bands on the verge of breaking out. This year's local list is a wide range of those categories. Some acts have been on the scene for over a decade, and some have hardly played out and might be completely unrecognizable to local music fans.
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Here's a glance at the 2018 Savannah lineup for Stopover:
Bero Bero is a fresh project from Street Clothes synth master/backup vocalist Veronica Garcia-Melendez and her accomplice, drummer David Murray - also on loan from Street Clothes. The sultry synth-based indie-pop duo has been playing together since 2015, but only recently began exploring Melendez's solo work as Bero Bero.
They released a four-track EP on Feb. 17 that was recorded, mixed and mastered at Savannah's Dollhouse Studio. Bero Bero plays Club One at 10 p.m. March 8, opening the night for Vita and the Woolf and KOLARS.
Cory Chambers Jazz Band
City Hotel's Cory Chambers trades in his mandolin for a guitar to helm a newish side project, which revisits the pre-war sounds of big band jazz. Jamming through traditional tunes, modern covers and witty originals culled from the hot jazz, blues-infused sonic universe, Chambers orchestrates a time-traveling, danceable setlist sure to shake out of any doldrums.
Stanley Walls joins Chambers on trumpet and clarinetist Amy Drew rounds out the horn section. City Hotel banjo player Jay Rudd handles double bass duties. The quartet will open The Jinx's March 9 lineup at 5 p.m. Following Chambers' jazz is the Jon Stickley Trio, Michael Nau, The Trongone Band, The Bones of J.R. Jones and Sarah Shook & The Disarmers.
Approaching a decade of life, Savannah's hard-rock trio returns to Stopover for the third time. They played the festival's first year in 2011 and again in 2015.
Drummer Brian Lackey and guitarist Bryan Harder have been playing together for over 20 years, creating the riff-driven backbone of the band's straightforward hard rock. Angel Bond's commanding vocals top the proverbial cake. CUSSES has evolved into a high-energy, head-banging rock show through the years that is not to be missed.
After flirting with several labels, CUSSES has yet to fully release their second LP, "Golden Rat," which was recorded a few years ago. They self-released an EP, "Here Comes The Rat," of four tracks from the new album last year. CUSSES made an emphatic return in 2017 after a year-long hiatus. They began their resurrection opening for The Joy Formidable on a nationwide tour. In March of last year, they opened for Bon Jovi at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, after winning an online contest.
CUSSES plays Club One at 11:30 p.m. March 9 following a performance by Future Generations. Bronx hip-hop artist Kemba closes out the Club One stage that night.
Damon and the Sh!tkickers
Since 2013, Damon and the Sh!tkickers have been a regular staple of Stopover. Representing the bond between Stopover and its host city, the alt-country rockers' regular Saturday happy-hour gig has been seamlessly integrated into the festival each year. Outside of the festival, you can catch three hours of butt-kicking country every Saturday at The Jinx.
Formed in 2008 by frontman Damon Mailand, The Sh!tkickers pull out the stops for every show, with classic country tunes and originals handled by some of Savannah's most well-versed professional musicians. The band has shifted lineups a few times since inception, but is arguably at its best these days. Anders Thomsen joined in 2011, bringing with him years of experience, including a stint in Chuck Berry's touring band. Savannah's best pedal steel player, Igor Fiksman, joined the band in 2009 and has become a highlight of the live shows. Alex Mason handles drum duties these days, with Marc Chesanow on bass.
They play their regular 5 p.m. Saturday gig at The Jinx this year, followed by Acid Dad, Bat Fangs and Pylon Reenactment Society. One would be wise to park a butt on a golden-speckled stool at The Jinx for about five hours of really great live music.
Danielle Hicks & The Resistance
Although Danielle Hicks lives just over the border in South Carolina, she's drawn the attention of Savannahians, integrating into the local scene organically behind her blues-based, jazz-infused rock 'n' roll. Hicks' indelible soprano is a commanding force on her debut album "Honey." The Resistance - Ben Keiser, Ryan Kelly, Ira Miller and Matt Fallin - form a solid, groove-driven backbeat behind her.
Raised in Tifton, Hicks attended The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York to study vocal performance. She returned to the Lowcountry after a decade to focus on her own music. For her album, Hicks recruited the help of legendary producer Jim Scott (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, Wilco, Bonnie Raitt, Grace Potter and Tedeschi Trucks Band).
Hicks & The Resistance were a late add to this year's local lineup. They play The Jinx at 3 p.m. March 10 followed by Liz Cooper & The Stampede and then happy hour with Damon and the Sh!tkickers at 5 p.m.
Isaac Enen returns to Stopover with his solo project. His former band, Miquel Moure, played the festival in 2016. Enen has released two demos ahead of a full-length debut album. Enen's latest releases are evocative of indie-rock acts The Shins, The Antlers and the Americana of Fleet Foxes.
Enen is also part of the yearly musical project 24HREP with Matt C. Moore and Thomas Mole (Stopover alum McLeod). Enen opens the Congress Street Social Club lineup at 5 p.m. March 9. He is followed by Wilder Maker, Grace Joyner, The Medium, Grandchildren and Low Cut Connie.
Isaac Smith returns to the Stopover lineup this year as a late addition. Smith released his debut album "Young and Old" last year. Backed by the excellent Ethan Stewart on guitar and superb Robert Saunders on drums, Smith's debut offering is a batch of mostly love songs, drawn from Americana, folk and indie-rock influences.
Smith is an exemplary local representative. After moving to Savannah, he transformed from a praise/worship leader into a full-fledged, original folk rock project through the performance fires of local open mics. When not on stage, you can find him behind the soundboard, always creating the perfect live mix. Smith opens The Jinx lineup at 9:30 p.m. March 8 followed by Neighbor Lady and The Cave Singers.
Firmly in the brand-new local acts category, Lakin Crawford is making a bit of a debut at Stopover. Encouraged by Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks frontman Blake Lumry and House of Strut owner Erica Jarman, Crawford recently returned to music after a break to focus on college studies.
Crawford released a five-track EP, "Telephone Eyelashes," last year. Drawing on a variety of influences, from The Mountain Goats to hints of Sonic Youth, Crawford's chill indie-pop is lyrically rich, with danceable grooves and just enough dissonance/noise to offset its sweetness. Crawford opens the March 8 lineup at Congress Street Social Club with a 9:30 p.m. slot. Stoop Kids and Escondido follow.
Anna Chandler is a Stopover favorite, playing almost every year with one band or another. She returns to the Stopover lineup this year with her latest project, Nancy Druid.
Inspired in part by Cat Power, New Order, Archers of Loaf and Jets To Brazil, Nancy Druid's musical foundation began as Chandler's solo singer/songwriter tunes, which are transformed through the band into high-powered, danceable indie-rock.
Train Wrecks drummer Jeremy Hammons lends his steady hands to the project. Ethan Stewart (Isaac Smith Band) recently moved from bass to guitar, with Peterson Worrell (Jeff Two-Names, The Ramages) taking over bass duties. Ian McCarthy (Rich Animals) adds synth to round out the back line.
Out front, usually adorned with brightly colored wigs, Chandler delivers her most daring and expansive guitar work to date and her usual stellar vocals. Nancy Druid opens the March 9 Barrelhouse South lineup with a 7:30 p.m. show, followed by The Muckers (which now features former Savannahian John Zimmerman), Honduras and Public Access T.V.
In 2011, singer/songwriter Payne Bridges was not a singer/songwriter. She moved to Savannah that year and over the course of the past seven years has found a new life path in music. Bridges released a four-song EP in 2015, "GA Flame, LA Burn." She recruited help from a host of local musicians for the EP. "GA Flame, LA Burn" is cemented in Bridges' acoustic folk, with accents of color from reverb-soaked blues guitar, fiddle and the occasional appearance of horns.
Bridges plays regularly in and around Savannah, with a special project promised for this year. She is set to play at 6 p.m. March 8 at Ships of the Sea Museum, opening the night for Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics and Larkin Poe.
Rude Dude and The Creek Freaks
Blazing onto the scene last year, Rude Dude and The Creek Freaks went from playing their first show out, to recording and releasing a debut album, touring and adding two members, all in about a year. Their first recorded offering, "Acid Dad," is a psychedelic/garage rock fuzz-infused kick in the pants with musical traces of Black Sabbath and Jefferson Airplane.
They recorded their second album in Athens at The Glow Recording Studio (Elf Power, Nihilist Cheerleader) a few of weeks ago and expect to release this year. Rude Dude plays El-Rocko Lounge at 9 p.m. March 9. They open a rock bill that includes Illegal Drugs, Yonatan Gat and Combo Chimbita.
A self-taught singer and guitarist, Ryan Jones' dreamy, ambient indie-pop is full of thoughtful, introspective lyrics, delivered by her easy, lush vocals. She's released three tunes on Soundcloud over the past year, but mostly remains ambiguous.
Jones opens the Barrelhouse South lineup on March 10 with a 7:30 p.m. show, followed by Crumb, Ratboys and Vundabar.
The husband-and-wife duo of Peter Mavrogeorgis and Blake Olmstead, Dollhouse Studio owners and operators, return to the Stopover lineup after their 2016 festival debut. Twisty Cats released their second full-length album, "Our Quiet Fantasy," this month.
The experimental, post-punk, synth-driven new wave rock challenges the ear with atonal and angular riffs and movements that distill into the occasional sweet melody. Inspired by The Cramps, Sonic Youth, Gun Club and Sisters of Mercy, they carry the monikers of goth, punk and swamp-techno in a unique mix of rock 'n' roll.
Mavrogeorgis handles guitar, drum machine and vocals for the project, while Olmstead keeps the low end moving on bass, adding keyboard accents and backup vocals, as well. Twisty Cats plays Club One at 11 p.m. March 10, followed by Nation of Language.