Over the last week, I caught 11 Savannah Music Festival concerts and three rock shows around town, and still managed to miss a lot of really great music.
Fortunately, there's another week-plus of the festival set to open what promises to be an amazing April of music.
Here are some highlights from one music junkie's point of view:
Honestly, there was little to complain about or critique at any of the shows I attended this past week. In his Unplugged column, the wonderful Bill Dawers was correct, I believe, in his assessment of Savannah's music scene: we are spoiled rotten.
You can read my reviews of Arias & Encores, Brahms vs. Tchaikovsky, The Avett Brothers and Monk and Dizzy at 100 elsewhere on this site, so I'll skip on those.
Probably standing at the forefront of this week's highlights was the double bill of Haitian roots group Chouk Bwa Libete and Leyla McCalla featuring Dom Flemons.
Staying true to the educational spirit of the Savannah Music Festival, McCalla went into great detail about the history and personal importance of each song she chose. Singing in a mix of Creole, French and English, McCalla and her band offered an intriguing journey into Haitian folk music. Flemons is an insatiably happy guy, and was the icing on the cake for this performance.
This was all a prelude to the night's feature. Chouk Bwa Libete made their U.S. debut to a sold-out, enthusiastic crowd at the Charles H. Morris Center - a fitting venue for pretty much everything that's been put in there thus far.
Chouk Bwa Libete was an almost spiritual experience. From the first conch horn declaration and drum beat onward, the night was riveting. The Haitian roots group put on an extended set with costume changes, crowd interactions and rousing numbers.
While there were a great number of options this week with Savannah Music Festival, there was fantastic live music all over Savannah. On Wednesday, I started at Graveface Records & Curiosities (where live music has experienced a revival, thankfully) for some Twisty Cats action. I slipped out for a second and headed over to the SMF's Jazz Organ Summit just in time to catch the Ike Stubblefield Trio.
I grew up listening to a Hammond B3 pipe out gospel tunes, so Ike took me down memory lane for a few minutes. Thanks, man.
I left early to get back to Graveface for Closeness, Graveface Records' recent signees. The duo of Todd Fink (The Faint) and Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) put on a spectacular show. I got an advance listen to their new album, but the live performance more than exceeded my expectations. On a side note, the married couple fell in love with Savannah on this trip, so I imagine they'll be back.
Thursday was a gauntlet of awesome.
I opened the night with some Mozart in Trinity United Methodist Church, and thanks to a kind lady, got to experience it from one of the rocking chairs in the back - which is just the best.
Later that night I ran into Savannah Music Festival executive director Rob Gibson. I told him I had a simple request: schedule Daniel Hope to play in every concert at the festival, forever. I cannot overstate how talented Hope is. After catching him at the Brahms vs. Tchaikovsky concert, and then Mozart & Beyond, I've become his biggest fan.
After Mozart, it was time for Patrick Watson. The Canadian pop sensation killed it at Ships of the Sea Museum. He brought glass orbs of different sizes with Edison light bulbs in them, which peppered the back of the stage. They had otherworldly casings and bobbed and ebbed with the flow of the music. Into the third song, they began spouting fog. It was an interstellar addition to his already stellar pop music. This show felt more like a Savannah Stopover headliner than a Savannah Music Festival show, except everyone was sitting down.
Watson improvised a new song based on a title given to him from the audience. It was a good taste of what real musical talent sounds like.
I ended Thursday with some stoner metal at The Jinx. ASG and Weedeater put on a killer show, as always. Traveling in one night from Mozart to metal was probably the highlight of my year. I could do that every day and be OK.
After the Monk & Dizzy showcase at the Lucas on Friday, I headed over for some Grateful Ball. Excellent bluegrass renditions of the Grateful Dead? You can't ask for much more. I finished off Friday with Wasted Wine and Jeff Two-Names and The Born Agains at The Wormhole. You should check out both of those bands.
Then I promptly passed out, due to exhaustion. I am about ready for another fix. Hiss Golden Messenger will probably do it, and that's just the beginning of another great week.
Joshua Peacock is a freelance writer in Savannah. He studied playwriting and music at the University of Iowa. Contact him at email@example.com.