Revival Fest was a big success, and it unveiled a versatile new venue that could be used for all sorts of performances and events.

The old paint shop at the Georgia State Railroad Museum is has a grassy outdoor area with enough trees to offer some real shade, but the massive indoor area is even better.

Revival Fest only needed a fraction of the cavernous building, but it was an inviting atmosphere.

With one stage inside and one outside, it was an almost seamless 10 hours of music that included two leading local bands and 10 strong touring acts, several of which were making their first Savannah appearances.

Click here to view photos from the inaugural fest 

The Sweet Thunder Strolling Band, named in honor of the late Ben Tucker, played between sets and led the audience from one stage to the other.

The glitches were minor. A rain shower cut short the outdoor performance by Bradford Lee Folk & The Bluegrass Playboys.

Louella and the Sun had to cancel, but the stellar country singer Sturgill Simpson came down with his band from Nashville to take the empty slot.

There were no clunkers among the dozen acts - not even close.

Poppa Moon & The Stargazers, with members of Johnson City-based this mountain, got things rolling on the outdoor stage right on time.

Then Whiskey Shivers, a five-piece bluegrass band from Austin, electrified the growing audience indoors. The energy set the tone for the afternoon's strong sets by The Accomplices and The Train Wrecks, both based in Savannah.

The Cedric Burnside Project, a blues duo from Holly Springs, Miss., was one of the highlights, but Cranford & Sons from Hilton Head and the awesomely talented Matrimony from Charlotte both got enthusiastic responses.

The evening shows were everything I expected - and more. Field Report's layered sound and evocative lyrics filled the paint shop.

Then the mood lightened and loosened with Austin's Wild Child outside and Nashville's Truth & Salvage Co. inside.

The after-party at The Jinx was headlined by Whiskey Shivers, and included improvised performances from a host of festival musicians, including Cedric Burnside and Jason Bible of The Train Wrecks.

Organizer MusicFile Productions planned to focus on Southern traditions in both music and food, but permit issues prevented on-site barbecue and other offerings. It would be nice if our local bureaucracies helped entrepreneurs make things happen rather than putting up roadblocks.

Capital A Productions handled staging, sound and lighting. It's hard to imagine how they could have done a better job.

Organizers seemed thrilled with the turnout, but there was a good bit of discussion among attendees about why, given the quality of the festival, the crowd wasn't larger.

Maybe next year, more people will get the word.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in the Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged ( Contact him at