Thanks in part to Savannah Stopover's sponsorship, word spread quickly among Savannah's indie-folk lovers that Sea Wolf would join the lineup of traditional giants that dominate the Savannah Music Festival calendar.
A diverse crowd turned out for the Indie 101 mixtape staple, proving that a younger generation is interested in what the month-long festival has to offer - and the usual crowd is up for something new and a little different.
The Ships of the Sea North Garden was the perfect venue, allowing for full seating and standing room in the back.
With a light breeze and the garden's spring greenery, you'd think the festival staff and nature itself crafted an evening especially for Sea Wolf, whose pastoral lyrics can capture an entire relationship in a water ripple, a blade of grass, a dirt clod.
Though his support rotates, band frontman Alex Brown Church's current group of a keyboard player, drummer, second guitarist and bassist crafted a strong platform for his lush, emotive songs.
The blend of deep cuts from albums "Leaves in the River," "White Water," "White Bloom" and "Old World Romance" with favorite tracks like "Old Friend," "Middle Distance Runner," and "You're A Wolf" elicited approving applause from fans and served as a well-rounded sampling of their discography for first-time listeners.
Church's voice is a warm blend of Elliott Smith's subtlety and Conor Oberst's emotive warble. He's a modest showman, occasionally breaking out of the moment to thank his rapt audience.
For me, the most exciting parts of the gentle performance occurred when Church loosened up, briefly stepping away from center stage to engage guitarist Scott Leahy or keyboard player Lisa Fendelander.
Though Church writes and often performs solo, I was hoping for a more dynamic performance with his full band onstage, and these brief interactions are what made for a truly memorable show.
As Church returned for a solo encore, a group of fans - previously disappointed in the seated show - took the opportunity to fill the center aisle in a manner that wouldn't block seated patrons' views. The enthused audience-within-an-audience had a visible effect on the entire band as they rejoined Church onstage.
Drummer Joey Ficken, restrained for the majority of the set, broke free for a fully explosive finale.
At the sight of fans singing along and dancing, Church's eyes lit up and his acoustic guitar playing intensified. While Savannah Music Festival audiences tend to be more subdued, it was refreshing to see a band inspired by interactive fans and pour everything into their farewell.
The stage vacated, I left the garden to find a group of festival attendees and friends clustered outside of The Sparetime, gawking at the burnt sienna moon looming over Congress Street.
I stood for a few minutes, transfixed, Sea Wolf's signature slow swells that buzz like summer heat still playing in my head.
For a California band, Church's sleepy, wistful builds feel tailor-made for Lowcountry moon gazing, lazy days spent sprawled in the grass in Forsyth Park, and nights spent searching for luminous jellyfish on the south end of Tybee.
The soundtrack for a perfect April beginning, music as permeating as Savannah's summer heat.