The whirlwind of Savannah Stopover is almost upon us.

For some, Stopover is one of the best weekends of the year, but I suspect many readers might still be puzzled or even intimidated by the three-day festival, which attracts dozens of bands to downtown Savannah on the weekend prior to SXSW in Austin, Texas.

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So what's the best way to approach the festival, especially if you're attending for the first time?

1. Embrace the new

Never heard of the acts playing Stopover? No worries. Festival CEO Kayne Lanahan and her small staff spend months every year listening to emerging artists, and I've learned over the years to trust the programming. If you open your ears to the new, you will almost certainly find several bands to follow in the future.

2. Do your homework

Start with the Spotify playlist on the Stopover website. Let it play in the background and wait for songs to register with you. From there, do a little more searching and listening. You will soon find yourself with a list of acts you know you want to fit into your schedule.

3. Or just play it by ear

Actually, you don't have to do any homework. Pick bands randomly or just tag along with a friend. You might find yourself amazed by a band that wasn't even on your radar.

4. Talk to artists

Sure, you might get blown off by a frustrated musician who has a gig the next day hundreds of miles away, but most of the young Stopover artists are smart, fun and incredibly appreciative of being welcomed to the city. Of course, they will be even more appreciative if you buy merch.

5. Keep on the move

The busiest Stopover venues are within a few minutes' walk of each other. So if you're listening to a band that isn't your favorite, you're only moments away from a new experience. It can be exhilarating to hear as many bands as possible.

6. Or stay put

Stopover doesn't have to be a race. You might want to let the venues dictate your choices. You might settle into a pew for the full lineup at Trinity United Methodist Church or devote a full evening to the bigger names playing Ships of the Sea. Ditto for the smaller venues, which will be packed with talent.

7. Support the locals

Stopover books about a dozen Savannah-based bands each year. As usual, the 2018 selections include bands you probably know (e.g. CUSSES) and musicians that are just getting established (e.g. Lakin Crawford). The local shows at Stopover always have a special energy. Also, tip your bartenders - they're locals, too.

8. Take care of yourself

This should be obvious, right? Don't drink too much. Get something to eat. Do not under any circumstances drink and drive. Etc. Also, now that I'm in my 50s, I have finally learned to take advantage of chances to sit down early in the day so that my feet aren't yelling at me at midnight.

I'll be back next week with a list of acts that I'm especially excited to see.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged ( and hissing lawns ( Email