More than 80 bands in three days? How does a live music lover even know where to begin?

Savannah Stopover, which runs from March 9-11, has carved out a niche for itself by utilizing existing venues within walking distance of each other and attracting up-and-coming talent poised for bigger things, including acts in previous years like Margo Price, Future Islands and St. Paul & The Broken Bones.

The festival also serves as a showcase for about a dozen Savannah-based bands each year, usually newer ones.

"One more major difference between Savannah Stopover and the big [festivals]," Rawckus Magazine wrote recently, "is you're not likely to have heard of a majority of the lineup - but that's the point. This festival caters to people tired of the homogeny of festival giants.

"If your best experience at the big festivals is going to those early sets of bands you've barely heard of and getting blown away, that's Savannah Stopover's entire lineup," said Rawckus in the recent feature titled "Savannah Stopover is the Underground Music Scene's Best Kept Secret."

For many of us, Savannah Stopover is indeed all about discovery.

That said, ticket holders can tackle the daunting schedule in a variety of ways.

I'm among those who listen closely to the Spotify playlist on the festival website (, scrutinize the schedule and formulate a specific plan of attack. Sometimes that means catching just a few songs of a band before checking out another artist in a nearby venue.

But if that sounds like too much work, you'd likely have just as good a time - maybe an even better time - if you simply drifted from venue to venue. If you find a band you like, you can stay. If the music isn't to your taste, you can grab a drink to go and head for another club.

Stopover regulars have also learned over the years to trust the programming. Kayne Lanahan and Peter Robaudo of MusicFile Productions spend much of the year listening to bands that hope to make the festival lineup, so fans don't really need to overthink their choices.

Other ticketholders might want to base their choices on time and location.

A dozen acts are scheduled for the Saturday afternoon of the festival, for example, and a number of the festival headliners play in the early evening.

Those who for some mysterious reason want to avoid the rowdier late-night clubs can spend their time at larger venues like Trinity United Methodist Church and the North Garden at Ships of the Sea Museum, both of which are hosting some tremendous musicians.

Whether you curate your own experience or just make choices on a whim, you're bound to discover bands that are new to you.

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