Joining the 14-band lineup for the second annual Revival Fest are three local groups that will each bring something unique to the "modern Lowcountry hoedown."
Kicking off the day's festivities at 1 p.m. on the Paint Shop Stage, presented by DO Savannah, is local Americana/alt-country Waits & Co., who will be adding a couple of members to its typical threesome. At 2 p.m. on the same stage, the gypsy jazz of Velvet Caravan will also help open the day-long event.
Savannah's Sweet Thunder Strolling Band will be meandering between the stages throughout the day, banging out glorious tunes between sets.
The story of Jon Waits and his Company is riddled with dark days and redemption, all of which finds its way into a blend of Americana and country western.
After almost 30 years as a musician, Waits began the trio around two years ago with his longtime friend Marcus Kuhlmann on vocals, guitar and harp. Coy Campbell joined later on upright bass and vocals.
Growing up in the Atlanta music scene of the 1980s and '90s, Waits was exposed to talented musicians from the get-go, but for him, music became therapeutic early on, and later in his life proved to be an avenue to sobriety.
After a decade of living a nomadic live that took him out of Georgia through Texas, California and even Pennsylvania, Waits found himself back in the Lowcountry and ready for a new start.
He openly talks about his sobriety now. Years of struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, and being in and out of recovery programs, finally came to an end in for Waits at a men's home in Statesboro. He found a new beginning in Savannah.
Waits & Co.'s music harkens to influences like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash in its song craft, but pulls from the real-life experiences of Waits and the gamut of the entire Southern experience.
"It's family," Waits said. "It's the blood that's in the soil. We certainly come from part of the country that's had some real ugliness in it. But I think as individuals, we seem to transcend that. Maybe as collectives, it's harder for us to do it.
"We're slow to change, but I think that's kind of a good thing," Waits continued. "Because that means we absorb more of what's around us and we think about it and dissect it, and process it, and turn it around in our heads before it becomes part of us. The Southern experience is a feeling of being rooted to where you're from, and no matter where you go, it's always there."
For Revival Fest, Waits' Company will grow to a five-piece with members of the local Americana outfit The Train Wrecks joining the ranks. Jeremy Hammons will sit in on drums, and Stuart Harmening will add his electrified dobro to the mix.
The five-piece version of Waits & Co. played at A-Town Get Down this year, and are set to open for The Accomplices on Sept. 26 at The Jinx.
"Our bass player and my good friend Coy Campbell said, 'We not only get to be performers, we also get to be hosts.'" Waits said. "That's a very apropos way to describe our involvement. We get to be reps for Savannah to the other bands and some of the fans that are coming in from different areas. We are absolutely excited to be on the bill."
Rightfully touted as one of the most distinctive acts in Savannah, Velvet Caravan is an assembly of some of the most talented musicians in the area.
With backgrounds and influences that range in geography from Texas to Serbia, they are not only hard to classify in a singular genre, but surpass what you might expect from the best of worded descriptions.
Rooted in the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt, the famous French jazz guitarist, they expand into honky-tonk, swing and Latin with five very distinctive sounds that blend seamlessly as a unit.
The Sweet Thunder Strolling Band is the only local act to repeat an appearance at Revival Fest.
The project was started by percussionist Andrew Hartzell when he was asked about forming a marching band for a celebration of local author Flannery O'Connor.
"This was how music was played back in the day before everything was amplified," Hartzell said. "I think that aspect of it is really intriguing to me. This is where the audience really needs to participate.
"The musicians have to listen to each other and make it all come through. There's no microphones and nothing between you and the audience. To me, that's the direct connection to what music really is."
After the first performance, which was just Hartzell and a friend on percussion, he went in search of local musicians who might be interested in playing. Phillip Reynolds Price joined as a snare drummer and sometimes accordion player. Price's COEDS bandmate Anna Chandler also became a rotating member of the symphonic parade.
They've performed on only a handful of occasions, and each time with a different lineup of players. Hartzell and Price have been looking to expand the project with a complete horn section.
"The instrumentation and song selection is based on availability of players," Price said.
For Revival Fest, members of The Ghost Town Crooners will be joining in on the stroll, adding a taste of New Orleans with a resonator guitar and clarinet. Waits is also rumored to be joining the band for some tunes.
"I think we're pretty proud of what Savannah has been doing lately," Price said of Revival Fest, as well as the entire Savannah music scene.