Each year, Savannah Stopover Music Festival sorts through hundreds of submissions from touring acts and local bands to find the right fit for their schedule.
This year’s local offerings are as stellar as they’ve ever been.
From frequent appearances from some locals — like Anna Chandler (Nancy Druid), who has played every Stopover except 2017 — to brand new acts like Basically Nancy, and stalwarts of Savannah who haven’t played the festival, yet — like Jeff Two-Names and the Born Agains — the local lineup for the ninth annual festival is a tremendous mix of local talent.
The Train Wrecks, Bero Bero and Enen return. Dope KNife plays his first Stopover, and the new-to-town Valley Gals will also debut. In the mix of locals, you’ll find punk, indie-rock, hip-hop, country and electronic, showcasing the breadth of Savannah’s talent and musical spectrum.
If you’re a local, don’t sleep on the locals playing Stopover, but rather catch them at their best.
To accompany the great photos Adriana Iris Boatwright created for us this year, as she does each year, we asked Do contributing writers Cory Chambers and Christopher Berinato, as well as editor Joshua Peacock, to break down the local bands in this year’s spotlight. [Presented in high-definition, alphabetical order.]
Aaron Paul Zimmer: 6:30 p.m. March 7; Ships of the Sea Museum.
Savannah’s Aaron Paul Zimmer is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who has been composing and performing for over 20 years. He is the frontman for the honky-tonk group The Grand Gestures and the guitarist and songwriter for the award-winning bluegrass band City Hotel. City Hotel’s latest release is called “Don’t Go to the Porch,” which is ironic considering Zimmer’s solo work is perfectly suited for sitting on the porch on a warm spring evening.
Zimmer’s latest solo album, “Saints and Heretics,” will get an official release in May. His warm charm comes through live and on recordings in his beautifully melodic guitar playing and his lyrically autobiographical storytelling. He will have physical CDs of his new album for sale at Stopover. — Christopher Berinato
Basically Nancy: 5 p.m. March 9; Congress Street Social Club.
Savannah’s freshest rock trio, Basically Nancy draws influence from Riot grrrl, The Pixies off-kilter alternative rock, and the straight forward punk of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The product of three talented Savannah Arts Academy students, the trio have been playing all-ages shows throughout the city over the past year. Most of the time, their dads are in attendance nodding with approval. Basically Nancy celebrated the release of their brand new EP with House of Strut a few weeks ago and will make their Savannah Stopover debut as the headlining act for the GenNext Showcase. — Joshua Peacock
Bero Bero: 9:30 p.m. March 9; Club One.
Bero Bero impressed local fans this past January with release shows for their sophomore album “Symbiosis.” The old school synthpop duo is a favorite of the Savannah electronic music scene and has a growing fan base throughout the Southeast. They continue to travel in support of the latest album as they return home for their Stopover showcase. Released via local label House of Strut Records, “Symbiosis” brings images of Kate Bush and Sade. The band is the artistic outlet of pianist and vocalist Veronica Garcia-Melendez. The seasoned musician played backup roles in many bands before delighting folks with her own work. The band conjures an array of feelings with emotional soundscapes mixed into a set of high-energy dance music. Percussionist David Murray adds the spunk to Garcia-Melendez’s songs that keeps fans attending shows and dancing tirelessly. — Cory Chambers
Damon & The Sh!tkickers: 5 p.m. March 9; The Jinx.
Damon and his Sh!tkickers have played The Jinx’s happy hour Saturday set for years. Their regular Saturday gig was grandfathered into Stopover beginning in 2013. One of Savannah’s greatest musical assets, Damon and his band of handsome rebels play classic country, outlaw country and rock ’n’ roll with the ease of seasoned professionals and the unfetter joy of young kids just learning to play music. It is the wonderful amalgam of professionalism and sheer happiness that makes them one of the best regular gigs in town, not to mention they play Johnny, Hank and Willie like no one else can. — Joshua Peacock
Dope KNife: 10 p.m. March 8; El-Rocko Lounge.
Whether you catch him at The Jinx or standing on a porch in someone’s backyard, Dope KNife is always on his best game. There is hardly another rapper in Savannah that can touch his flow — with the exception of his Dope Sandwich cohort Basik Lee. Dope KNife is set to release a new album later this year and will most definitely deliver a killer set at Club One for his Stopover debut, just before heading to Austin to play South By Southwest. — Joshua Peacock
[Warning children, explicit content ahead.]
Enen: 8:30 p.m. March 8; Barrelhouse South.
Isaac Enen is a perfectionist. Enen has been writing songs for most of his life, starting with folk songs before transitioning into rock ’n’ roll. Learning to rock led to an interest in pop music. This transition in style over the years has led to a long delay in the release of his debut album, including scraping and re-recording his tunes several times over.
The long gestation time has allowed Enen to grow as an artist and from the sound of the few tidbits he’s released so far, his soon to be (finally) released solo debut promises to be a finely crafted album of melodic and experimental pop-rock. — Christopher Berinato
Heavy Books: 9:30 p.m. March 9; Service Brewing.
From Savannah veteran Joseph Kapcin, Heavy Books indie-rock pulls equally from doo-wop and ’80s new wave. They released their self-titled debut EP last year, which features an array of Savannah and former Savannah-based musicians, including David Murry (Bero Bero) on drums, Peter Mavrogeorgis on guitar, bass, keys and organ, Veronica Garcia (Bero Bero) on keys and vocals, Josephine Johnson on vocals, James Chapman on guitar and John Zimmerman (Wet Socks, The Muckers) on shakers and tambourine. — Joshua Peacock
Jeff Two-Names and the Born Agains: 9:30 p.m. March 7; Congress Street Social Club.
Savannah’s only pop-punk dad band, Jeff Two-Names and his ragged band of nerdy punks — comprised of a minister, a teacher and a composer — always put on a stellar show. Jeff Two-Names is Savannah’s go-to punk band when it comes to opening for major touring acts. If The Dead Boys play The Jinx, Jeff-Two Names will be there. If The Queers play, Jeff Two-Names will be there. If Agent Orange plays, yep, Jeff will be there. JTNBA just signed to a new a label, River Monster Records. They are recording a brand new album while I am typing this. Currently, they mostly write songs about former bassist Peterson Worrell and drummer Rev Kev’s daughter. Hopefully, they get some new subject matter soon. — Joshua Peacock
The Train Wrecks: 9:30 p.m. March 7; The Jinx.
Savannah’s Train Wrecks are consistently called the city’s hardest gigging band. They started over a decade ago working almost every night in one of Savannah’s many bars. They’ve since released four albums of increasingly dynamic and deep outlaw country and folk music. What may be The Train Wrecks most impressive trait is their ability to stay fresh through countless bar gigs and club dates. The Train Wrecks' current lineup features consummate front man Jason Bible, who just released a solo album, accompanied by long-time guitarist Stu Harmening, with a rhythm section of bassist Colin Motlagh, and drummer Jeremy Hammons. If you love Bob Dylan and all three Hanks, do not miss The Train Wrecks Stopover showcase. — Cory Chambers
Nancy Druid: 10 p.m. March 9; El-Rocko Lounge.
Nancy Druid is the latest project of Anna Chandler, a regular fixture of Savannah’s music scene who has played in several bands, including General Oglethorpe and the Pan Handlers, Lovely Locks, and COEDS. With moody synthesizers, heavily layered guitars, deep Peter Hook-like basslines, and Chandler’s heady vocals, Nancy Druid sounds like it was born in a languid teenager’s bedroom surrounded by Jesus and Mary Chain and Hole posters on the walls and New Order spinning on the turntable. Chandler’s danceable pop melodies are inspired by ’80s artists like Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper, but wrapped in a warm blanket of distorted guitars. Nancy Druid includes members from all over the local punk and indie scene and their exciting self-titled EP came out last year with the promise of new material in the near future. — Christopher Berinato
Valley Gals: 10 p.m. March 7; El-Rocko Lounge.
Savannah’s latest punk addition Valley Gals core members Jake and Miranda, moved to Savannah last year and added local rhythm section Joshua Sterno (drums) and Peterson Worrell (bass) to their gogo proto-punk. With one of the best live sets in the city, don’t sleep on this show. It will be fun. They released a brand new video last year and have an EP on Bandcamp worth every bit of your time. Although newish, Valley Gals is quickly becoming a Savannah staple and rightfully so. — Joshua Peacock