The rock band Country Mice, which was the first act booked for the first Savannah Stopover, reunited to kick off the 10th year of the festival last Thursday in the North Garden of the Ships of the Sea Museum.


That was a great moment for longtime festivalgoers who had already seen Country Mice, but Jason Rueger and his bandmates made many new fans with their tight set that night.



And that began a whirlwind three days of music in venues throughout the Historic District.


I had previously seen all of the performers at the opening night event – Country Mice, Tall Tall Trees and The Bones of J.R. Jones – but I was soon enjoying the sense of discovery at The Jinx with the crazily entertaining Donna Savage, a Savannah-based band that I had never seen.


Of course, “discovery” is a tricky word. I obviously didn’t “discover” Donna Savage or any of the other 26 bands that I saw during Stopover. The talented musicians have been working hard for a long time, and many had large fan bases long before they played here last week.


Still, Acid Carousel later that night at Congress Street Social Club felt like a discovery. The young foursome from Texas never let up with their throwback psych rock.


I’m writing about my memorable experiences at Stopover, but the festival routinely has as many as five bands playing at the same time, so other attendees might have been having even better times. If everyone had as much fun and saw as much high-quality music as I did this year, then 2020 was an especially good year.


The festival featured bigger names and attracted larger crowds on Friday and Saturday. Headliners like Shovels & Rope from Charleston and CAAMP from Ohio packed Ships of the Sea, and the mesmerizing Devotchka played to a rapt crowd at Trinity United Methodist Church.


But my personal favorites were bands that hadn’t even been on my personal radar, including Forrest Isn’t Dead and Argonaut & Wasp on Friday at Club One, which is perfectly suited for Stopover’s more danceable acts.


The Red Clay Strays came to Stopover with a lot of positive buzz and lived up to the hype in a daylight set at The Jinx on Saturday. Charismatic lead singer Brandon Coleman, who looks like he could have been Elvis Presley’s lanky cousin, and his talented bandmates seem destined for much bigger venues.


Jeff Gorman and Jake Cochran of the up-and-coming duo Illiterate Light closed out my Stopover experience late on Saturday night at The Jinx. About halfway through the set, which was attended by a number of bands that had played earlier in the festival, Gorman and Cochran quieted the crowd and performed with no amplification at all – a moving and quiet moment.


I obviously saw a lot of the usual suspects – the loyal music fans who support so much of the local scene – but I was especially struck this year by all of the new faces and the wide age range of the audiences.


As always, I regret missing so many of the bands and even a few of the venues, but Stopover inspires looking ahead more than looking back.


What’s next for some of the great young talent that we experienced last week? I can’t wait to find out.


Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email billdawers@comcast.net.


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