Lee Fields (top left), A Tribe Called Red (top right), AJ Davila (bottom left), Tall Tall Trees (bottom right)
written by Connor Hayes
With Savannah Stopover Music Festival quickly approaching, the list of artists may seem daunting, and even those who follow groups relevant in the underground may be poring over the names in search of ones they know, yet within the full lineup exist a number of groundbreaking artists who aren’t just changing the game, but completely rewriting it. These are the Pioneers of Stopover, and these are their stories.
Lee Fields & the Expressions
Savannah has a lot of soul, so it makes sense that Brooklyn native, Lee Fields and his backing band, The Expressions, bring their show-stopping bravado to the Hostess City. Cited as the hardest working soul singer since the late James Brown, Fields’ show is more of a lover’s caress than live music event. Not all of his songs are about roses and good times: the crooner brings in more mature and heavier themes with songs like “Work to Do”, which belies its relaxing, lilting rhythm by describing a relationship under serious duress from infidelity.
Nostalgia is heavy with this pick. Crocodiles are one of the bands that defined 2013 for this journalist. Though they released their Duran Duran-had-a-lovechild-with-The Ramones manifesto, Crimes of Passion, to acclaim from classic punk fanatics like myself, lately their material has moved towards more atmosphere post punk, seized with ennui rather than rebellion. Touring last fall in support of their latest LP Dreamless, Brandon Welchez and Charlie Rowell bring a trademark infectious dance punk live show that plays like if Franz Ferdinand hung out on the rough side of town for too long.
A Tribe Called Red
Though you can probably count on one hand the number of Native American EDM acts that are out there, A Tribe Called Red is hardly a novelty act. In fact, to describe them as such is not just a mistake; it’s an insult. Based in Ottawa, DJ NDN, 2oolman, and Bear Witness weave both political and humanitarian rhetoric into their very songs, which incorporate chants, loops, and sequencing alike, and the members of the Halluci Nation are just one of the many burgeoning Native American acts bringing their heritage to the mainstream music audience (Google Native American Rap). Their set being located at Club One, an LGBT bar/venue, just further points to their message of uniting peoples to further the better parts of the human elements, and is set to be one for the books.
Christopher Paul Stelling
It was on a Saturday morning in March 2015, that I sat down with Chris, proceeded to end an interview with a tough question, to which he replied “I didn’t know I was going to have to do math this early in the morning”. Though certainly charming, this just exemplifies how Stelling lives life, and writes music: utterly genuine and blunt. Technically folk singer songwriter, Stelling’s sets are more sweaty family reunions that have never happened previously, an ad hoc assembly of unassuming fans, with dancing, smiles and laughter that put a Deadhead gathering to shame. This is especially true of Stopover: Stelling has been a fixture in past lineups for the last couple of years, and there does not exist a more passionate, raw, and visceral Americana concert than a Christopher Paul Stelling secret set (which we might be graced with the weekend of Stopover).
While Christopher Paul Stelling may be a cornerstone of genuine Americana, the same could be said of Mike Gibney when talking about bedroom synthpop. Going by the stage named Gibbz, Gibney croons over 80’s keys in a very effortless way. And he’s a real nice guy too, occasionally participating in sit in collaborations with the likes of GRiZ (though last time they got a bit tipsy while making tunes). Gibbz shines not so much for any one element, but for the sole reason that his music is well produced and written, while still being approachable to a passerby. You’re going to make friends at a Gibbz set, and maybe more if you’re lucky.
In this journalists formative years, Davila 666 was one of the pre eminent garage punk groups of the day, touring with the likes of the Black Lips and Thee Oh Sees, to name a few. Pioneering what amounts to a heavier and more raw Puerto Rican Ramones, AJ Davila led this rowdy gang. Though he’s gone solo, the apple doesn’t fall far from the lo-fi tree, and Davila’s shows still echo the riotous energy of the full band. If you want a golden shower of PBR flying from one direction of the stage to the other, and maybe a chair or bottle following after it, jump into the pit at this garage rock scion’s show.
Tall Tall Trees
Mike Savino is one of the the kindest, most esoteric people you’ll ever meet. Oh, and he also picks an LED-lit banjo. Under the moniker Tall Tall Trees, Savino’s progressive folk tunes would never make you think he hails from Long Island, but if he’s not in too much of a hurry during Stopover, talk to him about any subject (just look for the great, big, bushy beard). During 2015’s Stopover, I was jotting down an interview as Savino and fellow pioneer Emilyn Brodsky, as they discussed the current state of the independent music industry. That’s the magic of Stopover, being able to learn by osmosis in the presence of many hardworking people who define pushing musical envelopes. As for Savino’s live show, a Tall Tall Trees set ebbs and flows like a good romantic comedy, without all the clichés: you’ll think, feel, laugh, cry, but feel complete at the end.
Damon and the Shitkickers
There’s not much that can really be said to do a set by Savannah’s resident hell raisers justice. Simply go and see Damon and his Shitkickers, it’s the best of a honky tonk and punk show combined: Cheesy enough to be welcoming, and raucous enough to go hard in the hay.