Three Nights in the Hostess City: A Review of Savannah Stopover

written by Connor Hayes

photos by Connor Hayes

Introduction – Savannah may be the destination for St. Patrick’s day revelers and tourists both young and old, however it’s also home to a SXSW-style, city-wide music festival, affectionately called Savannah Stopover (for the stop that bands make on their way to SXSW).  One of the few remaining cities in America with an Old World charm and architecture, Savannah is the perfect setting for this giant, pop up indie music festival.  While being a city festival, the denizens, staff, and artists make this entire weekend feel like home to new attendees and old alike, making it the most accommodating festival I’ve experienced thus far.  Southern hospitality at its finest.

Music genre – Garage Rock, Electro Pop, R&B, Rap, EDM, Folk, Bluegrass, Alt Country, Indie

Camping: No: hotels and motels well within walking distance from venues

Capacity: Small (5K-10K attendees)

Crowd type: Art School Students, College Students, Tourists

Water stations: N/A: not needed due to presence of too many bars and clubs to count

For The First Timers – Savannah, though romantic and charming, deals with a historic grid system of roadways, making traffic a bit of a hassle.  If you can, stay at one of the hotels so as to never use your car.  Bikes are also very common in the historic district, take a tip from the art school students that go to SCAD.  However, once you’re downtown, assume you won’t be operating a motor vehicle for a while: Savannah’s Congress Street contains close to 12 bars and clubs along its length, back to back to back. You’ll also find 2 of the fest’s venues on this street as well.

Standout Food (and Drink) – Much like the Deep South, Savannah has a deep culinary traditional, spanning hundreds of years and influences such as British, Spanish and indigenous.  Fancy dives like 17-Hundred-94, and The Grey will delight those with some cash to blow, and if you’re in the mood for something more affordable, stop on by Sweet Melissa’s for that 1 AM pizza craving, or Wild Wing Cafe (which happens to be one of the venues, as well).  Savannah is also home to one of the only “walk-thru” McDonald’s: the window you order from is on the sidewalk.  Deep Eddy Vodka and Lagunitas Brewing both sponsor Stopover, so they can be found at every one of the venues as well: try my personal cocktail creation, the Broughton Street Special (Deep Eddy Cranberry and Schweppes Ginger Ale).

Musical Highlights – Stopover is distinct in that even if you operate in the kinds of circles that someone going to SXSW does, you’ll still probably only know the headliners of the lineup.  This year was predominantly garage rock and electronica, with a sprinkling of folk and even a little bit of Rap and R&B. However, here’s the standout sets:

  • A Tribe Called Red: The first time I heard ATCR, I was sitting in my dorm at Flagler College with my buddy Spence, and he played something that started with a Native American drum, and descended into chanting drops, and I was hooked. That was 4 years ago, so finally seeing these First Nation musicians was amazing. They played all of their back catalogue, plus some remixes I’ve never heard, plus an especially crunchy “Look at This”.
  • Lawrence – Although these siblings haven’t been on my radar for too long, their talent exceeds their age by far, and their live show is a total reflection of that. The climax of the night was when the horn section jumped into the crowd.
  • Cicada Rhythm – This Athens based folk duo was a nice surprised to wake up to on Saturday morning. The crowd at Congress Street Social Club was gathered around the oak tree in the center of their patio, and I’m sure some of them were enjoying the bar’s specialty, bottomless mimosas, with their AM upright bass. 

Things To Do  –

  • Relax in the many city parks
  • Dance at the swanky new venue, the El Rocko Lounge
  • Get late night pizza from Sweet Melissa’s
  • Visit the many museums, including the Tel Fair art museum
  • Attend a show at the beautiful Trinity Methodist Church

VIP or Nah – Although there is a VIP gift bag, and reserved seating at some venues, the main reason to get VIP is definitely to bump up the Southern hospitality with entry to The Artist’s Lounge, which features an open bar stocked with Lagunitas brews and Deep Eddy cocktails.  This year’s Artist Lounge was incredible: it featured modern-style, super comfy furniture, so I could charge my laptop and work on photos in comfort, plus you’re rubbing shoulders with bands and musicians you’ve just seen. To top all of this off, every VIP pass includes an invite to the festival Wrap Up Party the day after the festival ends.  This year’s wrap up was like a family cookout, held at festival founder Kayne Lanahan’s house in the Historic District, where I got to spend time with Americana artist Christopher Paul Stelling, and Telfair Director Stephanie Raines.  Plus the house itself was an 1800’s British Colonial style abode.  Truly, “But first, brunch!”

Story Corner –  I often know a lot more about the artists I listen to than even my close friends, i.e. where they’re from, what they look like.  So I remember passing a guy right outside Wild Wings on Night One, and he looked like Mike Gibney, aka Gibbz.  So I say, “Mike?”, and say I’m Connor (we had been having correspondence trying to set up an interview).  He recognizes me with aplomb, we’re both super psyched we put faces to names, then we decided to go bar hopping.  We hit The Jinx, and listened to a Welsh band, Chain of Flowers, while talking about his past tours with Michal Menert and Gramatik.  Life is best when you just treat musicians like people.

Check out the full photo gallery from Savannah Stopover here!

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