After two days, Savannah Stopover was in full swing. Crowds were a mixture of college kids, graduate students and age 30-40+ locals.
Friday, March 9th
The first venue stop was Blowin’ Smoke BBQ. It was a medium sized restaurant with an equal sized outdoor area that was covered with a tent. Outside was also a bar and food stand.
Christ, Lord came out to a fair sized crowd who wasted no time getting up front for the band. The band began with a hymn, and after a couple of songs it was clear that they specialized in mid-tempo Eastern European gypsy style music with whimsical lyrics, much to the delight of the audience. The instruments used included an acoustic guitar played as a bass, a trumpet, a rhythm guitar, an accordion, and drums. The singer had a warm tenor and played the accordion. The trumpet player played warmly and vibrantly and provided backup harmonies. The drummer helped create the churning rhythms, alternating between using the rims of the drumheads and snare while providing sparkling cymbals. They created lots of interesting melodies and are a must see act, especially if their missing violin player shows up.
Next up was Brown Bird, a male-female duo from Rhode Island, who were on a full cross-country tour. The male singer had a bluesy voice, Van Morrison-style, with a little bluegrass vibe. The female also sang, and they both took turns or sang together with close, low harmonies. She also played violin, cello and upright bass, and alternated strongly plucking cello strings with bowing. The male played acoustic guitar, bass drum and some type of foot controlled percussion simultaneously.
The Jepson Center was the next venue stop, to see Grimes. It was an arts center, and was totally packed with a line out the door, down the stairs and into the street. Grimes appeared in a full-length thin robe, looking like a lovely specter in the artistic light setup. She performed on a landing on stairs, with two boxes filled with electronics that were ready for her set. Not only did she play music, she also did live singing and dancing with whatever arm or arms weren’t controlling the electronic dance groove music. After a couple of songs, another person came onstage with her to play on one of the boxes. While leaving the venue, a patron explained why he was leaving, “I like rock and roll.”
Loco’s, the bar chain that is known for sports on TV, video games and music was the next venue stop. Triathlon was an all-male quintet made up of visual art students from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Together, they made upbeat alt rock with sweeping, lush guitar parts and soul. Before they started, many college-aged friends and fans lined up in front of the stage, filling half the venue in order to sing and dance along with the band. Triathlon’s lead singer brought total soul to the show with his singing, dancing and energy. The lead guitarist played glass slide a good bit when not creating Strokes (QRO album review)-like lead parts. The rhythm guitarist and bassist played next to each other, singing backup parts into the same mic while the drummer and rhythm player held the strong beat down.
Live Wire was the last venue stop, a cavernous brick building with two parts separated by arches on River Street, which is the place where many people will travel to the next week for one of America’s largest Saint Patrick’s parties. On this night, a party was already happening – the Neon Gold Records Dance Party. Finishing out the party was The Knocks, a two-man electronic act with percussive elements that had the audience dancing from their very first song. The main singer had a strong, clear voice and played keyboards while looking something like Steve Urkel with his big glasses. The backup singer was playing all sorts of keyboards and electronic machines as well as percussion pads. The New York group created soulful and funky dance tunes, the best of which stated, “I promise you that you’ll remember tonight for the rest of your life.”
Saturday, March 10th
The Ships of The Sea Museum Garden was the first venue stop. The wonderful garden stage was the location of the Mazarine Records Showcase featuring many talented groups from Athens, Georgia.
powerkompany were a duo and a complete standout band. The redheaded female sang soprano arias, sure to be heard several blocks away. She echoed and multiplexed her vocals sparingly enough to make the effect unique, and played ukulele on about two thirds of songs. The male played violin and occasionally sang counterpoint vocals. It was a lovely start to the noon time event.
Dare Dukes were a folky trio consisting of two singers and an accordion player. The lead male singer had a delicate voice that spun lovely tales of hopeful or sad relationships. The female played a small xylophone gently and mostly sang backup with quirky alto range harmonics. She shyly sang lead on two songs, starting off shakily then getting stronger. The accordion player played slow chords that match the songs’ moods. They were quite interesting.
Electrophoria were a male quintet that performed songs based on a trip to Indonesia by two of its members. The main male vocalist had a baritone voice and played guitar, sampler and keyboard. The bassist and acoustic guitarist also plays keyboards and vibraphone. The other male singer had vocals that were mainly low except some backing vocals and he also played guitar and vibraphone. The group borrowed powerkompany’s female singer for some songs, which she sang low as well. The drummer played a two-piece kit with cymbals that created a great big sound.
Blowin’ Smoke BBQ was the next venue stop to see the Atlanta band Ponderosa. The quintet’s music ranged from bluesy to dramatic, sometimes accomplishing both within the same song. The male lead singer sang and played rhythm guitar. The other male singer alternated between laid-back and driving bass lines. Together, they created mostly dual vocals with either warm harmonies or low screams. The keyboardist played lively and sang third part harmony when needed. His keyboards either sparkled above the guitars or lied beneath, rising at the right time. The lead guitarist played with lots of distortion via pedals and/or whammy bar. The drummer was very active, using lots of snare, cymbals and drum rolls to create the tension needed to drive the drama in the songs.
The Jinx was the last venue stop. It was a typical rock venue, one that one can enter straight off the street and even stand there and watch the show outside.
The Suzan, an all-female Japanese pop (J-pop) band had bouncy bass rhythms, keyboards that sounded like horns, a simple drum set with simple drum lines and lots of cymbal crashes, a super-energetic singer that alternated yelling with 80s style singing of simple lyrics that emphasized the beat. Although some songs sounded alike, the band had lots of infectious energy that will get them remembered and discussed. The Suzan did not want to stop playing, maybe because they said it was their first time playing Savannah.
PUJOL, a male Nashville trio, wasted no time setting up to play and preceded to rip into their first number after introducing the band members. The singer-electric guitarist had a definite southern accent as he sang the band’s punchy, aggressive punk-tinged tunes. The bassist and the drummer played quickly along to the no-nonsense rock, and the bassist sang backup vocals. The singer added antidotes between songs. His singing voice had a bit of a whine, which when combined with the fast, hard rock made the combo sound like early Drivin’ n’ Cryin’. Lyrics were whimsical: one song was about Wal-Mart, one was about Batman, one was about vampires and one was about “stuff”. Their set length was perfect, about 40 minutes.
-Words & photos: Gail Fountain