A final take on the Savannah Stopover

[If you’re just looking for pictures, see all my Stopover photos here.] In my City Talk column today in the Savannah Morning News, “Savannah Stopover could have huge impact in future”, I tried to cover a lot of ground. I wrote about the just-completed festival largely from a tourism and promotion standpoint: “Just announced three months ago, the Stopover seemed to lure only a few out-of-town visitors this year, but expect that to change dramatically in the future. Established music festivals become major tourist destinations.”

I wrote about some of the cultural (and economic) connections that the Stopover achieved in bringing such diverse crowds together: “Lots of longtime Savannah residents made their first trips to some of the festival’s venues. No, good music is not just for kids, which was obvious from the kickoff event last Wednesday at The Wormhole straight through to the full lineup of shows late Saturday night.”

I concluded that the first Savannah Stopover was “an eye opener, and I hope lots of folks get on board to build on its first-year success.”

I want to build on a few of those thoughts here.

I think many of us counted on a lot of 20-somethings turning out for shows, but we wondered if there would be enough of them to buoy the festival for four days. As it turned out, any lack of young adults was more than countered by the slew of 30-, 40- and 50-somethings. A local attorney with college age kids, a high school principal, a dean at a local college — local residents like those were all over the Stopover. In retrospect, we should have expected it. Professionals like those loved music years ago and obviously still love it today. They have the $s to spend on passes. They are organized enough actually to research bands ahead of time to plot a course for the day and — in some cases — deep into the night.

If anything, the Stopover will need to work especially hard in the future to get the word out to transient and distracted young adults across the region, but I’m guessing that older fans will get on board in droves, especially if there’s ample daytime and early evening programming.

For some of the venues, I hope the Stopover was also a reminder that diverse programming might pay off. I love The Jinx just as it is, but it often books a pretty narrow range of metal and country/rock acts that have played there before. But recently KidSyc@Brandywine had a great gig there, which brought in a different crowd, and on the opening night of the Stopover there were folks who had never once heard hip hop who loved the KidSyc@Brandywine’s show. Murder By Death, Fake Problems, and Buried Beds combined for a stellar night there (I wrote about it here) — and I hardly knew anyone in the audience, which made for an atypical night The Jinx for me. And there were a couple of dozen MBD fans who seemed to know every single lyric. Who were those people? Where’d they come from? I don’t know, but I sure hope they bring that energy back soon.

Over the course of the festival, I made it to all the venues except one (Tantra, which was used only for two days), and all of them present specific strengths and issues. The little-known Pei Ling Chan Gallery, a SCAD property, turned out to be an inspired choice and I hope to see more shows there in the future, but its obscurity kept the crowds down in the first year. Civvies was a great spot too for the early all-ages shows, even if those seemed to be attracting few audience members under 21. No, the all-ages shows ironically attracted a different mix: older people, lovers of listening room atmospheres, those like me who were going to listen to as much as they could even if it killed them, and those who knew they’d better get started early because they certainly wouldn’t be up late.

At Civvies I caught a few minutes of Dare Dukes + the Blackstock Collection (a local band that I admire tremendously) and Jon Lindsay, an excellent singer-songwriter now living in North Carolina.

The only significant complaints I heard about those 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. shows had to do with late starts, which made listeners change their plans for the rest of the night. (I’ve already complained about some of the later shows starting inexplicably late.) But that’s an easy problem to solve, especially when some of the venues were consistently starting on time.

In fact, on Thursday night Astronautalis even started before midnight at The Wormhole, a fine venue that presents some issues because of its size and location. It’s the biggest of the major club venues used by the Stopover in its first year, but it’s also the only one not within walking distance of the others. Still, it worked great for the opening evening party with Young Buffalo and Sonia Leigh — none of the other venues could really have worked as well. The Wormhole might also be a great spot to focus a specific genre on a specific night. And it might be that crowds will build at The Wormhole over the next year so that people will be flocking there by the time of the 2012 Stopover. If the club keeps booking shows like the recent ones by Paleface and The Red River, and the upcoming one with William Fitzsimmons, then the support and name recognition will build for sure.

A number of the venues need to hone their sound, and quite a few of them need to think harder about the staging. But the Stopover was a huge success in terms of getting major acts into local clubs, fostering cooperation among club owners, and encouraging a broad mix of people to go into clubs for the first time. Congrats to founder Kayne Lanahan and all of her volunteers on those Herculean feats.

I mentioned previously the nice crowd at Hang Fire for the one daytime local band showcase I attended. On Saturday, Blowin’ Smoke was packed for a great set by Country Mice from Brooklyn. There could be all sorts of possibilities for daytime shows like that in the future, especially if the Stopover becomes a destination for visitors like I suspect it will.

I was among those who bought a VIP pass because I wanted to support the Stopover’s vision (no, I do not count on my press connection to get me into everything), so I got to attend the Sunday brunch that was otherwise reserved for bands and the various staff of volunteers. Lo and behold, I got to listen to three bands that I had missed during the festival: Oberhofer (pictured above left), Loch Lomond (above right), and Aux Arc (whom I did not take any pictures of for some reason). All three did casual, fun sets, especially Oberhofer, whose lead singer Brad Oberhofer made up lyrics about the enticing pool to the tune of Away Frm U:

Find more artists like OBERHOFER at Myspace Music

It was a great way to finish the weekend — that party itself was worth the extra I paid for the VIP pass.

The weekend was remarkable for those of us who could immerse ourselves in it, and every single band member I spoke with professed love for Savannah and a desire to return.

And if you’re still reading this post at this point, then you deserve a few pics:

Cincopa WordPress plugin