A final take on the 2012 Savannah Stopover — photos, comments, and links

Earlier today, I posted the link to Prefix Magazine’s Savannah Stopover Report Card, which gave the festival an A overall, even though that was higher than the component grades would indicate (Bands=A-, Location & Weather=B+, Staff/Organization=B-).

I agree with large portions of the Prefix assessment of the Stopover. It’s well worth a read.

And so is Jason Kendall’s piece in the Savannah Morning News: Savannah Stopover: The expected, the surprises, and the shows that blew us away.

From that piece:

And then there were the surprises — the laser-driven spectacle of Grimes at the Jepson Center and the temporary pandemonium it created outside. Mazarine Records’ The Viking Progress bowing a banjo while channeling shades of Jeff Mangum for a handful of fans on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Sanders Bohlke showing an entranced Telfair Academy audience that there are people who can sing, and then there’s Sanders Bohlke.

You’ll have to read the piece to find out Jason’s 5 favorite shows of the festival. Click here for my Tuesday City Talk column about a few of the cultural and economic gains that would result from a more vibrant music scene.

I didn’t make it to two of this year’s venues — Dosha on Broughton Street and The Wormhole on Bull at 40th. I made it only briefly to Live Wire. My choices obviously weren’t slights to those clubs, just a fan’s decision about what he wanted to hear and an awareness that all three required a little extra effort to get to. Blowin’ Smoke would be pretty far on foot from most of the downtown venues, but I did make it up there pleasantly on my bike for lunch and The Train Wrecks on Saturday.

Several new venues worked out well for the most part. The uncovered garden at the Ships of the Sea was sublime at times, but rain meant the great early evening lineup Friday (The District Attorneys, Cheyenne Marie Mize, and Milagres) got bumped to a latenight show at Blowin’ Smoke. I regretted missing all those acts. Next year, the Stopover will presumably be able to use the Ships of the Sea’s new covered performance space. The interior of the Congress Street Social Club is not configured well for music (can’t that soundboard go somewhere else?), but when the sound was well mixed, it worked out fine. The courtyard at CSSC was perfect for daytime shows on Saturday. Locos lacks some of the atmosphere one might want from a rock club, but it largely makes up for that with a pleasant size and quality sound. And I loved hearing three acts in the rotunda of the Telfair Academy, even if the performers seemed a little intimidated by the grand space. It’s certainly a far cry from the bars and coffeeshops where most indie musicians wind up.

Given the whole concept of the Stopover — literally a stop in Savannah on the way to SXSW — it’s not surprising that the lineup featured a lot of indie rock and pop, with a decided Brooklyn slant (as Prefix notes). As even more bands clamor to play the Stopover in years to come, it will be interesting to see if festival CEO Kayne Lanahan and her team make conscious efforts to reach out to other genres. Savannah has a huge base of support for hard core and metal acts, for example, but maybe that has the makings of an entirely different festival? Americana acts also have broad appeal here — some of them would probably fit more easily into the Stopover lineup.

But those questions pale beside the sheer energy of the event — and the chance to see dozens of acts that have already attracted critical praise and music world buzz in intimate venues.

I debated the best way to sort my various pics and add a few other comments — I finally opted to say something about each day. If I’d had more time, I would have done these as separate posts during the festival . . .

If you’re looking for some professional pics, check out all the excellent albums on the Stopover Facebook page.

So here begins my idiosyncratic tour of the 2012 Savannah Stopover. A note on the pics: I’m not a professional photographer and I need some better equipment (a backordered lens would have been nice to have in time for this). And some of these venues are not set up at all for quality photography. Speaking for the casual photographers out there, we need at least a little light going on to our subjects rather than back lights or no lights at all. Saturated red and green lighting doesn’t work so well either, at least for me. And some of the performers don’t help much (I’m looking at you, Jason Rueger of Country Mice, with that floppy long hair that hides your face).

Hover over each pic and you can see if I wrote a caption. Click for larger versions.

Day One

This was certainly an inspired bit of programming, even if DIVE and Pond both had to cancel their Wednesday night shows. The Stopover’s poster competition enlivened the Jepson (the Tops poster below was the winner), and the stage on Barnard was perfect for the big pop sounds of Dinosaur Feathers and Oberhofer, the up-and-coming-now-arrived band fronted by Brad Oberhofer that will be appearing soon on David Letterman singing their hit “Away Frm U”.

After DIVE cancelled because of a breakdown (actually, they were postponed to Thursday at Dosha), Oberhofer jumped in and played a second set at The Jinx. There was a brief moment when rain was spritzing down near the end of Dinosaur Feathers’ set, but the weather held. A big thumbs up to Capital A Productions for the stage, sound, and lighting. And I was really impressed with Each Other, from Montreal, who opened for Oberhofer at The Jinx.

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Day Two

I had a busy day of teaching and writing followed by an early evening board meeting, so I didn’t see anything before Speak. Loved them and already blogged about them. I enjoyed Jukebox the Ghost too, although I wasn’t quite as into them as much of the crowd seemed to be.

From there I made my way to Locos and was really impressed by Quilt. After a few songs of Caveman, I went back to Social for Hooded Fang — a band that a couple of knowledgable friends hailed as one of the best of the festival — but the sound mix was pretty muddy. Then I headed to The Jinx for most of Xray Eyeballs‘ rollicking set and the sheer energy of Turbo Fruits. It was an excellent finish to a long night, but I hear that the other closing acts were all strong.

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Day Three

I started with a late afternoon show by Country Mice, one of the acts that played the first Stopover and great fans of the festival and city. The band has just recorded their second album, which should be out in late summer — and which could take them to the next level. They recently sold out a show at Mercury Lounge in New York, so it’s kind of awesome to see them on a Friday afternoon at the Congress Street Social Club in Savannah.

And then with the rain screwing things up at Ships of the Sea, we ended up heading to The Jinx for a couple of strong Savannah acts — Tony Beasley (aka Whiskey Dick) and Whaleboat. And then I slipped away to Christopher Paul Stelling, for a beautiful and spirited show at the Telfair Academy.

I think I’m glad the line was so long to get into Born Gold and Grimes at the Jepson — the light show and the whole mod scene might have been too much for me.

So I went to Locos for part of Betsy Kingston and the Crowns — a loungy, bluesy rock. I was Betsy’s 7th grade English teacher. No kidding.

Back at The Jinx, I caught some of Preacher & The Knife, but I was near the back and couldn’t quite muster the energy to push to the front (much bigger crowd than Thursday) where I could have appreciated the show more (the stage was pretty dark). So I headed over to Triathalon at Locos. A really tight, really young Savannah band playing just their second show in a club, Triathalon has been packing house shows and attracted their own fan base of several dozen who even knew most of the lyrics — angsty verses of teenage longing and alienation. Great stuff.

When I got back to The Jinx, I ran into Sanders Bohlke — I’m a huge fan since his appearance at last year’s Stopover — and then we ran into Kayne Lanahan. Kayne suggested that we all head back to Locos for the final few songs of Wowser Bowser — fun stuff, balloons and all — and then down to Live Wire for the end The Knocks, a jubilant dance party.

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Day Four

I began Saturday at about 1 at the showcase at the Ships of the Sea for Athens-based Mazarine Records. I caught part of Young Benjamin and then all of The Viking Progress — the first and only time I’ve seen a bow on a banjo. Then off to lunch and The Train Wrecks at Blowin’ Smoke. There was a bit too much bass (sorry Eric) and drum in the mix where I was sitting, but I always enjoy their sets no matter what.

I caught literally a few minutes of Athens-based Electrophoria and then spent three hours in the courtyard of the Congress Street Social Club, for The Preservation, Quincy Mumford and the Reason Why (another post here), and The Hill and Wood. The sound was great in the courtyard, even if the breeze was chilly after a while, and I came away impressed by all three bands.

Then the Telfair for Sanders Bohlke. There’s nothing quite like hearing Sanders sing — and hearing songs like “The Unkindness of Ravens with “The Black Prince of Crecy” as backdrop. Chelsea Crowell was up next with an unassuming country sound. (Btw, after taking pics of Christopher Paul Stelling on Friday in silhouette, I loaned some white umbrella-ed photo shoot lights so it was possible to get at least decent shots.)

The Ships of the Sea had a couple of hundred people already by the time I got there for the end of Country Mice‘s second set of the weekend. The War on Drugs apparently attracted the biggest audience of the festival for an excellent set. And then to Locos for a few songs of Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang, which was turning into an Afropop dance party when we headed to The Jinx to hear Pujol. I’ll confess that I don’t really care for some of the Pujol tracks that I heard in the lead up to the Stopover, but on stage the band lured me in. And then The Love Language from Raleigh took over — and I mean took over. A stellar show, a band I’ll be hoping to hear again.

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Day Five

Once again this year the Stopover held a VIP brunch Sunday brunch (or whatever one calls a party with BBQ that doesn’t really get rolling until mid-afternoon) at a midcentury modern home with a large courtyard with hot tub and pool. Anyone can be a VIP, by the way: you just have to pay more for the pass. It was a mellow, easy time, with some great music by Chelsea Crowell and her traveling companions — three excellent musicians from Ireland (whose names I’ll have to come back and fill in).

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