Local experts give their insider tips and picks for Savannah Stopover, Savannah Music Festival and A-Town Get Down.
with Isaac Smith
In 2010, the first Stopover festival invited dozens of bands to “stop over” in Savannah en route to Austin’s South by Southwest. Isaac Smith has been a key player at Stopover since the beginning, sometimes playing on stage with his own band, other times running sound behind the scenes, and always catching a show or two—or 10. It’s no wonder the festival is Smith’s favorite time of the year. March 8-10 at various venues throughout the city,
The best part: There’s such a variety of venues and genres, plus I love the overall vibe. I can get my Americana pop fix, then sneak away to a rock show on the same night. Savannah feels way more energetic during the festival than any other time of the year.
Most memorable show: Ruby Amanfu in 2017. It was a long day and I remember walking in feeling exhausted, but I was revived by Ruby’s warm, piercing vocals. I may have shed a tear.
Insider tip: Check out the Stopover playlist on Spotify. It features all the artists coming to town and is a great way to discover what shows to catch. I also love the Stopover app. It lets you customize your schedule with live updates, and gives you the scoop on the secret shows.
1. Nikki Lane: Her lyrics remind me a lot of Loretta Lynn’s, and her badass energy gets everyone on their feet. March 9 at 10 p.m., Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
2. Becca Mancari: I got a chance to sit down with Becca a few months back, and she’s the real deal. I love her new Americana, folk-rock record that’s quickly rising to the top. March 10 at 12:30 p.m., The Grey
3. Colter Wall: This guy is a songwriter’s songwriter and I’m looking forward to seeing him perform in a small venue before his popularity catches up with the likes of Chris Stapleton. March 10 at 7:30 p.m., Trinity United Methodist Church
4. Wild Moccasins: I discovered Wild Moccasins while listening to this year’s Stopover playlist. They have a cool, vibrant take on indie-pop and I’m excited to see their show. March 10 at 5 p.m., El-Rocko Lounge
5. DEGA: Sometimes you’ve got to take a break from songwriting and just get lost in some dope electro-pop. March 10 at 4 p.m., El-Rocko Lounge
COOL FOR KIDS
- Rock and roll with a little bit of country, Larkin Poe is a two-piece band featuring Rebecca and Megan Lovell. The sisters’ perfect harmonies are breathtaking—and they’re also known to shred on the guitar. March 8 at 8 p.m., Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
- Zeshan B is a culmination of old-school R&B and soul with a splash of funk. He plays the harmonium—a keyboard-like instrument with reed pipes and sings in English, Urdu and Punjabi. March 9 at 9:30 p.m., Trinity United Methodist Church
with Jamie Smith Arkins
Since 1989, the Savannah Music Festival has brought a curated mix of national and international talent to the city every spring. And in 2007, the festival brought Jamie Smith Arkins to town—and she never left. These days she volunteers and catches as many shows as she can—always angling for the best seat in the house. March 29 through April 14 at various venues throughout the city
The best part: With acts from all over the world, each show transports you to a different time and place.
Most memorable show: On the closing night of the 2015 festival, I caught Ukrainian folk quartet DakhaBrakha. They have a one-of-a-kind sound that they create with all sorts of unique instruments, including an Australian didgeridoo.
Insider tip: Try not to overlap shows. With so many acts, it’s easy to get carried away but you’ll appreciate the experience so much more if you pick one show and stay there. And always try to check out those bands you’ve never seen before.
1. Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives: Marty is a true country star. He’s a three-time Grammy award-winning artist and has played with Johnny Cash. April 5 at 7 p.m., Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
2. Lee Fields & the Expressions/The James Hunter Six: Nothing would stop me from experiencing this double-bill soul night! Lee Fields sounds so much like James Brown that he’s earned the nickname Little JB. And The James Hunter Six comes highly recommended—they’ll be a new discovery for me. April 7 at 8 p.m., Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum
3. Piaf! The Show: I appreciate SMF’s recent venture into theatrical productions and film, and I’m looking forward to seeing Edith Piaf’s story come to life on stage. April 11 at 7 p.m., Lucas Theatre for the Arts
4. Rhiannon Giddens: I saw her for the first time when she played this festival two years ago and I was blown away by her versatility and passion. I can’t wait to see her again. April 13 at 7:30 p.m., Lucas Theatre for the Arts
5. Benedetto Guitars 50th Anniversary: Jazz stars like Howard Alden and “King” Solomon Hicks will join local jazz musicians on stage in honor of Savannah-based Benedetto Guitars. March 29 at 8 p.m., Lucas Theatre for the Arts
COOL FOR KIDS
- Hailing from southern Mali, Trio da Kali is a get-up-and-dance band, with a sound that’s similar to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who famously sang with Paul Simon on his Graceland album. March 31 at 12:30 p.m., Charles H. Morris Center
- Sammy Miller and the Congregation will call to mind Duke Ellington and his swing bands—a fine way to teach the kids some true musical history. April 14 at 4:30 p.m., Trustees’ Garden
with José Ray
Local deejay and illustrator José Ray is the art coordinator of A-Town Get Down, the one-day festival in honor of the late Alex Townsend, a young artist and musician. Interactive art abounds during A-Town’s daytime hours, when Ray can always be found with a paintbrush in hand. Musicians and jam sessions are also in heavy rotation, with the headliners taking the stage at nightfall. April 21 at noon, under the bridge near Indian and Warner Streets
The best part: The Collabostation, a really cool opportunity for artists and guests to create art together. At the end of the day, there are finished pieces to take home that are a mash-up of everyone’s work.
Most memorable show: The Blind Boys of Alabama in 2015. They’re a Grammy award-winning gospel group that’s been together since 1939. It was so moving to be in the presence of such a legendary act.
Insider tip: The hands-on activities happen during the day so get there before 6 p.m. That’s also the perfect time to bring out the young and aspiring artists in the family.
1. Gesture Jam: The Stardust Pixxies are spinning fire, dancing and posing while a group of artists quickly sketch and capture their movement. The mood is set by DJ OB-1 Benobi, who will be laying down the jams.
2. Bernard Purdie: He’s one of the funkiest drummers alive and has played with so many legends: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan and B.B. King, just to name a few.
3. The New Familiars: They’re a fun, toe-tapping Americana rock group from the Carolinas with an upbeat Southern mountain vibe.
4. Southern Avenue: This five-piece band from Memphis plays with heaps of buttery soul and blues. They’re new to me, so I’m excited to hear them play live.
5. Art Port Shuffle: I look forward to this every year. It’s a collaboration between six artists working on six large panels in a round-robin concept.
COOL FOR KIDS
- With his mix of Americana, blues, soul and Dixieland jazz, Walter Parks will make kids and grownups alike shake a tail feather.
- The Savannah Children’s Choir features local elementary students singing an awesome repertoire of oldies, show tunes and pop hits.
Photography courtesy of Savannah Stopover, Savannah Music Festival and A-Town Get Down