I’ll be honest, when I first moved to Savannah a little over a year and a half ago, I was fairly hesitant about making the transition. The thought of having to leaving my local haunts and the relationships I’d developed back in Atlanta was pretty daunting, especially since I’d never actually been to Savannah before. However, now that I’ve gotten myself settled into the city, I feel as if I’ve been here for far longer than just a year and a half. I’ve developed a connection with this city that probably runs just as deep as the connection I made with Atlanta in less than half the time, which is definitely saying something coming from a relative introvert like myself. All that being said, I thought it’d be pretty appropriate to wrap up the year with a post detailing some of the biggest happenings that hit the city over the past year from the eyes of a relative newcomer to the scene.
Best Venue: Hang Fire Bar
This was actually a really difficult decision to make. In the end, it boiled down to making a decision between Hang Fire and The Jinx. Both venues have put on some killer shows and have some of the friendliest staff in town. What tipped the scales in Hang Fire’s direction for me was the slightly “divey-er” feel that it has which I feel a bit more at home in. While both venues hosted some awesome local and touring bands over the last year, Hang Fire just barely edged out The Jinx.
Best Venue Gone by the Wayside: The Sparetime (Photo of Dead Yet? via Tom Cartmel)
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that places come and places go. While losing any places for bands to showcase their talents is a letdown, Savannah lost a couple of big ones this year. Included on that list are places like Live Wire Music Hall, Vinyl Vibe, and, my “winner” for this category, The Sparetime. While the lower level of The Sparetime was a great place for both tourists and locals alike to grab drinks and food, there was also a fairly intimate stage upstairs that hosted quite a few bands during the establishment’s run. Its closing, along with all the other spots that closed their doors, is a definite loss for the music scene of the city.
Best Band to Call it Quits: General Oglethorpe and the Panhandlers (Picture courtesy of General Oglethorpe and The Panhandlers’ Facebook page)
Admittedly, this band actually broke up in late 2012, but I’m going to take a few liberties with some of the things on this list. Tying in with the previous category, the city also lost a few bands over the last year. While some have certainly left bigger voids than others, one that hit me (and plenty of others I’m sure) pretty substantially was the dissolution of General Oglethorpe and the Panhandlers. During my first few months in Savannah, I’d heard plenty about The General, but for one reason or another I kept missing their shows. After befriending one of the members who played in both General Oglethorpe and another local band, Sins of Godless Men, I learned that The General was soon breaking up and that they had only a few shows left. The first, and last, show by General Oglethorpe that I happened to catch was their farewell show in the upper level of The Sparetime, which got me hooked on their folksy rock that combines healthy doses of literary craftsmanship with gratuitous fun.
Click here for Petee’s “Top 13 Albums of 2013” published at The Blue Indian.
Best Artist That’s New to Me: Crazy Bag Lady
There’s a lot of hidden local talent in Savannah. Wet Socks, Lovely Locks, mumbledust, Blackrune; the list is pretty expansive. And while most of these bands aren’t new to the scene, they were certainly new to me when moving to Savannah. One band definitely stole the show for me though. While Crazy Bag Lady has been around for some time, probably well before 2013, I’m a relative newcomer to their music. Their hardcore punk rooted sound is one that I’m all too eager to hear more of though. As someone who delved deep into the classics of hardcore and punk during my formative teenage years, Crazy Bag Lady is a reminder of some of my favorite bands growing up like The Exploited and Dead Kennedys. Underneath the punk exterior lies a distinct, rock sound that seems to be a common thread throughout several Savannah bands that’s helped to define the local music scene.
Best Comeback: Sins of Godless Men
Sins of Godless Men were the first band I caught after moving to Savannah so I was pretty excited once they started playing shows again not too long ago after a brief hiatus. I was even more excited once I realized that they were a bit louder and heavier after their hiatus. The only way to really sum up their style is pure, unfiltered rock. It hits you like a brick (in the best way) when you first hear it, and I knew after my first exposure that I was hooked. I for one can’t wait to see what these guys have in store for next year.
Best Local Artist Putting Savannah on the Map: CUSSES
There are plenty of bands doing great things to garner exposure for the music scene in Savannah. Obvious juggernauts like Baronness, Kylesa, and Circle Takes the Square may come to mind immediately, but CUSSES is a definite addition that will be made to that list soon. After building a strong local and national following due to their relentless tour schedule, DIY work ethic, and their high energy live shows, CUSSES is set to catapult themselves into the national spotlight sooner than later. After releasing a highly successful debut album in 2012, CUSSES managed to fully crowd source funds for their upcoming sophomore effort via a Kickstarter campaign, a slightly risky move that paid off big and showed the loyalty the bands fans have for the Savannah trio. The next year will certainly be an exciting one for the local rock outfit.
Best Festival: Savannah Stopover 2013
Boasting close to 100 bands during a 3 day span, 2013’s Savannah Stopover was the festival’s biggest and most successful year yet. As 2013 was my first year attending Stopover, and my first time covering a festival in any capacity, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Stopover blew me away with the sheer variety of bands that played over the relatively short amount of time though. Stopover combined bands that I’d been following for some time like Diarrhea Planet and The Coathangers with bands that were quickly added to my list of favorites like Moon King, Talk Normal, and Hunters. Of course, you can’t forget the huge touring acts that were brought in for Stopover as well like Chelsea Light Moving and of Montreal. When it comes to festivals that aren’t to be missed in Savannah, Savannah Stopover definitely tops the list.
Set of the Year: Triathalon at Hang Fire during Savannah Stopover
This was a decision that took me quite a while. For one, I had to remember all of the shows that I’d seen in the past year, which was no easy task in itself. Not only that, I also weighed in some of the more talked about shows that I had to miss over the past year like Black Tusk’s set at The Jinx last summer. Those two factors also played against biases I had for some of my favorite touring bands that stopped through town like Dikembe and Masked Intruder who played smaller and decidedly tamer shows at spots like Vinyl Vibe and The Wormhole and may not have been heavily attended. In the end, I decided that the best set I saw from the last year had to go to local surf rock outfit Triathalon’s set at Hang Fire during Savannah Stopover last year for several reasons. The first reason being that the show definitely displayed the quality of support that Savannah gives to its own bands. I’ve seen crowds at Hang Fire before, but this set was one of the few times that I’ve seen Hang Fire completely packed from wall to wall. If you wanted to get in, or out for that matter, you were probably out of luck since the crowd left little room for maneuvering around (definitely a photographer’s worst nightmare!). The second reason I’d say this was the best set I caught during the last year would be the quality of the band. It goes without saying that all of the guys in Triathalon are extremely talented. They’ve been perfecting their skills and stage presence for some time now and their effort shows in every show they play. Finally, and possibly the most important, this was my set of the year simply because of how much fun it was. It takes a lot to get me to give up on shooting and to completely enjoy a show without worrying about capturing photos, but this was one of the few shows where I couldn’t resist and I definitely have no regrets about it.
Overall, I’d say 2013 was a great year for the music scene in Savannah. Obviously, I can’t speak on how much growth was made since I’ve only been in the city for a little over a year, but it seems to me that if Savannah keeps going in the direction that it is, it’s poised to eventually become a powerhouse of the Georgia music scene with the likes of Atlanta and Athens. Here’s looking forward to another awesome year in local music!
**Be sure to check out my “Top 13 Albums of 2013” article hosted over at middle Georgia’s indie music hub, The Blue Indian!