Tom Cartmel’s Year in Review

I’ve been a pretty hopeless music fanatic for over 30 years: my first live show was the Beach Boys when I was twelve, went through the typical classic rock high school, dove into the Pittsburgh punk scene in college, had an unfortunate jam band phase (don’t worry, I got better) when I moved to South Carolina, and then settled into listening to as much new music as I could (which is a lot). For years I traveled the Southeast to see shows that were interesting to me. Unfortunately, that driving only occasionally landed me in Savannah, even though I live right outside of it. Sure, I made it to the occasional Johnny Mercer Theatre show, a couple Fugazi shows, Frank Black at Savannah Smiles(!?) and some stuff at the Roundhouse, but didn’t really feel a connection to the Savannah scene. Then, one day, a few years ago, I went to my first metal show at The Jinx, a Black Tusk show specifically. I was HOOKED, instantly. Since then, I have attended pretty much any show that I could, as long as it, at least loosely, fell under my definition of “rock”. Generally, but not always, there is a guitar involved. At some point, I started taking pictures and really enjoyed it. The only downside to it is that I realized I should have been taking pictures for about the last 25 years. Oh well.

So here’s my rambling top ten semi local music events and releases of the year, in no real order.



Ummm, to be honest, hissing lawns, this very blog, is one of my favorite things to happen to the Savannah scene this year. As another contributor put it, Bill “lit a fire under the asses” of some very passionate music fans in the scene and has steered the blog in a direction that I am very excited about. I can’t wait to see how hissing lawns grows in a new year that looks like it will be pretty amazing, musically. Tell your friends (seriously) to like the Facebook page, bookmark the blog, and follow on twitter. Go to shows, comment on the posts, enjoy the Savannah scene, we’re lucky to have it.

If I was forced to pick a favorite release of the year, or performance of the year, for that matter, it would from Whores., out of Atlanta (that’s local-ish, right?). The Clean e.p. is super heavy… think Helmet, with better songs, or Melvins, with a better singer, or Bleach era Nirvana with better arrangements…..then make it heavier….heavier. While it’s classified as “noise rock”, I don’t find it to be terribly noisey, just super heavy. Guitars are tuned to “destroy”, riffs set to “crush”, no solos, just a locked in, no nonsense wall of sound. Whores. would sound right at home on the Amphetamine Reptile or Touch and Go Record labels. I won’t miss them live within a 100 mile radius. Amazing. I would tell you that this is the kind of music that plays in my head most of the time, but you might not be very eager to talk to me anymore. By the way, did I mention it’s heavy? Check it out.



Savannah Stopover has been one of my favorite things of the year for the last few years, and, I would bet, will continue to be in the future. I’ve only missed one day of Stopover performances in its history, and if they sold a lifetime pass, I would buy it. If you haven’t attended before because you don’t know a lot of the bands, you’re missing the point. It’s totally about discovery (and having a blast in the process). Highlights of 2013 for me were Chelsea Light Moving, Single Mothers, Whaleboat, Young Buffalo, Mac DeMarco, Delicate Steve, and William Tyler in front of the Third Man Records truck. Seriously, you do know how cool the Stopover is, right?






The Niche record spent a lot of time spinning on my turntable this year. I pretty much actively avoid classic rock, due to overexposure, but the reality is that I love it. Give me a Thin Lizzy record or T.Rex recording that I haven’t heard before and I’m in. The Other Side of the End is like a lost heavy psychedelic gem that had escaped me until now. I always enjoy them live, the record release party was fun, and you should buy the record (or download), it’s really great. As one of the members of the band said to me “It’s rock and roll, man”. Yep, that about covers it.



The Band of Horses warmup show at the Wormhole was an EVENT for Savannah, even though only a few hundred of us were lucky enough to see it. I’ve talked before about seeing their Austin City Limits performance and I wouldn’t miss them anywhere close on the strength of that performance alone. The Wormhole show just cemented my opinion of them. I’m really, really, really looking forward to the Trustees Theater acoustic performance early next year. I can’t imagine it not making my best of list for next year.

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I drove to Charleston to see Baroness play the Music Farm. Totally worth it. The band was finally touring to support the fantastic Yellow and Green albums after a huge setback due to a horrific bus accident. The band was in great spirits, the place was packed, and there was a good turnout of Savannah fans, all of which made for one of my favorite nights of music of the year. I really can’t overstate how great they sounded, too. Lots of pics here.



Torche brought their distinctive doom-pop to The Jinx in February and it was, in a word, awesome. Their album Harmonicraft made more than a few year end best of’s last year, and for good reason. Great hooks, great melodies, and, man, THAT guitar tone. No one is doing what Torche is currently, except maybe Steve Brook’s other fantastic reunited outfit, Floor, and it looks like we can expect albums from both next year. Hopefully one or the other makes it through Savannah again in 2014.



I really loved the lineup at The Jinx 10th Anniversary show, too. Murder By Death alone would have made for a great night, but American Aquarium opening on top of that? Wow. Both bands legitimately seem to love The Jinx and it showed. The atmosphere was great, the place was packed, and I won a PBR longboard, to boot. Oh, and the recent trend of Savannah Sweet Tease Burlesque opening for great bands? I can get behind that.

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Apparently I’ve seen Conquer/Devour every time they’ve played live. I came away impressed again after their show a couple weeks ago. I’m a total sucker for that down tuned riffing. Hopefully they can capture that guitar tone whenever they get a chance to record, because it’s right up my alley.



Athon’s other band is pretty good, too. We are super lucky to get to see Black Tusk and the other Savannah juggernauts, Kylesa, on a regular basis. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen each band (When I lose track of how many times I’ve seen a band, my default answer is “5?” for some reason), but I won’t miss either if I have a choice. Honestly, I’ve never been disappointed by a live performance from either band. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the shows consistently produce some of my favorite pictures. Such a small city, such great bands.


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Other noteworthy sets I saw this year include Os Mutantes, Capsula, Masked Intruder, Holly Hunt, Black Flag, Blood Ceremony, White Hills, Shroud Eater, Inter Arma, Weedeater, Pianos Become The Teeth, Hoax, ASG, Savagist, The Business, Dead Yet?, Lazer/Wulf, New Madrid, Ponderosa, Quintron, Jon Snodgrass, United Nations, The Queers, Primate, Flat Tires, Futurebirds and Cory Branan. Next year I’m going to try to get out more.

Speaking of next year, it already looks like it’s going to be a great one! Lucero at The Jinx, Band of Horses acoustic, a great Savannah Stopover lineup that’s only going to get better, Graveface Fest, and on and on. I’m looking forward to seeing what my Retro Futurist, Merge and Brutal Panda record subscriptions bring me in the new year and am definitely planning to attend the Fest in Gainesville and the Merge Records 25th Anniversary celebration in 2014.

Life’s short. Go to a show. Drink a beer. Have fun. I’ll see you there.