Well, I see everyone is writing a year-end column, so I guess I will give it a shot. There have been a lot of really good shows that I have been to this year, but I am really not a good enough writer to be able to say much more than “what a great show” about each one of them. If you want to read something about the local shows from real writers, be sure to check out some of the other blogs on this site, especially Anna Chandler, Petee Worrell and Tom Cartmel’s columns.
Surprisingly, as I look over my list, there aren’t a lot that jump out at me as the best of the year. Part of that is because I am old and tend to forget, but I think it is because I really enjoy almost all of the music that I see being played in Savannah. I definitely come home some times and say “now THAT was a night of good music tonight”, but rarely do I come home disappointed with the quality of music that I hear. That is probably why you see me smiling so much at all the shows, why shouldn’t I be happy? I do envy these musicians that are able to express themselves in a way that gives other people joy. What a gift. I try to understand how they are able to communicate with their fellow players, even if they have never played with them before, usually with something as simple as a head nod. I hope that these musicians realize how lucky they are to be able to perform in front of people, sometimes even making a living at it!
Rather than trying to write about individual shows, I thought I would post the year end statistics on shows I have seen. For the wonkish among you, I counted an act as seen if I saw them for at least one song. Open mics counted as one band. For the venues, I counted the number of acts seen at that location, so three bands at The Jinx in one night counts as 3 points. Although most of these stats were what I expected, I did find some surprises.
TOTAL ACTS SEEN IN 2013 – 626
08. Abe’s On Lincoln (19) – This one kind of surprised me. It was helped by the fact that I went to many of their Monday night Open Mics. This is one of my favorite dive-type bars. I think this is a great, intimate place to see music, and have enjoyed the few touring acts that I have seen there. I hope that they begin featuring more live music.
07. The Wormhole (20) – I was hoping this venue would be ranked a little higher. This location has so many positives (super-nice owners, great sound, big capacity, some of the best touring acts), but they are so far away from City Market, it doesn’t fit into the Tour as much as I wish it could.
06. Retro Lounge (25) – Closed since the end of July, I hope they fix whatever problems the building has and reopen this venue. I hope it reopens as a venue that is a little more friendly to the musicians that play there.
05. Hang Fire (26) – I am glad that Wes and Heather’s bar is again featuring live music. Although the music can get a little loud (bring earplugs!), this is one of my favorite eclectic little bars in Savannah.
04. Congress Street Social Club (41) – Another of City Market’s finer venues. I really like the stage location (and elevation). And I got to sing onstage with the Train Wrecks there this year!
03. The Warehouse (53) – Just like the Wormhole, I have a love-hate relationship with this venue. They have some excellent acts that play there, they have one of my favorite staffs, and I like going to River Street, which was the main night-life area when I was young. But when the bar gets full, the sight lines are terrible. And there are LOTS of tourists. And most of all, it’s the SMELL. If you go there, you will smell like grease for the rest of the night.
02. Molly MacPherson’s Pub (73) – This is probably my favorite downtown bar. Another super staff, nice layout (glad they moved the bands near the bar), and they usually have one of my favorite crowds. I was not surprised to see them ranked so high, they consistently showcase great local and touring talent.
01. The Jinx (87) – This was not a big surprise, they were last year’s winner too. It is one of my favorite music venues. I tend to like the dive-type bars much better than the fancy ones, and this is definitely not a fancy bar. This is considered one of the premiere places to play in Savannah. They showcase both local and (mostly) touring musicians. And they have the scariest nice staff in town.
10. City Hotel (11) – This is one of the best new bands around town. Aaron Zimmer, Cory Chambers, and Anthony Teixeria playing straight-up bluegrass music. If you think you don’t like bluegrass, they will change your mind.
09. Brett Trammell (13) – Brett played a regular gig at The Warehouse every Monday, with his Epic Cycle bandmate Ben Keiser most nights. I always enjoy Brett’s unique voice and Ben’s amazing guitar playing.
08. Lovely Locks (13) – One of my personal favorites and definitely some of my favorite people. They started the year as a three-piece vocal band (Britt Scott, Crystina Parker, and Anna Chandler), with the addition of a few guys (Brian Bazemore and Thomas Worley), it seems they are finishing this year as a rock band with beautiful harmonies. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for next year.
07. The Accomplices (13) – This is definitely one of the best bands in Savannah. They continue to get tighter each time I see them. Matt Eckstine, Colleen Heine, Zach Smith, and Stan Ray play a bluegrass-rock that sounds better than anything you hear on the radio. One day you may say “I remember when I used to see them in a local bar” about this band.
06. Hitman (15) – One of Savannah’s better electric blues bands. Brett Barnard and a rotating cast of musicians put on a crowd-pleasing show. I especially enjoy seeing them as a four-piece with Ace Andersson on harmonica, I think that his addition really transforms the band.
05. Train Wrecks (17) – Another of my favorite bands. They play Americana at its best. You can be sure that you will get a good show from Jason Bible, Eric Dunn, Stuart Harmening, and new addition, Jeremy Hammons (and occasionally Jared Hall).
04. Craig Tanner (23) – I was surprised that I had seen Craig so many times. That was without including his shows with American Hologram, which would have added eight more shows. Then I realized, it’s because he is a fine singer songwriter, he hosts several open mics, plays regular gigs with another fine musician, Eric Britt, and is one of the nicest guys I know. He writes some incredible songs (and I usually don’t focus on the lyrics, because I’m old and can’t hear them) and every time I see him, I am surprised by what a good guitar player he has become. He also runs two of the better open mic shows in town, Monday at Abe’s On Lincoln and Tuesday at Molly MacPherson’s.
03. Bottles & Cans (24) – More electric blues from one of Savannah’s best bands. These guys have somehow turned into one of the elders of the downtown music scene. I try to catch Ray Lundy, Michael Christopher Walker, Josh Safer, and Marty Ellis every time I can. Ray has a unique voice and is not a bad guitar player.
02. Epic Cycle (25) – I really enjoy seeing this band. I think that Ben Keiser is one of the best young guitarists in town. And he is ably supported by Jared Mayak on drums and Paul Schmidt on bass and vocals. They briefly experimented as a four piece blues band this year, but have now returned to a three piece jam band. This is another band that I look forward to seeing which direction they go in the coming year.
01. Danielle Hicks (26) – Another surprise for me. Danielle is a great singer and puts on a great show. I saw her at more venues (10) than anyone else, so you should be able to catch her somewhere. She is definitely one of the best singers in town and is a beautiful person as well. She is currently playing with Nathan Saraceno as Danielle Hicks & The 8 Ohm band, and you can also catch her singing solo or a rare show with a full band.