In my City Talk column yesterday in the business section of the Savannah Morning News, I talked about some of the press that Savannah Stopover IV has gotten from bloggers and music writers who made the trip.
Since I wrote that column, another nice bit of out-of-town press has arrived in a blog post from Toronto-based designer Eric McBain. And we’ll see some more press and photos showing up in the coming days and weeks.
I thought it was important to write a newspaper column about the view of Stopover from outside for a variety of reasons, but especially because many of my readers wield some real influence around town and care passionately about the city. And most of those readers aren’t likely to attend Stopover shows, although I suspect almost all would find something to love if they tailored their experiences to suit their tastes.
The consensus here at hissing lawns is that the fourth installment represented a breakout year for Savannah Stopover, but before I say more about that, here’s a roundup of some of the responses from out-of-town observers, with some of our hissing lawns photos sprinkled in. (You can see bigger versions by clicking and see a ton more Stopover photos in our galleries on this blog and on our Facebook page.)
From SXSW’s Little Sister: Savannah Stopover Music Festival by Raymond E. Lee for PopMatters:
Now in its fourth year, Savannah Stopover was founded by diehard underdog music fan Kayne Lanahan. With an emphasis on indie, DIY and generally under recognized artists Stopover could be considered the little sister to SXSW. Younger and arguably more attractive, she is still modest but getting increasingly harder to overlook. […]
Better yet, Stopover isn’t ferreted away in the wastelands of an industrial sector or confined to a convention center and surrounding venues. Nor does the festival require a ferry ride to some state park or fairground far removed from downtown proper. Stopover is a whole city event whose foot traffic between pre-war venues offers a walking tour glimpse of the South’s best preserved gothic cityscape.
From How Savannah Stopover music fest Stole My Heart, pt. 1 by Kathleen McCafferty for the Asheville-based Ashvegas:
After a weekend at Stopover, I can honestly say that my crush on Savannah has developed into something more serious. It’s a full-blown romance, you guys. Between the festival organizers, venue staff, and music fans, everyone was so nice, considerate, and fun.
And be sure to check out McCafferty’s second installment: How Savannah Stopover music fest Stole My Heart, pt. 2
From THE SAVANNAH STOPOVER FESTIVAL’S SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY IS MORE THAN JUST AN OPEN CONTAINER LAW by Caitlin White for Vice’s music site Noisey:
Southern hospitality is a real force, and the open, welcoming spirit with which most people greeted us erased any stereotypes I had involving missing teeth and banjos. Hospitality isn’t an “aww shucks” yokel ignorance, but an ease that’s based on actually not giving a shit what someone else’s background is or what they might be able to offer you. It’s an open-arms acceptance of how things already are, with no effort to change them. Even some of the best bands on the lineup showcased this—hospitality means making people feel welcome with any sound in any setting.
TrueBlue Magazine has separate pieces — all worth reading — for day one and day two and day three of the festival. Here’s how Donovan Farley’s series begins:
The 2014 incarnation of Savannah Stopover took place last weekend in downtown Savannah’s gorgeous historic district and unequivocally did not disappoint. Savannah Stopover, which was thought up as a “stopover” for bands on their way down to the massive corporate behemoth known as South By Southwest, is now in its fourth year and fortunately features none of the Texas festival’s Justin Bieber appearances, nor its disgusting Taco Bell tie-ins. South By Southwest is great and all, but the Savannah Stopover Festival is now what SXSW once was: a place for diehard music fans, bands and industry types (the non-evil kind) to catch tons of new and exciting acts at affordable prices, at cool venues around a downtown area.
QRO magazine’s Stopover recap is a bit shorter than I expected, but no less upbeat.
Great music, great reviews, a great time.
Now, before some random reactions to all this, I should note that Stopover founder and CEO Kayne Lanahan contributes occasionally to this blog, but we keep everything surprisingly neat and separate.
A few thoughts:
Is Stopover the SXSW of the future? Do we want it to be?
I’ve never been to SXSW, and I certainly don’t know much about what SXSW was like when it was only four years old. But I know a lot about Savannah, and it’s hard to see the city comfortably handling the invasion of music, tourists, and press that hits Austin each year. Savannah is much smaller, for one thing, and when Savannah gets overrun to the point that its signature qualities are compromised — as happens during St. Patrick’s Day each year — something is lost.
Fortunately, Savannah Stopover has plenty of room to grow before it gets too big for its own good. And if Stopover organizers decide to keep the festival at its current scale — 3+ days, about 100 bands — that would be just fine with me.
The best arts bargain in the city?
I paid $125 for a Stopover VIP pass. There was so much music that I didn’t take full advantage of the artist lounge at Ampersand, but this level of access still seems like a real bargain. After all, I saw something like 38 bands — anywhere from a few minutes to a full set — in just three days. Those who bought early-bird 3-day passes paid just $60, which is about what it costs for a single premium seat for some major shows.
The enlightened pub crawl.
Nearly all the out-of-town critics noted (or obsessed about) Savannah’s liberal laws about drinking outside. Those of us who live here have come to accept the policy as a matter of routine, as part of the fabric of the city. So we don’t think about how wonderful it is to be able to hoof it from one venue to another with a drink in hand, but visiting bands and others sure are impressed. This isn’t about drunken debauchery (at least not for most of us), but about blurring the lines between inside and outside, between our quirky private spaces and our glorious public ones.
Putting Savannah on the map.
Savannah Stopover’s founding concept was so simple but so brilliant. Bands traveling down the east coast on their way to SXSW will be in the Southeast the previous weekend, and they need places to play. Many of this year’s top acts — including Small Black, The Weeks, Those Darlins, Wye Oak, and on and on — had never played Savannah before. Given the audience response, lots of those acts now have Savannah on their radar screens.
Best idea for 2014: spreading the wealth.
In 2013, Stopover put a huge amount of its time and financial resources into a wildly successful free concert in Forsyth Park headlined by of Montreal. This year, rather than invest so much in a single band, Kayne and her team booked a sizable group of bands that are in the next tier of fame and cost. The first three Stopovers were dominated by bands that were unknown to large number of live music lovers in Savannah, but this year brought some highly anticipated indie acts that already had sizable local followings.
And the South.
Stopover programming has steadily incorporated more acts from the South — and that has proven to be a great thing for the festival. Representing a variety of genres, the excellent southern acts — including but not limited to St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Those Darlins, Caitlin Rose, The Weeks, this mountain, Kylesa, Wild Child, Hurray for the Riff Raff, T Hardy Morris, and The Silver Palms — gave this year’s festival a firm regional grounding and attracted fans who skipped the first few installments of Stopover.
Artistically, too, the inclusion of so many acts from Tennessee, Texas, and other southern states was a HUGE success.
And a word about the breakout year.
Savannah Stopover IV began on a cold Thursday night, but there was an excellent turnout for the opening night party at the Knights of Columbus with St. Paul & The Broken Bones. Later that night, J. Roddy Walston & The Business had a great crowd at Congress Street Social Club, Wye Oak had a couple of hundred at the KofC, and it was kind of a mob scene for Future Islands at Club One. In a town well-known for its poor turnouts and its occasional apathy, Stopover had everyone’s attention early and didn’t let go. That kind of support continued straight through the 3 days of the festival.