We don’t get too personal here at hissing lawns, but no one lives in a vacuum. 2015 has been a stressful year for me personally, including some high highs plus a couple of very low lows: my father died in March, and my mother in October. I won’t bore you with the details, but they both lived long, rich lives.
My folks lived in Kentucky, so I was flying home often over the past 18 months (hello, American Airlines platinum, and hello again, E terminal in Charlotte). As a result, I feel like I missed a ton of great Savannah shows, but, as I look back on 2015, I’m overwhelmed by all the music I experienced. (Music is a powerful tool for healing.)
I can’t say enough good things about the talent right now in Savannah’s mutually supportive music community — I hit a lot of highlights in a recent column for Do Savannah — but for this post I’m going to concentrate on various touring acts that I saw here at home or out on the road. I saw so many great local shows that I don’t know how I could appropriately summarize the highlights — The Accomplices at the Roundhouse, the chaotic sets by Crazy Bag Lady, happy hours with Damon & The Shitkickers at The Jinx, Jason Bible solo at the Gingerbread House, the slightly premature goodbye party at Hang Fire, Niche’s record release shows, to name only a few — without leaving out all sorts of awesomeness.
A quick technical note: the shots in this post were taken with either a Fuji x100t or a Nikon D7000 (generally using either a 50 mm, 1.4 or a 55-300 mm, 4.5-5.6). Both cameras are highly recommended.
So let’s get rolling:
I had never seen The Rolling Stones before, so I jumped at the chance to purchase a VIP seat for the Atlanta show through my friend Mike, a friend of the band’s longtime keyboardist and sometime Savannah resident Chuck Leavell. It had rained hard earlier in the day, but the June evening at Bobby Dodd Stadium turned out to be just about perfect — and so was my seat next to the thrust stage. I thought the Stones sounded and looked great — click here for my review — and I’m glad I took the leap and committed to the date even with so much else going on.
So there’s a trite but true lesson from 2015: seize the day, because you don’t know how many days are left.
I also got to see Murder By Death in a 19th century manmade cavern in Louisville. The ticket was a Kickstarter perk that I took a chance on many months earlier, with no idea whether I’d actually be in Kentucky that weekend. What a show. MBD displays such phenomenal respect for their fans, and I don’t see any end to their efforts to create unique, rewarding experiences like this one.
And 2015 was the year that Insane Clown Posse brought a full lineup of acts, including P.O.D., to The Music Vault in Hardeeville. I still can’t believe that so many of my friends didn’t go to this show — the juggalo is not strong in my people. The spectacle alone was worth it, even if Sarah Cuda told me that I could never complain about Eddie Money again if I went to see ICP. All that, and my cameras survived the Faygo. More here.
I said at the beginning of this post that I wasn’t going to say much about Savannah-based acts in this post, but I have to give a shoutout to three that have international followings and have had stellar years: Black Tusk, who recovered from Athon’s death in 2014 and hit the road firing on all jets; Kylesa, who turned out another critically acclaimed record and continued to advance their upstart label Retro Futurist; and Baroness, who played their first hometown show in five years in support of the brand new album Purple.
Oxford American’s Georgia music issue came out recently, and I’ve got a piece in it about Black Tusk, Athon, and the Savannah scene that gave rise to such great bands. There’s a much bigger story still to be told — much bigger.
All these shots are from The Jinx, of course:
And, wow, what a year for Savannah’s MusicFile Productions, parent company of both Savannah Stopover and Revival Fest. Kayne Lanahan and her team have brought so many great acts through town for those festivals plus other shows that I really don’t even know where to begin. As I was writing this, Stopover shared these stats:
A few personal MusicFile highlights in random order: Parker Millsap at Revival Fest (whom I also saw at Forecastle Festival in Louisville); Those Darlins at Revival Fest; Diarrhea Planet at Savannah Stopover (they made a non-MusicFile return trip to The Jinx later in the year and I shot them at Forecastle too); Family and Friends at Stopover and two Jinx shows; Hardy & The Hardknocks at The Jinx (also a highlight of Bragg Jam in Macon); Dirty Bourbon River Show in the new series Stopover in the Yard at The Grey; Fucked Up at Southern Pine; Corners at Savannah Stopover; Natalie Prass at Hang Fire; Adia Victoria at Stopover; Margo & The Pricetags at Stopover and Revival Fest; Capsula at Stopover; King Tuff, Ex Hex, and Creepoid at Hang Fire; and Turbo Fruits at Stopover. Seriously, that’s just scratching the surface.
Here’s a mishmash of photos of all those acts (not just in the MusicFile produced gigs):
Outside of the various festivals, I don’t feel like we get enough great shows at Savannah’s bigger theatres, but Jason Isbell made up for a lot of those misses with his recent set at the Lucas backed by the stellar 400 Hundred Unit.
Shaky Knees hasn’t announced their lineup yet for 2016 in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, but if it’s anything like the 2015 lineup in Central Park, I’ll try to cover it extensively again.
As impressive as the shows by the big headliners (The Strokes, Pixies, Tame Impala, The Avett Brothers) were, I most appreciated Shaky Knees for some of the daytime sets, including Palma Violets, The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo), Mastodon, Trombone Shorty, Speedy Ortiz, John Grant, and Interpol.
Other shows that really stick out in my mind as I reflect on 2015 include Little Tybee‘s set at Tybee Island Social Club, The Wailers in Forsyth Park for SCAD’s spring concert, Dawes at the Savannah Music Festival, B.J. Barham solo and Caustic Casanova at The Jinx.
I’ve mentioned Forecastle already, but there were a few more sets that especially impressed, including Houndmouth, The Revivalists, Stopover-bound White Reaper, and Shovels & Rope (one of their last shows before their baby was born).
Here’s to even better things for all of us in 2016.