If I had to sum up my 2016 Bragg Jam experience with one vignette from the day-long festival, I’d have to pick the moment Justin Osborne of SUSTO realized that most of the crowd at Gallery West knew the chorus to “‘Friends, Lovers, Ex-lovers, Whatever” and invited us all to sing along.
If you don’t know the song, it’s worth a listen:
Osborne also performed “Chillin’ on the Beach with My Best Friend Jesus Christ,” which he apparently played because I had asked him about it the previous week at Service Brewing in Savannah. Another super song from one of the most talented songwriters I know.
But it’s really impossible to distill such a crazy day and such a sprawling festival (something like 80 bands on 20 stages) down to one moment. A group of Savannahians took the MusicFile Productions bus to Macon again, but there were quite a few of us who drove separately. I went up pretty early on Saturday, arrived at the festival just after 2 p.m., and headed straight for Daddy Issues at Fresh Produce Records only to discover that the band had to cancel after getting tied up in traffic.
So the wandering started and didn’t end until I got back to my hotel about 2 a.m.
First up was singer-songwriter Owen Bolig at the coffee shop Taste and See, and then Me and Molly at the packed Just Tap’d. Next, I made my way again to Fresh Produce for Savannah’s Sunglow on the Savannah Stopover-sponsored stage and Mighty at the Bearfoot Tavern Beer Garden.
Next I went back to Fresh Produce for Wanda, then back to Gallery West for most of a great set by Dylan LeBlanc, then again to Taste and See for the idiosyncratic Nathan K., and then to the iconic Grant’s Lounge for a strong show by Great Peacock.
And then SUSTO’s Osborne:
Next up for me was the Library Ballroom — a gorgeous, spacious venue — for Brave Baby, whose big sound was awesome in the somewhat echoey room.
There had been a lot of buzz about Frankie Cosmos, but she and her band could have used a more intimate space than that ballroom.
Next came one of those tough, tough choices. I had never seen Shakey Graves, and I knew that the Cox Capitol Theatre (why doesn’t Savannah have a venue like that?) would fill up. So, after catching just a song by Water Liars at Grant’s, I slipped into the packed Cox near the end of Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors — a wonderful band — and stayed for Graves, who is amazingly charismatic on stage. I don’t regret that choice, but man I missed a lot strong acts playing in those late slots.
Regrettably, for photography, the Shakey Graves show was really tough because of the backlighting (compounded by the baseball cap).
There were only a handful of venues still up and running when I left the Cox, so where else would I go but to the Hummingbird for one of my favorite bands, The Weeks, who played a thrilling set in Savannah the night before.
I obviously took a lot more photos than the ones I’ve posted here, so I’ll either do another post just with a photo gallery or post a ton on Facebook. (Please consider liking hissing lawns on Facebook.)
I love Macon — the city has beautiful if sometimes decrepit bones — and I took a few streetscape shots during Bragg Jam and hung around the next day for my first trips to the Otis Redding statue, the Indian mounds at the Ocmulgee National Monument, and Rose Hill Cemetery, the resting place of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley.
Congrats to all the Bragg Jam organizers, venues, and musicians on another great year. It’s worth noting, too, that while I saw a lot of bands, there were literally dozens more that I missed. It’s quite a day.