3 stages. 12 bands. The most ambitious outdoor music festival in the city’s history. The public unveiling of a huge new/old indoor-outdoor complex after a long multimillion dollar restoration and rehabilitation project.
In my City Talk column in the Savannah Morning News, I shared some first impressions of the Savannah Music Festival’s finale at the newly unveiled Trustees’ Garden in the northeast corner of Savannah’s Landmark Historic District. The new spaces are the result of hard work and considerable investment by owner Charles H. Morris, and we’d like to give a shoutout too to all the others who worked to rehabilitate the grand Kehoe Iron Works and the rest of the site. Special thanks to Lominack Kolman Smith’s lead architect Kevin Rose, owner of Elevated Basement Studio and a friend of hissing lawns.
And thanks to the staff and board of the Savannah Music Festival for taking the artistic and financial risks of putting on such a large-scale, lovingly produced event to close out this year’s 17-day fest.
Let’s start with a few photos, but you can click on through for more commentary and photos:
I arrived via the press entrance near the Morris Center, so my first look at the festival venue was nothing special — food trucks and port-a-jons in the big parking lot at the top of the hill. I had been keeping an eye on the renovations at the Kehoe Iron Works and the adjacent metal building for many years, so I expected a gorgeous vista as I approached the downslope, but I didn’t realize just how beautifully the geometry of the space welcomed a musical production of this scale.
If you want to a get a look at the space without any people around, check out this Facebook live video from the Savannah Morning News with Do editor Heather Henley chatting with Larissa Thut Davidson and Ryan McMaken from the SMF on the Friday before the finale:
I had a quick errand to run mid-afternoon, so I didn’t get inside the Morris Center in time to see the Acoustic Music Seminar students with Stringband Spectacular, but I managed to see and shoot a few photos of the rest of the day’s performers. (Presuming the festival does a finale like this again, they might need to rethink the best use of the Morris Center, which was filled to capacity with lengthy waits during several performances.)
In addition to Stringband Spectacular, the lineup included Betsayda Machado and Parranda el Clavo, Velvet Caravan with special guest Jessica Ann Best, Mipso, Brett Dennen, Brent Cobb, Daniel Hope and Mike Marshall (with Julian Lage, Moira Smiley, and Mike Block), Gillian Welch with Dave Rawlings, Sammy Miller & the Congregation, Marc Broussard, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Standout moments for me included Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings greeting fans after their beautiful set in the afternoon sun, the commanding songwriting and seamless performance of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and the sheer joy of the audience listening to Velvet Caravan, but it’s impossible to distill the event into a few sentences.
But my lasting memory will probably be of sitting with a couple friends — people with whom I don’t spend nearly enough time — as day turned into night on the steep slope on the north side of the natural amphitheater. Jason Isbell finished up right at sunset, and then I wandered the beautiful grounds and listened for a while to Marc Broussard on the other outdoor stage, ran into some more people I hadn’t seen in a long time, met a friend for part of Mipso’s super set in the Morris Center, and then drifted back to our spot on the hillside for Tedeschi Trucks Band’s rousing performance.
Check out Live for Live Music for a review + videos of Tedeschi Trucks.
I took a lot of photos and will post more sometime soon to the hissing lawns Facebook page.