On March 5 – 7, 2015, the 5th annual Savannah Stopover featured 100 bands performing over three days at venues throughout the city’s famed Historic District. For dozens of acts, the festival is literally a “stopover” on their way to SXSW. Savannah’s location is perfect for catching bands that are routing down the East Coast before heading west for Austin.
But the upstart Savannah Stopover has grown into much more than just “SXSW’s grungy little sister” – not that there’s anything wrong with that description. Plenty of artists, including ones that aren’t headed to Austin, now know that the fest is a worthy destination of its own.
In just five short years, Stopover has learned to rely on some of Savannah’s finest assets, including intimate venues, warm hospitality, walkability and a tightknit community of fans and musicians.
The festival pairs each act with a local resident offering a place to stay for the night and even feeds the visiting artists at communal meals.
All the 2015 venues were literally within a few blocks of each other, so pass holders could easily walk from venue to venue. Savannah’s legendary to-go cup ordinance means that attendees don’t have to down their drinks at the door.
The 2015 Savannah Stopover featured a diverse range of headliners, including Richmond-based Matthew E. White, who played a glorious set at the 19th century Trinity United Methodist Church on Telfair Square, Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet, who electrified the packed house at The Jinx, and Southern Culture on the Skids, who kicked off the festival with a raucous surf rock party at Trustees’ Garden.
But for many festivalgoers, Stopover is all about discovery. Each year, CEO Kayne Lanahan and her staff book dozens of up-and-coming bands that are just beginning to attract praise from critics. There’s real magic in hearing a great band for the first time.
Savannah acts make up about 15 percent of the Stopover lineup. That’s a special treat for out-of-town visitors, and it’s a great opportunity for local musicians to make their talents known to industry insiders.
The sixth annual Savannah Stopover is scheduled for March 10-12, 2016.
Bill Dawers is a writer and photographer who edits the Savannah-based music blog hissing lawns.