A man once told me: “Sometimes you gotta come down here and take it slow… and you’ll see that down here, slower is faster.”
That man was drunk, and talking about Savannah, Georgia, and this happened a week ago. I’m not sure his advice always holds true because soon after this conversation I saw him dozing off on his bar stool, but I’ll agree with his subtle hint that Savannah still knows how to have fun despite the city’s size and pace.
I was in Georgia to check out the fifth annual Savannah Stopover music festival. I had already experienced going to a single show alone, but a three-day festival? No way. So when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it because it’s early 2015 and I’ve got some stacks of PTO to throw, and I’ve always wanted to quote this in its ideal setting.
However, when I first got into Savannah late on Thursday night I immediately regretted my decision to come. It was cold and rainy, I was alone and sober, and I didn’t know any of the few bands playing that night. Flustered yet undeterred, I journeyed out into the city to try and meet up with some other writers who were down there. But I failed. The bars were crowded, my phone died, and my rum & coke needed more rum. So much more rum. I remembered that festivals are marathons, not sprints, and that I was out of my element and needed to regroup and form a plan of attack. I went back to the hotel and crashed.
Friday is the day I figured out what a small festival like Savannah Stopover is all about. Slower really can be better. Where Lollapalooza and Coachella are the “sold-out-stadium, Michael Jackson HIStory World Tours” of the festival circuit, Savannah Stopover is the underground band that you love, playing at the small club down the street.
There is no “Bud Light Stage” or “Sony Silent Disco” at the Stopover, instead, all the shows are played in existing local bars and venues, with their original sponsorless names intact. You don’t need to scan an electronic wristband at every entry point, you just float around wherever you want. I also cannot stress enough how awesome it is that you can drink anywhere in the city. Anywhere. At every bar there is a stack of “to-go” cups by the door, and if you’re not finished with your drink, you just bring it into the next bar.
After roaming the city for most of Friday afternoon (the shows don’t start until around 5 p.m. each day which leaves plenty of time early on for recovery and exploration), I met up with some people to go catch Nashville band Penicillin Baby. The set was great, and afterwards we all started turning up and went down the street to see another Nashville band, Fly Golden Eagle.
Maybe I’m a cynic, maybe I’m just getting older and maybe I’m becoming one of those “fuck the mainstream” people, but witnessing this festival in Savannah run off the energy of people who genuinely want to hear and discover new music was inspiring.
Lollapalooza and Coachella might have the big name headliners and huge crowds, but at Savannah Stopover you can get fucked up with the bands you just saw perform. That’s a win, in my opinion.
Saturday followed the same blueprint from Friday. Slept late, explored the city, and met up with the same crew for more good music. We saw Matthew E. White perform in a church, and Diarrhea Planet start a riot in a pub, but throughout all of this there was one thought that I couldn’t shake; this whole festival is truly centered around the music.
I still love Lollapalooza and it holds a special place in my heart, but over the past five years I’ve enjoyed it less each time. Maybe I’m a cynic, maybe I’m just getting older and maybe I’m becoming one of those “fuck the mainstream” people, but witnessing this festival in Savannah run off the energy of people who genuinely want to hear and discover new music was inspiring.
Like discovering a great band before they blow up, finding a small, awesome festival can be just as exciting.