Savannah transplant finds groove in local music scene

 I moved to Savannah exactly one month ago and stumbled upon what would be a nonstop monthlong musical adventure. Moving from Germany, it was a relief to find live music sans accordion and a downbeat that differed from the classical “oomph-pah” I’ve been accustomed to for the past five years.

It started with a bang the third weekend in February during the A-Town Get Down music fest.

Probably more impressive than the number of local and national acts who performed was the reason the fest existed – to honor SCAD student Alex Townsend, who was killed in a car accident in 2010.

The event opened my eyes to the community aspect of this little Southern city. Musicians, visual artists, volunteers and local restaurants and businesses all came together for the love of music and to show community support.

The event peaked when headliners The Blind Boys of Alabama came on stage, but it also allowed a newbie like me to taste-test the local sound.

After hearing Waits and Co. earlier that day, I downloaded their CD immediately. They have an alt-country sound hidden in a storytelling manner. And they are based right here in Savannah, playing all over town. 

And then there was Savannah grown Lil’J, a 12-year old hip-hop songwriter and performer who charmed the afternoon crowd with his original rhymes. And if knowing he’s a veteran of the stage at the age of 12 doesn’t make you feel less accomplished, it’s noteworthy to add he’s been recording and writing since he was 6 years old.

I’m very disappointed in my 6-year-old self.

The beauty of music fests is the array of musical genres wrapped up in one weekend.

I heard the juke joint sound of the Missionary Blues, the soulful re-imaginings of Issac Smith, the boom bap hip-hop beats from Miggs and Knife of Dope Sandwich, and local favorite, Omingnome – which boasts itself as a consciousness-lifting musical experience.

The following weekend I sought out some bluegrass at the Southbound Brewing Company during the City Hotel’s album release concert. I ran into a lot of the same folks that were at A-Town Get Down, and I would run into them again the following weekend at Savannah Stopover Music Fest.

Stopover, as it’s affectionately called by the locals, (which at this point I considered myself one), is one of the most popular annual events in Savannah with more than 100 performances by local and traveling acts. Currently in its fifth year, it was three nonstop days of music and parties.

The latter may have upstaged the music, honestly.

The idea of this fest is to welcome musicians with a place to play en route to Austin’s prestigious SXSW Music Conference. And Savannah is good at that. This city welcomes music and art; it  thrives on the creative and it shows.

Which brings us to the Savannah Music Festival,  Georgia’s largest music arts festival and one of the most distinctive cross-genre music festivals in the world, which will end the trifecta of music festivals in the past month. 

This festival will prove to expand my musical tastes even more between the free Swing Central Jazz: Jazz on the River show Thursday, March 26 showcasing the twelve 2015 Swing Central Jazz finalists from 4-7 p.m., to the New Orleans Soul & Brass Party featuring Irma Thomas and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Saturday, March 28. The festival also features a Latin dance party, Brazilian soul, South Africa beats and a closing night performance April 4, with Dakabrakha, (pictured above), a world music quartet from Kyiv, Ukraine. The band creates a universe of unexpected new music in a variety of native melodies and rhythms.

Savannah is alive with the sound of music. It soothes the soul and has certainly helped my transition moving to a new city. Music is a universal language and as locals, (remember, I am one now) it’s easy to reap all of the benefits of living in a city with such amazing talent and consideration for the arts.  

But I won’t let the Savannah Music Festival be the end of my musical journey. I’ve already booked tickets for Old Crow Medicine Show, May 1 at the Savannah Civic Center and I plan on letting the good times roll at the historic Savannah Theatre with their upcoming “Jukebox!” show.

And if the shows keep coming, and the music keeps playing, so will I.