How Savannah Stopover music fest Stole My Heart, pt. 1

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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By Kathleen McCafferty

This last weekend was Stopover Music Festival: a three day festival with hundreds of bands on their way to South by Southwest, playing at various venues in and around downtown Savannah, GA.

Now, for the record: I’m not a music critic, or even a festival critic. I’m just a chick who loves Asheville, with a side crush on Savannah, and I knew I had to go. Ashvegas sweetened the deal by asking me to cover Stopover, and even hooked me up with a press pass. (That Ashvegas is one standout dude, y’all.)

After a weekend at Stopover, I can honestly say that my crush on Savannah has developed into something more serious. It’s a full-blown romance, you guys. Between the festival organizers, venue staff, and music fans, everyone was so nice, considerate, and fun. I made some new friends, got French kissed by a dog named Finn, danced my buns off, and heard some incredible music.

Here’s how it all went down…

Dispatches from Stopover, Friday, March 7th 

“Someone smells like Cinnabon.”

Our cab driver, Marquise, throws this observation out flatly. I’m in his taxi-van with two of my favorite people, my friends and travel companions Kambra Meyer and Brandy Bourne. We exchange looks.

“I think it’s me. I’m wearing coconut lotion,” I say.

“Well, if you’re looking for men, that will work,” he tells me. He smacks his lips on a Frosty from Wendy’s, all nonchalant-like.

Cool, I think. That’s not really my goal, but okay.

* * *

Marquise drops us off on W. Broughton St. We pick up our tickets and make our way over to the press lounge so I can grab my pass. My girlfriends can’t hang out there with me, so I just glance around at all the many dudes from bands, just sitting around looking bored.

I am not here to pick up men.

I am here to cover the festival, and I want to do that in true festival-going fashion.

So I bolt for the door.

* * *

We are starving out of our minds, standing on the street, and we don’t know where to go.1. Brian Husky

That’s when Brian Huskey whisks by with a tray of food.

“Strudel, ladies?”

He’s dropping off food for the Stopover artists in the press lounge, but he pauses to offer us a taste.

When we ask him where we should go for dinner, we don’t realize that Brian Huskey is the owner of the Gaslight Group, and the man behind Abe’s on Lincoln, B. Matthew’s Eatery, The 5 Spot, and Blowin’ Smoke BBQ.

In other words, Brian Huskey is the man.

“Oh, you have to try this,” he says.

He grabs a large paper plate from the back of his van and heaps it with pesto grit shrimp cakes, fried green tomatoes, black bean cakes, and more strudel. He ladles a swirl of sauce over the food, hands it to us, and gives us each a napkin.

Ladies and gentleman of Asheville, I give you Brian Huskey. Man among men, friend to all, Patron Saint of Hungry Girls.

This is how our Stopover starts.

* * *

First Stop: Abe’s on Lincoln

After chowing down on the street, we step into Abe’s on Lincoln. Abe’s has a cool ambiance, a local bar feel, and is the kind of dimly-lit place where you can whisper your secrets. We belly up to the big square bar and check out the napkin drawings of Abraham Lincoln stuck all over the place. Around the corner there’s a music space where some of the Secret Shows for Stopover are held.

We order a round of drinks and figure out our next move. My instinct is to pound my beer so we can get moving–there’s music to be heard!–but then I remember that in my crush-of-a-city, Savannah, you can take your drink with you, and enjoy it as you power walk to your next destination.

Ahh, Savannah.

I clink cups with Kambi and Brandy and we cruise off into the night, drinks in hand.

* * *

Second Stop: Moon River Beer Garden

The Moon River Beer Garden is a sweet 5,400 square foot mostly-outdoor space with a bar and kitchen. When we get there, the band this mountain is winding down their set. They’re a folk-rock sextet from Johnson City, TN, with a pleasant rustic-string-band-meets-rock-n-roll sound, and a dash of twang they call “Southern flare.”

The night grows cold. There are these fire tube heater things in the Beer Garden that look cool, but don’t emit much heat. Still, people are clustered around them, angling for heat, but in a nice way, because people in Savannah know how to share. That’s where I meet Maureen Simmons, my new best friend, and her husband, Richard.2. this mountain

They live a block or two away from the Beer Garden and give me the download on the previous night’s shows. Maureen describes a super sweet set by the indie pop twin sister duo, Good Graeff, and shows me a get-down-on-your-knees vintage soul performance by St. Paul & The Broken Bones that she shot on her iPhone.

(Damn. Next year, I’m going to Stopover for all three days. Wye Oak  and Future Islands played on Thursday as well, and I would have loved to have caught those shows.)

Standing next to Maureen, and inching towards the fire tube, I enjoy listening to Asheville’s own River Whyless take the stage.4. River Whyless1

The quartet plays a fantastic set of “folk-baroque pop” that gets the crowd toe-tapping and happy. I hadn’t heard them before, but look forward to catching them at the next opportunity here in town.

Next up is Nashville, TN, singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose, who sings some songs from her new album, The Stand-In. Caitlin drinks whisky on stage and fumbles a few times with her lyrics, but she’s full of charm and sass, like always, and her voice is so good, so who cares.

Caitlin Rose isn’t the only one drinking whisky, by the way. Your girl Cinnabon decides to have a couple shots to “stay warm” outside with the dipping temps, and, like Rose, things get a little patchy.

Third Stop: Sweet Melissa’s Pizza

Good thing for pizza! We pop into Sweet Melissa’s, a bustling, late-night drunk haven with hot-from-the-oven slices of pie, and that pretty much hits the spot.

Forth Stop: Hang Fire

Brooklyn-based dream pop band, Ski Lodge, play Hang Fire to a packed crowd.

“We’re from Brookyn, New York,” announces front man, Andrew Marr.

“Newww York City?” Someone croons behind me, channeling the cowboys from the old Pace Picante commercials.

Brandy later describes Ski Lodge as “effectively affected,” and I’m going to go ahead and agree, because she’s smart, and also because whisky turns my brain to Swiss cheese.

Fifth Stop: Club One

Here’s where things start to come back into focus, and razzle my dazzle, Black Taxi at Club One is all kinds of get-down fun. They’re also from NY, NY, and they put on an energetic show under a GIANT disco ball. While the crowd is kind of small, they’re super digging it, and I witness a fair amount of get-down shaking and grinding. I hear they have some stellar drag shows at Club One, which makes sense given the decor–the place is virtually covered in mirrors. 9. Black Taxi

Last Stop: Knights of Columbus Hall 

The Knights of Columbus Hall is housed in a historic mansion, on Liberty Street, and it’s here that Nashville, TN, badasses Those Darlins close out Friday night. I’ve seen Those Darlins a few times before, but this was the most polished I’ve ever heard them sound. They were totally ON, it was awesome, and the crowd went nuts. They sang their song “Be Your Bro”from their debut album, “Screws Get Loose,” and it’s still stuck in my head: I just wanna be your brother, I don’t wanna be your lover, whoa- whoa-whoa, I want to be your bro.  10. Those Darlins

After my first night at Stopover, I’m ready to crawl into bed at our airbnb rental, tired but happy and buzzing with anticipation for Saturday.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. Andrew March 13, 2014

    Nice write up, Kathleen! We, this mountain, will be in Asheville tomorrow night at The Grey Eagle if you’d like to catch a full set indoors! We, too, have a love affair with Savannah, by the way.

  2. Maureen Simmons March 12, 2014

    Great writing Katie! I feel famous…I guess generosity sharing a worthless heat source paid off! Richard and I will see you in Asheville! Tons of fun hanging out with you and your pals!

  3. Anna March 11, 2014

    I’m convinced! I’m going next year. This is a great review, and I too have a crush on Savannah and all her music festivals.


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