It seems like a no–brainer when you think about it. We’ve got the Savannah Music Festival, a high–end package of national and international performers. And the Savannah Stopover skims the cream of unsigned indie bands from east of the Mississippi and delivers them over four music–filled days.
Other than the occasional drib and the occasional drab, the city doesn’t have an all–local music festival.
Well, that’s all changed, thanks to Amanda Hollowell, an event planner who recently arrived from California.
It’s called Square Fest, it’s free, and it takes place Saturday, Aug. 25 from 2 to 10 p.m. in Forsyth Park.
(That’s right, it’s not happening in an actual square. Let’s set the semantics aside, shall we?)
“When I moved into Savannah I realized how rich it was with art and culture and music,” Hollowell says. “And you just kind of had to go find it. I thought ‘There’s something we can do that’s organic.’ It sounded really simple, and it wasn’t.”
Square Fest isn’t trying to pass itself off as the “best” in Savannah music — several notable acts are conspicuous by their absence — but that really isn’t the point. Along with a couple of relative newbies, there are several bands and artists on the roster that are well–known to our local bandheads.
Hollowell was also keen on bringing “bar acts” to Square Fest, performers that usually fly well over the radar of those under 21.
For her, it’s all about community.
“It’s been a great experience,” she enthuses. “I’ve teamed up with a local studio, 912 Entertainment, and they’re a bunch of great people to work with. They have more of an underground, hip hop recording influence, but they were really trying to figure out how to bridge that gap in music as well.”
From veteran pop/rockers Listen 2 Three to newly–minted rapper Steve Cantrell, there’s a broad spectrum of genre talent on this stage.
“I’m pretty diverse in my music tastings, so I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself,” says Hollowell. “It’s like you can show up at 4 and see this band, or show up at 10 and see that band. You can plan your day around the festival and what you like.
“But the idea was, I wanted people to be able to sit down and listen to music for the whole day, and maybe get enlightened by something or inspired by someone. Or purchase a CD.”
Among the relatively new bands are Lyn Avenue, a pop/country quartet consisting of four Armstrong Atlantic State University students, plus Emoticon and Sunglow.
The instrumental progresso–jazz–fusion ensemble The Royal Noise is on the bill, along with the dynamic hip hop band KidSyc@Brandywine, and the rapping collective known as Dope Sandwich.
“For selfish reasons I’m excited about Square Fest,” says singer/songwriter Todd Murray, whose nom de stage is Sincerely Iris. “I finally get to play on that great stage. I always jog past it and think about how awesome it would be to perform there. I remember one day I was jogging past and some middle school kids were performing a band recital up there, and I was totally jealous.
“I also think that Square Fest is a really, really cool concept. To get all these awesome local bands to come together on the same day in the same spot is something special. There are so many talented bands in Savannah that play all the time, but their shows are spread out all over town. This is a great way to show people the talent we have, on the same stage.”
In this democratic aggregation, the ipso facto headliner is Word of Mouth, the eight–member boho band that delivers electro–funk, hip hop, rock ‘n’ roll and an overtly positive message.
Jeff DeRosa plays cello and bass guitar in Word Of Mouth. “We’re very excited to be a part of the festival, and we’re excited that Savannah is doing this now,” he says. “Savannah needs more festivals like this that are all ages, and are free. It’s really supporting the local scene instead of the people coming in from out of town.
“Of course, I love to support all music from out of town, too, but to me the 21 and up rule has always been the biggest problem with Savannah, in clubs. There’s not enough music that’s outside, and that’s free, that everybody can come see.”
WOM is currently recording a full–length album, and as each track is completed it’s being made available online at wordofmouthspeaks.com. True to its communal manifesto, the band also provides “stems” (isolated bass, drum, keyboard or guitar tracks) for DYI remixes.
DeRosa places all credit for Square Fest squarely on the shoulders of Amanda Hollowell.
“She doesn’t have a lot of backing,” he points out. “She’s really doing this flying by the seat of her pants, and I commend her for that.
“I personally think Savannah has a vendetta against live music — it’s been tough, with the permits and all that, but she’s really kept it together and keep her head on straight under all that pressure.”
Where: Forsyth Park bandshell
When: 2–10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25
2:05 p.m.: Sunglow
2:30 p.m.: Lyn Avenue
3:15 p.m.: Sincerely, Iris
3:45 p.m.: Listen 2 Three
4:30 p.m.: Steve Cantrell
4:50 p.m.: Dope Sandwich
5:30 p.m.: Elephant Talk
5:50 p.m.: Emoticon
6:25 p.m.: Kota Mundi
7:05 p.m.: The Royal Noise
7:45 p.m.: KidSyc@Brandywine
9:15 p.m.: Word of Mouth