By now, you’ve seen our coverage of the Quarantine Concerts that are taking place on Tybee Island. Spearheaded by sound engineer and businessman Michael Gaster, the shows have been regularly broadcast from the Tybee Arts Association Black Box Theater until recently, when they moved to the Tybee Post Theater for better connectivity and more space for social distancing.
As the shows continue at the Tybee Post, so does the calendar expand through April and beyond. Coming up on Wed., April 8 is Phantom Wingo, the long-running blues/rock band fronted by Tyler Roe. Roe, who owns a music store on Wilmington Island, says he’s thrilled with Gaster’s efforts to bring pro shot, pro audio live music to people during these troubled times.
“When I first got to town from New York in the early 2000s, Savannah was a great place for live music,” Roe tells Connect.
“There were so many different places to play, and for rock and roll bands it’s really not that right now. But we have all of these great original songwriters, and there’s really not the platform there was. I think it’ll cycle back around, but what a great opportunity this is for local artists.”
Roe came to Savannah after playing in several New York bands in the 90s, including a band that would ultimately morph into the notable group Xanax 25. He’d already developed a friendship with Warren Haynes, and also had a working relationship with Sam Hollander, who’d go on to become a hugely successful songwriter and producer.
Roe’s heart was set musically on the sound of bands like the Allman Brothers, and he felt as though he belonged in that world. So by the time he moved to Savannah, he’d begun to feel as though he fit in a bit more creatively at home.
“I had just cut a record with a band called No Exit in New York, and I wanted to keep that vibe going. I was introduced to a drummer named Josh Fallin, and we’ve been playing together now since 1999,” he says.
“I’m a big Allman Brothers fan—that’s just what I gravitated towards. To move down south, I was just really ready to do a factory reset and do that thing without a New York sheen to it. So we brought the No Exit band down here and it morphed into Phantom Wingo, and we played together for the better part of the decade.”
In 2009, Roe and his bandmates took a bit of a hiatus, and bassist Adam Celeste was diagnosed with brain cancer during this dormant period. Celeste passed away in 2014, and it was after his passing that Fallin and Roe reconnected on a musical level. By 2015, the band had gone through a period of what Roe describes as “soul searching” and they ultimately decided to get back together. They started as a trio before recruiting bassist Ryan Thaw in 2017, and guitarist Alex Bazemore soon after. Keyboardist Demitri Chrissos is the latest addition.
The newest incarnation of Phantom Wingo, Roe says, essentially came together rather inadvertently as opposed to being put together in a strategic manner. That’s made for a more organic and exciting approach to being a band.
“I feel almost like the Col. Bruce Hampton of Savannah. I just turned 50 this year, and I brought in all of these young guys to the band,” he says with a laugh.
“Josh and I know what the other’s going to do before we do it, because we’ve been playing together for so long. And then I’ve got this trio of guys that are just great. The dynamics have changed a little bit, but there’s still the swamp vibe that we’ve always had.”
The band’s southern rock and blues influences will no doubt be on full display at the upcoming Quarantine Concert, which Roe says he’s excited about being a part of.
“With something like this, I’m hoping that it’ll kind of put Savannah on the map—like Austin or Seattle,” he says. “There is a lot of talent in this town, and I don’t throw that around willy nilly.”