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CITY TALK: Savannah Stopover capitalizes on history, diversity, proximity

The seventh annual Savannah Stopover Music Festival took place last weekend with about 85 artists performing in venues in the northern portion of the Landmark Historic District.

There are certainly other cities with tightly clustered entertainment districts, but few if any cities would suit a festival like Stopover better than Savannah does.

The first piece I ever wrote for the Savannah Morning News was published along with other columns in a special section at the dawn of the new millennium. I focused on the confluence in Savannah of history, diversity and proximity.

These three qualities are especially noticeable if you look at Savannah’s churches and bars.

I live several blocks south of Forsyth Park within a short walk of four different churches named for St. Paul, including a Greek Orthodox congregation. The immediate neighborhood also has a Catholic church, a Baptist church and a mosque.

You’ll find similar religious diversity on the north side of Forsyth too, of course, and the city’s nightlife scene attracts a startling degree of diversity as well, in the space of a few short blocks.

A Tribe Called Red, an electronic music collective comprised of politically active members of indigenous communities, performed during Savannah Stopover at Club One, arguably the most important site for the region’s LGBTQ community for the last generation.

Lewis Del Mar, a fairly new band with a Latino lead singer, played a stellar Saturday headlining set in the North Garden of the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, a property with 200 years of history.

Ruby Amanfu, a singer-songwriter originally from Ghana, killed it at the historic Trinity United Methodist Church on Telfair Square.

The festival’s other primary venues were historic properties that have become hotspots for nightlife, including The Jinx, Wild Wing Café, Congress Street Social Club and El-Rocko Lounge.

For the 2017 festival, Savannah Stopover also paired with local nonprofits and businesses to present shows in unexpected places, like the secret shows – the artist is announced just an hour before start time – by Wreckless Eric at Emmaus House and Pronoun in the garden of the Telfair Museums’ Owens-Thomas House.

Stopover also hosted a daytime benefit for the Rape Crisis Center at The Grey, featuring rising country star Kelsey Waldon. Christopher Paul Stelling and his band performed inside West Elm on Drayton Street.

I have written occasionally in this space about the importance of authenticity – a term often used by tourism experts. We can think about the word as a framework for connecting the past and the present, for creating a bridge between local and tourist experiences.

Savannah Stopover might be a young festival, but it certainly feels authentic in its increasingly rich relationship with the city’s history.

City Talk appears every Sunday and Tuesday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, GA 31401.

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