If Savannah is to become an indie music mecca, it’ll be Kayne Lanahan up in the minaret, calling people in.
A marketing and advertising whiz from New York City, Lanahan is the brains behind the upcoming Savannah Stopover Festival, which will bring 50 independent bands and artists to multiple downtown club stages between March 9 and 12.
Although several bands are drawn from the ranks of Savannah’s finest, the majority are out–of–towners who’ve never before performed in the Hostess City. These are primarily East Coast acts, doing a “stopover” here on their way to Austin’s mighty SXSW music conference, March 11–20.
Lanahan relocated to Savannah last year. She’d been a frequent visitor (her mother and sister live here); concurrent with her move, she decided to focus, full–time, on her website, themusicfile.com.
“I’ve always been sort of a music freak,” she says, “and I saw the industry was changing like crazy – that people were discovering new bands on the Internet, it wasn’t happening through radio any more. Everybody’s still trying to figure out what the new model is.”
Although the final schedule is still being tweaked (it should be released within the next few days), Lanahan has inked deals with Live Wire Music Hall, The Jinx, Hang Fire, the Wormhole and other clubs.
“It’s a four–day marathon,” she explains. “When you go to SXSW, you go from noon till three in the morning, every day. You try and see as many bands as you can. And I think that’s culturally a new concept for Savannah.”
Where did the idea for Savannah Stopover come from?
Kayne Lanahan: I’ve been running The Music File for four years, and we mainly profile up and coming bands. So every time we’d come to Savannah, I would look at tour schedules: “Well, we just wrote an article on this band. Let’s see where they’re playing live.” And I kept noticing that they were playing Asheville, Atlanta, Athens, Jacksonville ... and I wondered “Why aren’t they stopping in Savannah?”
Last year, we did a big event at SXSW, in Austin. We had about 12 bands play. And we noticed that a few of them came to Savannah last year, the week before SXSW. And as we were working our tails off last year we said “Why don’t we just do this in Savannah?” Rather than try to re–create a big event in a city you don’t live in.
Did you ever find out why routing bands through Savannah wasn’t happening?
Kayne Lanahan: I haven’t lived here long enough to personally know the history. We have either very small venues or very large venues, and we don’t have any one sort of signature venue that’s a destination for bands, like the Cat’s Cradle in Asheville, or the Social in Orlando.
So when did the idea come that all these artists were going to be on their way to SXSW, let’s take advantage of that?
Kayne Lanahan: I think it was “How do you start to change the culture of the music scene in Savannah?” and doing it through the auspices of a major event that had a built–in credibility assigned to it. That’s why we said to all the venues “These are, for the most part, bands that haven’t played here, and it’s a good chance to get them while they’re up and coming, and get this as a tour stop for the rest of their careers. And to do it from the perspective of not any one venue, but the hospitality of Savannah.
They basically are driving down 95; any band that’s going to SXSW generally packs up the van and drives. And generally tries to put a couple of gigs together on the way. And Savannah’s not a hard sell, in terms of the city.
Did you have any doubts that your idea would work?
Kayne Lanahan: I knew it would work; I didn’t think it would catch fire this quickly, and that it would snowball this fast. Our initial target was 10 to 15 bands. We’re at 50.
And actually, it’s a nice problem to have, to now be e–mailing booking agents and saying “Keep us in mind for next year, but we’re done.”
We feel very good about it. Mainly from the standpoint of the enthusiasm – we’ve got 30 volunteers bending over backwards because they’re so excited about the concept.
What occurs to me is what a no–brainer this sort of thing is. Why didn’t somebody think of it before?
Kayne Lanahan: Well, sometimes good ideas are that simple. It’s not overly complicated. Technically any city could do it. But I think that if you’re driving down 95, and then you’re going to hit 10 and take a right, this is probably one of the nicest places to stay.
And it’s March, it’s a beautiful time of year. It’s a week before St. Patrick’s Day and it builds up to the Savannah Music Festival. So it ends up creating our own March Madness.
How busy are you right now?
Kayne Lanahan: We’re crazy, 14–hour days. But everybody’s got a great attitude about it. And it’s fun stuff. It’s not like you’re cleaning bathrooms.
We just put the playlist on iTunes. We’ve got major to–do lists every single day, but we’re getting closer and closer to the end results, so it’s fun.
Name some artists you’re personally looking forward to?
Kayne Lanahan: Off the top of my head, I would say definitely Milagres is a band I’m very excited about. Slow Animal, X–Ray Eyeballs, Secret Mountains and Lands & Peoples, which are both from Baltimore.
Will there be tickets available for individual shows?
Kayne Lanahan: We’re really telling people not to count on that, because these are not large venues.
And if the ticket sales continue the way they are, you’re going to be waiting in line and hoping that it’s not over fire capacity and you can maybe get in.
Savannah Stopover Festival
When: From noon March 9 to 3 a.m. March 12
Advance 4–day passes (good for all shows): $45
VIP pass: $95 (includes access to all shows, Savannah Stopover gift bag, access to exclusive private parties and after–parties, admittance to one Savannah Stopover Recording Session (schedule permitting), and entrance to the Das Racist kick–off concert on March 9 at The Jinx