The live music calendar heats up 

You’ve heard it a million times before: “No good shows ever come to Savannah.”

Most of us who care about live music have been guilty of saying this out loud at one time or another over the past two decades. Usually to someone who’s just moved here or thinking about doing just that. Usually while at least partially inebriated, and usually while trying to make a greater point.

However, while it is most certainly a truism that Savannah enjoys nowhere near as many major concert events by nationally-known artists as our closest neighbors (such as Charleston, Jacksonville, Columbia, and – at times – even puny Hilton Head Island), the truth is that things are not nearly as bad as they once were.

Yes, the club scene here has deteriorated in the sense that we no longer have anything remotely approaching a “showcase room.” But, then again, the last time we did was over a decade ago, when what had initially begun as the Night Flight Café’s second location morphed into Congress Street Station, and then morphed right out of business.

And yet, now, we have more live music venues than ever before. It’s just that most aren’t big enough to hold the crowds that are expected to show up for major artists, and none of the current batch of clubowners are interested in ponying up the kind of cash it would take to turn even a smaller venue into an acoustically-sound listening room with a killer in-house PA that would serve the needs of most such acts.

Notwithstanding those limitations, there are plenty of places to catch outstanding (or merely noteworthy) live music in Savannah, such as our own Civic Center Arena, the Historic Roundhouse (usually the site of the Coastal Heritage Society’s annual Blues & Barbecue Festival), and a trio of beautiful theaters: the Johnny Mercer; the Lucas; and SCAD’s Trustees.

There’s also an intriguing new contender that has been under the radar for quite some time now, but seems poised for a comeback of sorts. Red Gate Farms, a sprawling swath of actual farmland only minutes from downtown is primarily thought of as a picturesque location for wedding receptions and the like. However, over a decade ago, it was used for a couple of big, all-day music events, and starting with this weekend’s Country Fest (see Connect Recommends) it seems to be back in play for large-scale shows.

I’m even told by one major radio station in town that they have tentative plans to bring in plenty of live shows there in the upcoming year.

With an eye towards dispelling the belief that “no good shows ever come to Savannah,” here are some soon-to-occur events that hopefully bode well for local music fans:

• The Allmans / Lynyrd Skynyrd

This Friday night, a monster of a Southern rock double bill roars into town. One of those pairings that seem so logical (at least from a financial and sartorial sense) that it seems hard to believe it took this long to become a reality. Try to forget that hardly anyone in either band is an original member. Then drink a beer and raise hell. That’s what they hope you do.

• The Rock Never Stops Tour

This July 9th show at Red Gate Farms features ‘80s and early ‘90s throwbacks RATT (without lead singer Stephen Pearcy), Cinderella, Firehouse, and a special local opener on a second stage. It should probably be sponsored by Cialis or the Hair Club for Men – especially considering Quiet Riot frontman Kevin DuBrow’s follicle makeover (he’ll be appearing).

• Savannah Blues Society’s First Show

This is a major show in that it took this newly-formed organization to bring in a hip, post-modern blues guitarist who isn’t trying to emulate Stevie Ray or Freddie King. Jimbo Mathus is known to many as a former member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and cult faves Metal Flake Mother, but these days he owns a studio in Mississippi that cranks out earthy albums by the likes of Elvis Costello and Buddy Guy. At the Mercury Lounge July 23.

• Free Super-Secret Mystery Funk Show

And finally, there’s a free concert Friday May 27 in Forsyth Park. Paid for by SCAD (who brought in George Clinton last year), the artist’s name is supposed to be a secret, in the hopes the park won’t be mobbed. But I can tell you this: He’s a “Dynamite” singer who’s about as important to soul music as Marlon Brando was to the mob in The Godfather. w

Oh yeah, and his name rhymes with James Brown. w


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Jim Reed

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