What I'm thankful for in the local entertainment scene... 

There’s a wonderfully informative, occasionally ridiculous and frequently frustrating website I peruse and contribute to regularly. www.savannahunderground.com is a non-profit, user-driven database of live concerts, film screenings, lectures and art openings in our immediate area.

It’s free to join, free to use, and —while chronically ignored by far too many venues and performers who could easily take advantage of the tons of free publicity its interface affords them— exceedingly easy for even internet novices to navigate.

The main portion of the site contains mostly pure, raw information on who’s doing what, when, where and why, but the Message Boards draw the most attention. They contain some of the most pure, raw, unfiltered attitude to be found relating to the relative merits of the “Savannah scene.”

On any given day, dozens of participants from young teens to senior citizens converse, joke, bitch, beg, plead, yell, scream and generally muse on everything from this area’s perceived dearth of professionally-run live music venues to the purportedly monumental differences between grind-core and metal-core.

Every so often, someone new joins the boards, usually after moving to Savannah from a larger metropolitan area —or at least from a place with a more traditionally entrenched music scene— and in no time flat, they’re introducing themselves with some variation of, “This place sucks. Where I come from, clubs (or bands) really have their shit together, blah, blah, blah...”

This inevitably triggers a hasty retort or two from those of us who’ve lived here long enough to realize that part of Savannah’s charm is that you have to make your own fun. Just like NYC makes its own gravy every time there’s a hard rain.

Sure, it’s a hassle. Sure, it would in some ways be nicer or more convenient if Savannah had a more standardized infrastructure as far as nightclubs, rehearsal spaces, art-house theatres and all-ages venues go.

Or would it?

Conventional wisdom says that with a more solid foundation, our area would spawn more original bands, DJs, spoken word artists, comics, filmmakers, etc... and that the public would be more apt to embrace them and to help them grow from local sensations to regionally, nationally or even internationally-known artists.

But the simple truth is that currently, Savannah already has numerous such talents in our midst. Would their progress be given a boost from the “scene upgrades” some transplants (and locals) prattle on about ad nauseam? Probably so.

But there’s also a strong possibility that those upgrades might quickly destroy two of the few things that Savannah’s underground art and music communities still have going for them (compared to those in more developed scenes): artistic naiveté and a modicum of uniqueness.

Being forced to create your own fun while simultaneously bereft of the type of force-fed hyped-up media overload many cities with established scenes have to contend with on a daily basis has allowed our local creative types a much wider berth in which to let their own particular freak flags fly. It shows in the idealistic, non-commercial output of our better acts.

At this time of year, we are encouraged to catalogue what we’re thankful for. So, with that in mind, here’s a few key examples of what I’m thankful for, regarding the scene which I enthusiastically call my own:

I’m thankful that despite the fact we do not have a dedicated art-house cinema, the ongoing film series at the Lucas Theatre, The Sentient Bean and The Jepson Center increasingly mean that we don’t need one.

I’m thankful that the Savannah Music Festival continues to delight and surprise with an evolving and (slowly) expanding field of vision, offering locals and tourists alike an annual world-class showcase that’s worth every penny it costs (and takes in).

I’m thankful that this paper has joined forces with Tiny Team Concerts (of which I’m a member), putting its money where its mouth is, and proving that it cares as much about improving the quality of live entertainment in this town as reporting on it.

I’m thankful that over the past few years there are several Savannah-based musicians or musical groups whose records have earned them critical acclaim both nationally and abroad, and deservedly so.

I’m thankful that after almost two decades  of seeming indifference to the entertainment needs of their student body (and the community at large), that SCAD has finally begun to regularly book captivating, well-known mainstream and alternative acts which hold genuine appeal to the folks who actually keep the school in business.

I’m thankful that there is more than one orchestral group working hard to fill the void left by the bankruptcy of the Savannah Symphony — and that both seem to be holding their own quite nicely.

And finally, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to publicly chronicle the organic growth of these welcome trends over the past four-and-a-half years.


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Jim Reed

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