Music, and the visuals that often go hand-in-hand with it, is the focus of this weekend's Savannah Bandwagon. One one-hand, it's live bands on several stages, including a free outdoor show with Athens' Elf Power, and on another it's a three-day show and sale of limited-edition, music-related poster art and a design-a-thon.
It's no coincidence that Bandwagon is taking place on the very same weekend as the 2011 SCAD Record Fair, where old vinyl is the order of the day. Now that there is, officially, no retail outlet in Savannah for used records and CDs, the event's popularity is exploding.
As for the Bandwagon, "We thought it would be a good idea to team up, since no one was using the second floor of the River Club," says ccordinator Charles Trefry. "Originally, it started as just two speakers coming to give a demo, and now we're hoping for over 40 vendors from all over the U.S."
Trefry, the senior art director at BFG Communications, has put the weekend together with SCAD as an expo for poster art enthusiasts.
Although admission to the show and sale, and the outdoor "block party," is free, by paying a few bucks for a Bandwagon pass you'll gain admission to four workshops, a panel discussion, a keynote presentation by Robert Lee and Mark McDevitt of Methane Studios (an Atlanta firm that's done designs for the Dave Matthews Band, among others), and a screening of the rock-poster documentary film American Artifact.
FOR THOSE with only passing interest in poster art (or none at all), the attraction must be Elf Power, performing for free (and for all ages) Friday night on Montgomery Street (by Seed Eco-Lounge). It's a "block party," and it's part of the Bandwagon event, but you don't need a pass (or anything else!) to swing by.
One of Athens' longest lived indie bands, Elf Power is fronted by singer, songwriter and guitarist Andrew Rieger.
Elf Power is a power pop/psychedlia band that's made an unbelievable 10 albums in its 20 years of existence. The band is part of the loose-knit collective known as Elephant 6, which Rieger describes as "A group of friends who collaborate and have a like-minded aesthetic." That aesthetic is a counter-commercial commitment and a passion for low-fi home recording.
For Rieger, it began when he moved to Athens to attend the University of Georgia at the tail end of the ‘80s. He discovered the band called The Olivia Tremor Control. "With my early bands, I was always under the impression that you had to spend a lot of money to go into a fancy recording studio," he says. "And it always came out sounding kind of sterile.
"But then, in the early to mid ‘90s I got into Sebadoh, Tall Dwarves and Guided By Voices, bands that were recording amazing albums on a four-track cassette for next to nothing. I got a four-track cassette myself, and that's how the first Elf Power album was made. And it sounded great."
He and the guys in Olivia Tremor traded records. "That was kind of a revelation to me," he explains, "to find like-minded people who were into home recording and coming up with these weird records."
Elf Power recently returned home from the "Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour" - 11 people, "playing everybody's music."
Collaboration, he says, is just in the air around Athens.
"It's a fairly cheap place to live, so you can have a part-time job and devote a lot of your time to making music. Whereas if you live in New York or a big city, you have to work all the time to get by.
"And I think the reputation early on, from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, of bands like the B-52s, R.E.M. and Pylon, kind of drew a lot of creative, musical-type people to the town. I grew up in South Carolina, about 80 miles from Athens, and when I was in high school I would come up to go to the record store, and to see shows and stuff. Just because of the reputation Athens had as a music town."
Although big money and fame have never come into close contact with Elf Power - despite opening slots with both R.E.M. and Wilco, and a high-profile collaboration with Vic Chestnutt - Rieger couldn't be happier.
"The act of creating a song, and recording it, is always fulfilling to me," he explains. "I'm always thinking about the next thing. Even when I finish a record, and we're out touring, I'm on to the next thing already."
And "indefinable" is actually a pretty accurate description of Elf Power. "We never really try to take it specifically in a preconceived way," Rieger says. "But in the last couple of years some of the other band members have been collaborating with me on the songwriting, which has taken in a different direction. Because they'll come up with things musically that I would never have thought of."
Savannah Record Fair
W/Bandwagon poster art show and sale
Where: River Club, 3 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17
Bandwagon pass: $15 before April 13, $20 after
Sneak-Peak Poster Show + Sale. 4-7 p.m. at River Club, 3 MLK Blvd.. Pass required (you pick it up here).
Keynote: From 8-9:30 p.m. with Robert Lee and Mark McDevitt of Methane. A Bandwagon pass is required. SCAD Student Center, 120 Montgomery St.
Aux Arc and Sunglasses at 10 p.m., Live Wire Music Hall. Free admission with bandwagon pass.
Screenprint Workshop: Eun Lee, professor in SCAD's Printmaking Department, will be presenting the printing process with a step-by-step exhibit of how her team printed the official Bandwagon poster. You will also see all of the equipment SCAD's printmakers use everyday. A Bandwagon pass is required. Alexander Hall, 668 Indian St., 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Printing Lecture: Nick Sambrato of Mama's Sauce will be giving a presentation about the letterpress and printmaking process. Immediately following, Jason Henry from Henry & Co. will be talking about the use of multiple techniques in the design. Alexander Hall, 2-3:30 p.m.
American Artifact Movie Screening: This 2009 documentary chronicles the rise of rock poster art from its birth in the 1960s to the present day. A Bandwagon pass is required. See www.americanartifactmovie.com
Livewire Music Hall, 307 W. River St., 3p.m.
Panel Discussion: Topics in gig poster design will be discussed by this panel, consisting of Jeff Matz (Lure Design), Thomas Scott (Eye Noise), Nick Sambrato (Mama's Sauce) and Robert Lee + Mark McDevitt (Methane). A Bandwagon pass is required. SCAD Student Center, 120 Montgomery St., 6-8 p.m.
Montgomery Street Block Party: Music from Listen! Listen! and Elf Power, plus live art by audio/visual artist Matthew Akers. Free and open to the public. Montgomery Street between Congress and Broughton streets, 8-11 p.m.
Late Night @Live Wire: Live music at 11 p.m. from Word of Mouth and Chupacabra. Free admission with Bandwagon pass.