AFTER SOME wild back-and-forth with City Council, The Stage on Bay, Savannah’s newest music venue, has been granted its alcoholic beverage license and will open its doors to the public this weekend.
Located just over the Bay Street viaduct, the mid-sized venue has a wealth of entertainment in store for Savannah and its visitors.
“We’re getting shot out of the cannon, opening on Saint Patrick’s Day,” chuckles CEO Charlie Schmitt.
Right now, Schmitt and his team are putting the finishing touches on the all-ages venue. The Stage’s location on the west side of Savannah poses a unique convenience for folks from all over Chatham County—it’s a quick drive from downtown and is easily accessible coming off of I-16.
And hey, if you’re coming from that direction, you won’t even have to interact with downtown’s wild St. Patrick’s Day antics.
Opening weekend showcases a rising country star and one of Georgia’s favorite sons.
Singer-songwriter Tyler Farr took off with his hit single “Redneck Crazy” in 2013, hitting number two on Billboard’s country charts and, thus, going platinum. His album of the same name debuted at number five on the Billboard Top 100, producing a second single, “Whiskey in My Water.”
Young Farr, raised on a 150-acre cattle farm in Garden City, Missouri, fell in love with country music due to his father’s role as lead guitarist in the legendary George Jones’ touring band. When he was 16, the aspiring musician headed to Nashville to immerse himself in the business, working as a bouncer at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Eventually, he worked his way onstage, singing at the famed establishment four nights a week while still manning the door.
Farr was discovered by “That Ain’t My Truck” singer Rhett Atkins and landed a publishing deal with ATV/Monument Publishing. The gig ushered him into a recording deal with Song Music Nashville’s BNA Records.
Schmitt notes that Farr is the perfect performer the kickoff of a drinking holiday, thanks to the themes of his most tremendous hit.
“Tyler Farr’s big song is ‘Guy Walks into a Bar.’ For Saint Patrick’s night, there’s not a more appropriate song!” he says.
Next up, it’s Georgia’s own Corey Smith, playing The Stage on March 18.
Smith’s about as Georgia as pecans and live oaks. Born in right outside of Athens in the town of Jefferson, the singer-songwriter attended Gainesville State College, University of West Georgia, and transferred to University of Georgia, where he began to truly delve into his craft and gain a loyal following.
While going to school for Social Studies, Smith would break out his guitar at parties and play his original songs for friends and classmates.
When he graduated, he went on to teach at North Gwinnett High School, but when he turned 28, Smith decided it was time to devote himself fully to music. The DIY guy released his own self-produced albums through his own imprint, Undertone. 2011’s The Broken Record, released on the Average Joe’s Entertainment label, cracked the country charts at number 17.
Smith released his latest album, While The Gettin’ Is Good, in 2015. With intimate lyrics, Southern flavor, and a breezy vibe, the Georgia boy’s a Savannah favorite, and Schmitt recommends snagging a ticket to the rapidly-selling show in advance before they’re all gone.
Both Tyler Farr and Corey Smith’s concerts will be general admission shows.
“Fans want to be up close so they can move around, dance, and have that party atmosphere,” Schmitt explains.
Thanks to a modular setup, The Stage on Bay can adjust to suit the needs of both audience and artist, creating a more intimate environment or a spot for folks to stand and dance, with arena-style seats which can be reserved, as well. There’s also a VIP mezzanine featuring a service bar, waitress service, 20 high-top tables, padded leather barstools, couches, and private restrooms for an elegant listening experience.
The venue has 210 secured parking spaces, but Schmitt encourages attendees to carpool or use a taxi service to keep it simple; the venue even has a dedicated cab/Lyft/Uber lane for easy drop-off and pickup.
After Tyler Farr and Corey Smith welcome The Stage to Savannah, there’s plenty to look forward to. Through March and April, favorites like country musician Rodney Atkins, pop-country duo LOCASH, ‘90s faves Sister Hazel, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” hitmakers C+C Music Factory, and even Quiet Riot will hit the Hostess City.
Molly Hatchet and David Allan Coe are on the books, too, and Schmitt’s keeping a close eye on the Southern tour circuit to scoop up artists heading to and from festivals like Welcome to Rockville, Daytona 500 Memorial Day Weekend, and The Music Farm in Charleston.
He looks forward to bringing a variety of entertainment to Savannah.
“We want to be very broad,” Schmitt explains. “We know the Southern Rock is strong, people really want older country. We’ll try alternative and metal as well. We want to get stronger in our R&B, too.”
Schmitt, who’s new to Savannah, is grateful for the support locals have shown his business as they waited approval for a liquor license.
“The people of Savannah have been absolutely wonderful,” he attests. “The support has been beyond belief.”