UnderGo, the local music and arts festival organized by local trio Lulu The Giant and their bandleader, Rachael Shaner, began as a very simple concept: an alternative music festival designed to be more inclusive of local artists. When word got out that the festival was in the works, things started to grow pretty rapidly.
After a successful first year, UnderGo is back on May 25 and is set to feature a stellar lineup of local music as well as a wealth of visual art and lots of activities. Some of the bands involved this year include Perpetual Care, Anders Thomsen Trio, Xuluprophet, and In For a Penny.
Ahead of the festival, we spoke to Shaner about what’s in store for this year.
This is the second UnderGo, correct?
Shaner: Yeah! Second annual public UnderGo. We have a lot of underground events [laughs].
Tell me a bit about how this got off the ground.
Shaner: This discussion has been happening for quite a few years now. It got started by the local arts community in Savannah wanting stages, platforms, venues, and stages to have representation and exposure for the local arts scene. Just kind of discussing that with each other and wanting that to be recognized.
My band had participated in other festivals locally, nationally, and internationally, and it didn’t feel like it was for the artist. It didn’t feel like it was leading anywhere. So last year we kind of made a decision to take ourselves out of the count for some other events going on in the city. Once other bands heard that we weren’t playing these other events, they said, “Well, can we open for you?” It was super hodgepodge, but there ended up being five people calling me from other bands within a day.
I realized, “Oh, this is going to be an all-day thing.” When that happened, within a week, it was 25 local bands lined up. From there it was, “Okay, it’s going to be three days long. We have no budget. Let’s do it.” Also, making sure it was free and accessible was another thing. We want to showcase our art and be represented, and we want to feel like it’s going towards something. It was honestly put together in three weeks maximum, and the amount of support was insane. It turned out to be something super beautiful, and I didn’t know where it was going after that.
It must feel really good to have had that kind of response from local artists, especially now going into the second year.
Shaner: Oh, it was amazing. And I honestly didn’t know if it was going to happen again or what it would look like, but we realized that there was a need and people wanted it. This year, people reached out all year wanting to get involved. And all of the bands that came last year wanted to be part of it again. It’s as much theirs as anybody’s.
What was the motivation behind involving visual arts and the other aspects of the festival?
Shaner: The people who come to our festival are artists. We thought, “How do we get [those] guys on stage as well? Let’s do art installations. Let’s make sure it’s a performing and visual arts thing.” I think they go hand in hand, and the creative community is one that encourages and feeds each other. So there’s going to be a ton of art installations.
This year it’s expanded because we’re going to be building walls as an outdoor gallery, at this space that’s eventually going to be a permanent art park. Which is what Emergent Structures is doing - they want to make it an art park in the long run. This is going to be kind of the beginning of that.