For a city its size, Savannah sure does manage to get some halfway decent touring acts coming through. Between the surprise Band of Horses show at the Wormhole, the appearances by American Aquarium and Murder by Death at the Jinx’s 10th anniversary party, the likes of St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Wye Oak, and Hurray for the Riff Raff playing Savannah Stopover Festival, and Lucero turning up to rock the SCAD New Alumni Concert in Forsyth Park, it’s been an exciting 12 months for the coastal empire. This past Saturday’s Revival Fest only added to the string of successes for Savannah’s music scene.
Of course, Revival Fest got a huge assist from the weather. Saturday was the first pleasant, tolerable day we’ve had in Savannah since sometime last spring, and though it was overcast all day long, the rain held off. It was good of the weather to cooperate as certain aspects of the festival—only in its second year—were horribly mismanaged: many vendors ran out of food and drinks before night had even fallen, the only drink vendor ran out of bottled water, and the porta-potty situation was, at best, unfortunate. A hot day would have only compounded all of these problems.
Kinks aside—and I’m confident they will be ironed out in time for next year’s third iteration of Revival Fest—the real reason a few hundred folks made their way to the Georgia State Railroad Museum throughout the course of the day was the music. Nashville, Tennessee’s Blank Range brought a blend of classic rock and R&B to the Bridge View Stage and proved an agreeable start to my day at the museum. After a set by Savannah’s gypsy-jazz combo Velvet Caravan (who were certainly talented, but not my cup of tea), I was totally wowed by the next three acts, all of whom I’ve never seen before.
Family & Friends reminded me of The Head and the Heart, particularly on their performance of “Wyoming.” The Athens, Georgia-based band provided a joyous, exuberant set complete with two drummers who both played standing up and a bassist who bounced around the stage like Flea. Next, Oxford, Mississippi’s Water Liars, a three-piece that fused Deep South roots rocks with a grungy stomp reminiscent of Ragged Glory-era Neil Young & Crazy Horse, rattled the train garage (?) in which the Paint Shop Stage was located. Although I enjoyed their entire set, I particularly appreciated their performance of “Backbone” from last year’s Wyoming. Rounding out the trio of fantastic, midday performers were Charleston, South Carolina’s Megan Jean & The KFB, a husband-wife duo consisting of vocalist/percussionist Megan Jean, whose gothic-cabaret vocal stylings reminded me more than a little of Amanda Palmer, and her electric banjo-playing husband. They were a lot of fun, and I was especially taken by Megan Jean’s message, before launching into “These Bones,” on the merit of always giving one’s best effort; as evidence, she pointed to the fact that their performance for three people—who ended up being PBS brass—at a pizza parlor led to the creation of this PBS-produced music video.
Unfortunately, not all sets were winners. The Packway Handle band reminded me of an unfortunate lovechild of Jim Croce and Alabama. Later in the evening, Roadkill Ghost Choir, whom I’ve enjoyed in the past, seemed a little too high for their own good as their lead singer continuously commented between songs on the “museum-quality trains” amongst which he was playing.
The two late-evening highlights of the festival came courtesy of two acts from Athens, Georgia: T. Hardy Morris and the Futurebirds. Though I’ve seen T. Hardy Morris in the past, this is the first time I’ve seen him with a rhythm section. The bassist and drummer made “Share the Needle,” off last year’s outstanding Audition Tapes, rock that much harder. Futurebirds closed the festival, and though it was my sixth time seeing them live, I was still blown away by their energy. The highlight of the entire festival came when T. Hardy Morris joined the Futurebirds for a slowed-down, trippy take on “Paradise,” complete with the ‘birds adding their signature soaring harmonies to the John Prine classic.
Despite a few missteps here and there, I have to dub this year’s Revival Fest a success. I’ve been seeing more and more of these genre-specific day festivals popping up, and I have to say it seems like they provide more bang for one’s buck than some of the, at-times grueling, three and four-day long festivals. With such a low price tag, Southeast Georgians would be silly not to make it out to next year’s Revival Fest.