It’s been said that St. Patrick’s celebration of Savannah, Georgia is one of the world’s largest; the parade banking 2nd longest worldwide, and in-spirit attractions, spanning over 2 weeks prior to the official weekend. Although Savannah holds a place deep in my heart and history, this claim failed to meet its exciting standards when I first attended the event a few years ago – instead I was met with cold and dreary rain soaking the roads and ruined entertainment schedules. I was positive over half the attendees chose to stick to keeping things vacuum-packed inside the buildings of and surrounding the official event area under duress. This isn’t to say that it deterred anyone from enjoying themselves that year, but the experience had left a really bad taste for me. I decided to again take on the weekend in Savannah after learning that organizers would be re-incorporating live music performances into their primary appeal. I looked forward to this year obliterating my first experience; but I kept my enthusiasm hidden, and started planning ahead.
The closer I came to the exit to downtown Savannah the thicker and slower traffic became. Originally, I had aimed to first arrive in time to catch Voodoo Soup, scheduled to take stage around 6. I made it to my home for the weekend right after 8. Barely with time to settle my things, I reorganized and headed out to find the next destination completely opposite the direction of the main event district – The Wormhole. The Heavy Pets were booked to take the stage, and have never left my evening shorthanded. I’d decided to shrug off my badly estimated traffic factor, and felt comforted abandoning the messy kickoff on River Street to catch the boys.
As it was – traffic had delayed them as well. At almost 9:30 they were loading in as I stood outside talking to a few of the venue staff who expressed their worry about the night’s show, since the venue was so far from the ongoing celebration. Before I could offer any enthusiasm the door security reassured me that the band was very talented, and undoubtedly would give a memorable performance. I smiled, got my stamp, and took post at the bar. Set-up and sound check ensued as curious listeners, local fans, and venue regulars started trickling through the front door.
Before taking the stage I had some time to be greeted with the intoxicating easy-going charm of the band. We caught up on how the road had been, and talked about how far the journey has led them since a photo used with the show listing printed in the Connect Savannah Guide I had picked up. Optimism for the night’s show gushed from the humble smiles and nonchalant laughs over the photo, followed by the bartender announcing that the coffee had finished brewing. I took the opportunity to step outside and enjoy the smell of dissipated salt water that blew through the city. Before I knew it I heard a familiar menagerie of warm-ups drown out the Pandora station and I headed inside.
Keep On, Drenched, Last Babies, Played Again, Lakeview > Jackie Bones, How Would I , Spin Round
Earthchaser, 3AM, Help Me Help You > Train Song, Kevorka
By the smiles and talk amongst everyone the boys had not only delivered for MY St. Patty’s launch, but even won over the only pessimistic local who’d only stopped to quench a thirst! The night summed with a round of drinks with new friends before saying my goodbyes and strolling back to where a nice, comfy bed waited for my collapse. I had no idea what was waiting for me on Saturday, but I was pretty sure by the sight of stragglers in my neighborhood that it was going to be one monster of a party. For the moment though, I was more than content with my successful evening and desperately needed to rest my dancing feet.
My morning stirred around 8:30 – taking to coffee and hummus on the porch. I quickly learned of how perfect the day was starting off to be. The heat from the sun phased just enough by the chill in the wind to keep anyone motivated to get out and about ; it was as if Spring had saved its first real beautiful day just for the celebration in Savannah! I showered and dressed, then quickly took to preparing for the day when I realized it was already almost 10 o’clock and I had a little more than an hour’s walk to the parade route. Soon after I was sliding on my shoes, double checking my gear bag and setting out to find the closest bus route. Again, I had not factored well enough the issues that can arise at such a popular event when it came to getting around and navigation.
I learned there are two types of bus stop signs in the city – the new and the old. There are green ones, and there are orange ones. In my case – the green ones were actual up to date stops, where as the orange posts were still around to remind old tired roads of their past. After waiting almost 45 minutes at the first “BUS STOP” sign I came to – a local friend informed me I was 2 blocks from a main bus route and that it would be a better endeavor to walk to it instead. Within minutes of sitting on a bench under a shiny green sign, the bus heaved heavily down the road.
I hadn’t noticed it wasn’t stopping until it didn’t break and blew on by – displaying politely on the front scroll screen that it was full and to please wait on the next bus. Much to my dismay the same thing happened for the following 7 buses. I began wondering if hopping on the returning bus would get me there any faster, when finally the oversized people-mover pulled into my line of sight. I stepped on, fed my buck fifty to the coin keeper and took a seat.
You might be thinking the trouble ended here – oh no, sir! It wasn’t long at all before riders started requesting stops, then waving on the driver, demanding he stop in non-posted areas and snarling at his exasperating denials. Keep in mind that the entire city of Savannah has to rearrange EVERYTHING for this festival ; including bus routes and open roads. I learned that West/East bus lines were cut off from each other, and that in order to go from one to the other you had to walk. There was also some sort of communication issue between the drivers and the homing office – all of this combined with mumbling and disgruntled passengers made for another wasted hour. Eventually, I got off somewhere close to downtown making sure to let the driver know I appreciated his enduring attitude in dealing with all the mess and to keep up the good work. With a little help from locals strolling the outskirts of the festival grounds I found my way to where the parade had already been.
I’d ended up on the beginning side of the parade route. I was unable to pass through restricted area to cross over an easy 2 blocks and get to the ending side of the parade. This left me to rushing around the whole route through packed out crowds. Luckily, I made it in time to enjoy the last 30 minutes or so of the parade. I hadn’t been excited about a parade since I was a kid – but what I caught of Savannah’s 189th St. Patrick’s Day Parade was unimaginably worth the stress of pushing through the mishaps that collapsed into my lap! Happiness and laughter seemed to spill from everyone! Parade participants exploded with energy, children gazed in amazement, music accentuated the pulse of thousands of oohs and ahhs! The famous ever-flowing dyed beer was already in great consumption and I knew that the day’s festivities were only blossoming. Afterall, there was still live music to find!
I made my way toward River Street, making sure to stop at one of the conveniently excessive “wristband tents”. Basically, if you wanted to go from a bar to any other place deemed official festival area with your drink in hand you had to have one of these bracelets. Otherwise you were subject to being asked to provide your ID and rid yourself of the drink immediately. Due to the city changing ordinances to allow free-range wandering of attendees in the street and all over the grounds with little regulation, and the need to deter any minors aching to join in before their time – the effort seemed to have all the best intentions at face value. Unfortunately, the most common complaint I heard from everyone was that it was a sham to just boost the profit of the celebration. The wristbands were
obsolete in providing proof of age inside the bar, as they were required to check ID’s regardless.
Combined with the overall layout of the event, you can’t argue that between the overpriced event barkeeps cleverly scattered between River Street vendors and the masked Festival Ordinance of 2013 there might be a clever plan of pocket expansion at work. Then again, with such a flux of the city headcount in that weekend – I can’t deny that in order to provide adequately for the masses, the city has to put out money to compensate for needs and to provide satisfactory entertainment. Anyway.
With no strict plans until Turtle Folk at six o’clock I made my way toward and down the steep curving stairs that lead into wide stone allies spilling onto River Street. Maps were plentiful, but not very helpful when looking for what stage is where – the stages had names, but maps assigned them with numbers without designation of its title. I took my free-range opportunity to locate and familiarize stages while exploring the rows of different vendors, artists, and game tents. Eventually a growl came from my stomach, and food was in order. Nothing is better than finding a falafel vendor!
At the end of a not-so-bad line I acquired my food and followed the sounds of lap drums and cow bells down the backside of “the tunnel” knowing I’d eventually stumble into the drum circle I passed by earlier. There I took post on a wall and replenished my health meter while enjoying the primitive-like music. Children joined the sides of the two playing with their plastic horns and bazookas as a limbo line formed. Crowds came and went during the time I was there, but the music never stopped ; neither did the bursts of relief from those who found them as I had. Eventually I left and went towards the Southern Eagle stage – six was getting close!
Not all stages were the usual metal setup with high platforms for the band – Turtle Folk melted the crowd from the roof of a boat Saturday evening! Passing attendees seemed to flock toward the stage as soon as leading man, Michael McCormick’s voice bellowed from the speakers onto dry land. The music described as “electric psychedelia” opened its set and continued to capture aimless stragglers and curious listeners in small hoards – aching to hear more from the band. The band doesn’t do much touring anymore, so the opportunity to catch them live was amazing! As the show continued the sun sank below the bridge of the picturesque performance of the long-standing musicians – leading into the night. A time in which all children go to bed and any inhibitions are left behind, and the legendary party breaks out!
The darker the sky became on the way to catch another musician, the more NOLA nostalgic I became. I adventured the streets of NOLA last year, and if you’ve ever been to either of these places – you’d understand the uncanny resemblance that River Street and Bourbon Street share. River Street sits on top of an old stone road with brick buildings remodeled into modern-day bars, pubs, and entertainment venues lining one side as the river borders the other. It carries its own overwhelming southern charm, but with the green holiday comes a similar reputation that Bourbon Street has redefined as an art.
For the next few hours I rough rocked with The Train Wrecks and found a new love in groovin’ with Miss “Ironlung” Leslie Adele of A Nickel Bag of Funk ; a woman of such talent she crippled Stendhal Syndrome. It was close to 9 when my rager senses tingled and I headed away from the commotion of River Street and back up the winding stairs towards a place dubbed Satisfied. Luck of the Irish or not, I’d caught wind that Brock Butler was opening and playing with Turtle Folk.
It’s always a special treat to catch Brock live – especially now with the final touring show of Perpetual Groove. (Athens/April 5) The effort of fans showing support of new projects is everything that is awe-inspiring. Conversations grew plentiful in the well-lit venue as the band set up, followed by the focused routine tuning of Butler. Lights eventually dimmed and those who noticed smiled in excitement – Brock started playing and cheers of PG elitists became contagious amongst everyone. Excitement only magnified when TF mounted the stage, producing heartwarming energy amongst listeners.
rumors of removal from St. Pat’s celebrations year after year just for you! Many a Guinness charged Irish Car Bombs were had about the crowd as the railcat musicians dirtied up the place with the gutter punked backwoods sound. A great pick for anyone not easily offended! I took to the sidewalk afterward to cool off in the chilly early morning air – making note of the 9 officer-mounted Clydesdale horses side by side each other the width of the road. It would soon be time for them to sweep the festival grounds – so that things could go back to normal by morning.
I watched as Bob’s leftovers happily spilled out onto the road in front, standing about looking for their friends with the one eye focus ; all sweaty from the tight fit inside; by tight fit I mean I watched the Fire Marshal check numbers twice during the show kind of crowd. With trash scattered and sporadic laughter and cheers bursting from small groups still heavily moving across the park – I kicked a cup around and thought about how to round off this experience. My friends, the weekend-home owners came proudly darting through the crowd from inside towards me with new trucker caps and briar-eating grins the Cheshire Cat would be jealous of and I felt overwhelmed with happiness you can only get from enjoying the little things.
A big fat thank you to everyone responsible for making it happen, and to attendees for keeping it interesting! Here’s looking forward to 2014!