When it comes to music, one thing that separates Savannah from bigger cities such as Atlanta or Jacksonville is its lack of regular large-scale events featuring established, “big-name” national acts.
The most notoriously blamed factor is the infamous city ordinance which restricts anyone under the age of 21 from entering venues that serve alcohol.“I think that the policy of not allowing people under the age of 21 to attend certain events is definitely hurting the scene,” local performer, Jeremy Mercer said. “Being only 19 myself, I miss out on many amazing shows that I would normally pay to see.”
This legislation not only hurts the music scene by limiting the amount of audience members, but also has other effects according to Josh Taft, a local musician who also tours abroad. “It sucks to get kicked out of a bar you literally just played a set at. This city is super backwards in regards to alcohol,” Taft said. “It’s like one of the two cities in America where you can drink on the streets, yet nobody is down with potentially lowering the levels of alcohol delinquency in minors by giving them something they can do in the city.”
Taft believes that prohibiting minors from being accepted into bars for live music causes more problems in the long run. He explains that it forces them to find other things to do that could potentially be more dangerous. Meanwhile, audience turnout at shows as well as profits for both the bars and musicians are slashed.
Although it is not lacking in smaller venues which serve the local and regional acts, the city has a non-existent variety of locations that are big enough and cost-effective in the eyes of larger acts. “Savannah’s main problem with bringing in bigger, better known bands is the fact that there is almost no in between for venues. Its either a bar/restaurant/basement or the civic center.” 20 year old Armstrong student and avid music appreciator, Richard McCabe said. Recording artists can’t afford to book a venue as big as the Civic Center and half fill it.
For the a medium sized venue to be established, the city would have to draw from the surrounding areas within the region and build a reputation as a place where good times and loud concerts are held. Kyle Hodges, a Savannah native who has been attending shows in the low-country ever since his early adolescence, holds that this is already taking place.“The Savannah scene has developed good ties with Jacksonville. We are starting to see some outreach [between the cities]” Hodges said.
Others seem optimistic as well about the state of music in our city. The music community is slowly gaining speed and will eventually reach a state which would warrant more attention from the music industry in the future. “I think to make Savannah bring in more “Big Name” acts we need to prove that there is an audience here,” Taft said. “We’re proving that every time we pack a venue with a bunch of rowdy kids. Savannah Artists that come to Savannah know it’s a great spot.”