One of my favorite parts of any festival lineup release is getting to dig into the so called “undercard.” For me, my favorite festival discoveries and artists are almost always below the top lines. Musically, they tend to be the most interesting and they often have new sounds or ideas you haven’t always heard before. Savannah Stopover’s 2019 lineup is a goldmine in this respect. Having listened to both the Festival’s Spotify play list as well as the one we put together – there were immediately some artists who stuck out.
McKinley Dixon (Richmond, Virginia)
It only took a few seconds of “Bare Knuckles” by McKinley Dixon for me to know I had found a new favorite. Backed by a full band (horns, strings, all of it) Mckinley raps about real life and his observations and concerns about real issues. I’ve heard and read comparisons of his sound to the jazz based/more musical hip-hop of the 90s – specifically to groups like A Tribe Called Quest. I originally agreed with that, but as much as I love ATCQ McKinley’s sound is truly all his own- way more jazzy and musical than you would expect. There is something about the sound that will appeal to lovers of the great 90s hip-hop.
One of my favorite things about well written hip-hop is the ability to disguise a great dig. On my second listen through “Bare Knuckles” I caught a gem of a line that I think is intended as a great one – “cuz you play the tambourine in church…bitch” And with that – hooked.
In June 2018, McKinley released The Importance of Self Belief, a mix tap inspired by his community in Richmond, Virginia – and on which he collaborates with 30 musicians. I obviously can’t write this and say that I know what it is like to be anything other than what I am – a white woman who has inherent privileges that many people don’t have. So with that said, I appreciate and think it is important to have music like this – that discusses real societal issues: police brutality, the impact of crime and poverty, and gender and racial inequality. When McKinley says “every cop light is for me until it pass” he’s telling us something that we should all think about, especially in the America we are living in today.
I reached out to McKinley on twitter to tell him how much I enjoyed the music and that we would be featuring him in this article and he was very friendly. I look forward to hearing about his inspiration and how he developed such an awesome and unique sound.
McKinley Dixon is playing at El Rocko Lounge 11:00 p.m. on Friday March 8th.
Honestly, once I started listening to Dixon’s music it was hard to stop and move on – so I personally can’t wait to check him out next month. But there are so many more awesome artists on this lineup – he’s a quick look at a few others.
Dope KNife (Savannah, Georgia)
If hip-hop is your thing, check out Liberian American and now Savannah resident – Dope KNife (Kendrick Mack). He’s a rapper and producer with a pretty extensive catalogue of work. He puts off a great vibe and a lot of energy. He spent his childhood globetrotting, so brings that diverse experience to his performance.
Dope KNife is playing at El Rocko Lounge at 10:00 p.m. on Friday March 8th.
Sounds like El Rocko will be the place to post up for fantastic hip hop on Friday night.
Illiterate Light (Harrisonburg, Virginia)
Switching gears, my playlist bounced over to a song called “Better Than I Used To.” Illiterate Light is a duo – Jeff Gorman and Jake Cochran and the band has been around since about 2015. It’s hard to describe them – rock, but not too hard, but also eclectic. I don’t even know what that means and I wrote it – but the take away I have is that they are upbeat and vibrant and will bring a lot of energy to the stage.
They recently put out the EP, “Sweet Beast,” and from what I have gotten to listen to so far – they seem like they are about to rocket into the lives of many! Check them out at Savannah Stopover or Shaky Knees.
Illiterate Light will be performing at Service Brewing Co. at 10:30 on Saturday March 9th.
Sleepwalkers (Richmond, Virginia)
According to their Facebook page, the band was officially born over lunch at a Burger King. If true, this is epic and if it is intended as funny – then it scores points as well.
The group brings a somewhat softer and groovier feel to the lineup. Their creativity is evident and this is music I could easily see myself chilling to. Though at points, it could also easily get you up and dancing. Check them out online and in person (they are actively touring and are also playing Gasparilla Festival this year).
Sleepwalkers will be performing at Congress Street Social Club at Midnight on Saturday March 9th.
That’s all for now, but we will back soon with more news.