In the deep south–Lowcountry territory Savannah, Ga., a city blooming with oak trees, adorned in Spanish moss and dripping with southern charm and hospitality–an underground rock music scene is boiling under the surface. Savannah’s annual Underground Rock Allday Fest brings out rock bands from around the city, region and country, sending vibrations throughout the town. And this year it’s back, bigger than ever before.
What started in 2000 at Tybee Island’s American Legion, has since expanded to three different cities. The festival is presented by Coastal Rock Productions, a production company Timothy Walls established in 2000. It was founded as a way to produce music events, promote talent and provide all-ages entertainment, something Walls felt was lacking in the city.
“I couldn’t get into some of the venues to see some of the bands I wanted to see or when I got old enough to get into the venues they closed down. So I was really frustrated, so I said I’m just going to start booking shows and doing shows because there was a need for it.”
At the time that Walls started AURA fest, there weren’t any rock festivals in Savannah. Inspired by Lollapalooza and Warped Tour, Walls wanted to bring all his favorite bands together to play in Savannah.
“The first couple [festivals] were at the American Legion on Tybee Island. And that was pretty fun, it was at the beach and there were no shows at the beach,” said Walls.
The first few years of AURA fest were made up of only local and regional bands. Now 17 years later, on Feb. 18, from 1 to 11 p.m., AURA Fest will host 14 bands on two stages in the gardens of the Ships of the Maritime Sea Museum. This is the biggest lineup to date and the largest number of national bands.
This year’s lineup consists of Unearth, Zao, Oh Sleeper, He Is Legend, I Set My Friends on Fire, Tides of Man, Microwave, Sycamour, The Bunny The Bear, The Funeral Portrait, Attalus, Native Suns, Me and the Trinity, and Vatican.
Something Walls pointed out about his time working on the festivals, is the changing nature of it and his experiments along the way.
“The last AURA fest I did (2015) was kind of an experiment. I was mostly working with local and regional bands and I put a lot of different genres on that last one,” said Walls.
“In a way, this [the 2017 fest] is an experiment as well. I have almost all national bands on this. And that’s probably how this one is bigger and different than all the others ones before that. We have just two local acts on the whole thing.”
Savannah’s music scene has evolved throughout the years, this year in particular when an ordinance was put into place, that allows bars and restaurants to let in 18-20-year-olds during times of live entertainment if they decide to.
“I think it’s great for the city and it’s optional so the bars and restaurants in town they don’t necessarily have to adopt it. The Wormhole is adopting it so that’s really great.”
With Wall’s goal in bringing all-ages music to Savannah, with Coastal Rock, AURA fest has been all-ages since the very beginning.
But music is not all the festival provides for locals and visitors alike. This year the festival is bringing in local food vendors such as Little Diddle’s Sweetery, Dark Shark – Taco Attack, Molly MacPherson’s Food Truck and Kona Ice of Savannah, arcade machines provided by Graveface Records & Curiosities, and 21+ Pabsketball.
To order tickets for the all-day Saturday, Feb. 18, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. festival, visit the AURA fest website.