Undergo Festival returns to Savannah with local music, love and a slip n’ slide

The UnderGo Fest features an all-local line-up. Learn more at undergofest.com. (Photo Courtesy of Adriana Iris Boatwright/For Do Savannah)

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

The UnderGo Fest features an all-local line-up. Learn more at undergofest.com. (Photo Courtesy of Adriana Iris Boatwright/For Do Savannah)

Since its inaugural event in 2017, The Undergo Festival has stood out from other music festivals by focusing exclusively on local Savannah artists and musicians. The Undergo was created and curated by Rachael Shaner (and her bandmates in Lulu the Giant) to not only highlight the diverse array of artists that Savannah is home to, but offer an alternative community space far from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

According to Shaner, the mission of Undergo will always remain the same.

“It will always be free,” said Shaner. “It’s about accessibility, it’s about local art, it’s about Savannah.”

Shaner has felt pressure to expand The Undergo to other cities, but she is adamant about keeping it in Savannah. “It’s very interesting how people’s ideas can contradict my ideals,” said Shaner. “If there’s exponential growth, that growth has to be measured in a sustainable way and there has to be a core that remains the same. If I said yes to any other cities then the core is dissipating.

“I started this as a passion project wanting to make sure that people who want a stage had a stage and are highlighted. And it is focusing on our local community, that is deserving because Savannah’s art community still isn’t in a national spotlight like it is in other cities when it should be. If that shifted then what is the point of the Undergo.”

The only thing that has changed about The Undergo Festival since its inception is Shaner’s ability to relax and let the artists make the festival great.

“You want to honor other people’s art and make sure they’re comfortable and it’s going to be symbiotic and beneficial for everybody,” said Shaner. “Since the first Undergo I’ve recognized that what makes it beautiful is the artists honor themselves. It’s not something I can control. Thats the raw aspect of it. Here is a stage and here is a space and here are people who want to see and hear it and you be you. That’s what it’s become since I’ve been able to let go and say, ‘Here is a space for you to be as free as you please.’ The only evolution is me being more chill.”

Rachael Shaner of Lulu the Giant

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

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Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

The two-day Undergo Fest features many returning artists and some new faces. Hip-hop artists Cunabear, Lady Valore, Basik Lee, and King Bogus are bringing the beats and raps. There are several wonderful folk and rock singer-songwriters including Lylie May, Hollee Spring, Susanna Kennedy, Fauvely, Harley Rae & Tabasco Ghost, and Shena Verrett.

A wide variety of genres are represented by rock bands like Perpetual Care, Missing Parts, Beneath Trees and riot grrl band Girlfriend From Hell, as well as reggae fusion from Raynbird, and psychedelic funk from Xulu Prophets. There is even jazz from multi-instrumentalist Tim Christopher, and some old school country from newcomers The S’Villes.

DJ Velour is spinning excellent music, local artists Maggie May, Nala Ceramics, and Darreia Clark are sharing their work, and The Stardust Pixies are returning with some breathtaking aerial dancing.

The artists appearing at The Undergo were not only selected for their incredible talent, but for their positive roles in the greater community.

“It’s interesting when we reach out,” said Shaner of curating the festival. “The first thing we ask is who is in your band and who is performing with you because we want to make sure it isn’t anyone that has caused harm in this community. That’s a more personal question that’s not a usual procedure in festival line-ups, but it is super important that we aren’t continuing to give a stage to people who have silenced other people’s voices or violated spaces in other ways.”

“This is an intimate local community. Savannah is a small city/big town and I don’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable, and I know what that feels like.”

Lulu the Giant is back in Savannah with a single coming

With a new single on the way, Shaner's band, Lulu the Giant, is making a return to the Undergo stage after a long hiatus from performing in Savannah. Shaner stepped back from performing after the release of her last album, "Don't Tell My Friends I Miss Them," which was inspired by COVID lockdown.

“I was so depressed and I wanted to get that album out, and I did, but I ended up resenting the fact that I was forcing myself to make art versus enjoying the process,” said Shaner. “Now I’m trying to enjoy the process and journey more.”

Shaner added, “The other part is I’m waiting for The Jinx to open back up. I want to play there when it opens. A lot of these artists at the Undergo played there and it was a home to the arts community and the city continues to NOT support that arts community. They need to approve the new location and know that it is going to be another space where citizens can actually appreciate art.

“There’s nowhere for Savannahians to enjoy music if it’s not in a hotel bar or on the river. Maybe give us this one little thing back.”

Daniel Malone and Rachael Shaner of Lulu the Giant

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

icon to expand image

Credit: Adriana Iris Boatwright / For Do Savannah

The Undergo Festival is returning to the lush, undeveloped greens of “Harry’s Hacienda” and the grounds of Re:Purpose Savannah, a local non-profit female-run deconstruction company that salvages historic houses set for demolition and reclaims the wood to make it affordable for people in the community. The wood they reclaimed from the set of Disney’s live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp” is even being used to build the stage.

“When you find a cool spot, it’s hard to beat it,” said Shaner. “We’ve grown in the Eastside community and we want to continue that engagement. It’s never going to be downtown. It’s never going to be for tourists.”

Food trucks from Black Rabbit and Chazitos will be on site, as well as Moon River Brewery with tasty beer to sip under the sun. Other family activities include screen printing (if you bring your own clothes), clay for the children, a cooperative mural, and pinwheels. Then, of course, there is the always popular slip n’ slide.

“Honestly, that’s always the star of the show,” said Shaner with a laugh. “I should emphasize that the slip n’ slide is on the only hill in Savannah and is so much fun, and sometimes people end up in the lagoon with the alligator.”

Slip n’ slide aside, one of the best things about The Undergo Festival is its welcoming family friendly atmosphere.

Shaner said, “The highlight is seeing people come into the yard, generally with trepidation because we don’t publicize this a lot, and you see them set up a blanket or chair, get a beer, and shed this outer exterior and realize that they are at home and in a space that is accepting and warm and free, in every sense.”


What: The Undergo Music and Arts Festival 2023

When: Friday and Saturday; starts at 4 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday

Where: 2302 E. Gwinnett St.

Cost: FREE

Info: undergofest.com

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Undergo Festival returns to Savannah with local music, love and, of course, a slip n’ slide


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