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Safe//Sound in the Sanctuary
Soft Science Records artist Richard Leo Johnson will make you a believer.

Safe//Sound presents: Folk Transgressions: An Evening of Guitar Auteurs

Trinity United Methodist Church

Saturday, December 6

7 p.m.

$10 general admission, $5 for students

THOUGH THEY SPENT some time in a brick-and-mortar gallery/venue space, Safe//Sound is transient in its heart. The brainchild of Gus Muller, Safe//Sound exists so that he and Jae Matthews can host an array of experimental talent throughout town, from house shows to Hang Fire.

There’s a strong focus on experimental electronic music (Muller and Matthews have a band of their own, Boy Harsher, that could be categorized as such), but they’re really interested in risk-takers—the people bending the rules and challenging Savannah to see something new.

In all, Safe//Sound shows tend to be entrancing, captivating experiences—whether you’re in a quiet, white-walled gallery listening to a solo artist with a loop pedal or dancing in the crowd at Hang Fire, what you’re hearing is likely unlike anything you’ve heard before in this town.

Saturday marks their first show at Trinity United Methodist Church, featuring Daniel Bachman, Richard Leo Johnson, and Coy Campbell of Nightingale News.

Through the booming success of Trinity Sanctuary’s Thursday Night Opry series and October’s lunchtime hour series, Trinity Music Director Jared Hall has warmly welcomed all walks of life into the gorgeous (looking and sounding) sanctuary.

What was once primarily a worship space and concert hall for select Savannah Music Festival concerts now has hosted the likes of Walter Parks, The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, City Hotel, and more.

As the demand for all-ages shows pushes harder and harder against the strict regulations of downtown venues, spaces like Trinity become more and more appealing and popular.

And they’ve proven that, in a town where it can be hard to get folks out to a show if they can’t have a drink in their hand, a lot of music lovers actually do want to sit, listen, and be immersed in the music.

With the trio of talent that Safe//Sound brings to Trinity, the audience should prepare to sit back and soak up the intricacies of these Southern-based, folk-influenced performers.

Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Daniel Bachman returns to Savannah in promotion of his latest LP, Orange Co. Serenade. The 20-something has been crafting “primitive” American music for the last four years or so. He’s an acoustic guitarist, a lap-picker, a banjo player with incredible speed and agility that makes for a tremoring, distinctly Southern, Appalachia-influenced sound.

The crystal-clear production of Orange Co. Serenade—the gentle buzz of a string pulled and flecked, the warmth of reverberation of steel against wood—gives the record such an encompassing live feeling.

Daniel Bachman returns to Savannah.
Daniel Bachman returns to Savannah.

The breadth of tone tells its own story, gentle, winsome melodies woven throughout that still somehow finish clean and open-ended. Bachman’s played in churches before, and Trinity may be the best place in town to see this type of performance.

“We made a goal the first time we booked Daniel to never put him in a bar,” says Matthews. “And we never have!”

This will be Savannah-based Richard Leo Johnson’s second performance at Trinity; he and Ricardo Ochoa performed together during a lunchtime series show that emphasized the Theremin. (Oh, by the way, Johnson’s Theremin is built into his custom Martin guitar.) With it perched on his lap, Johnson can cup his hand in the sound hole and hover it over the body to control the pitch of the Theremin.

In fact, Johnson’s always had an affinity for aliens (he had a dream/encounter with an extraterrestrial as a kid); it certainly comes through in his distinctly ominous, slow-building work. There’s a tremoring, cold beauty to Johnson’s music, and with the discomfiting squeal of the Theremin beneath the warm Martin, it’ll never quite sit right—and that’s its greatness.

Johnson released the cassette Celeste on Soft Science Records, a local label Safe//Sound’s Muller co-created. A very young label managed by 20-somethings teaming up with a guitarist that Playboy once declared “the most innovative guitarist since Jimi Hendrix” is a noteworthy and fantastic collaboration.

Johnson stands out on their roster, which includes the scuzzy garage-punk sounds of Wet Socks and Cretin Girls and the melodic soundscapes of J. Zagers; his joining such a label speaks to the unique types of collaborations that Savannah’s tight-knit community and can allow.

Also appearing is Coy Campbell of Nightingale News. His debut album, Bell Rope was produced by Suny Lyons of Athens (he’s worked with, and performed in, such Georgia staples as Hope For Agoldensummer and pacificUV), and shows off a particularly Southern kind of storytelling.

You may have caught Campbell playing double bass with Waits and Co. at their recent Trinity performance; typically, in Nightingale News, he’s accompanied by Waits and Co. bandmate Markus Kuhlmann on drums and vocals, The Train Wrecks’ Stu Harmening on second guitar, and Rachael Shaner on double bass and vocals. Saturday, Campbell appears solo to offer a stripped-down version of his darkly lush, winter-shadowy songs.

Coy Campbell will perform selections from his new project, Nightingale News.
Coy Campbell will perform selections from his new project, Nightingale News.

As Trinity explores new types of bookings (a large portion of the Thursday Night Opry series has been dedicated to Americana/folk/country-learning performances, while the lunchtime series highlighted instrumental and classical music), their crowd has grown wonderfully diverse.

Safe//Sound presenting a show that emphasizes Southern experimental guitarists in a place that’s become known for showcasing excellent folk-country songwriters is a perfect segue in the growth of Trinity Sanctuary Concerts.