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Best of the best
Some of the live music acts you'll run into around town
Eric Culberson

Each May, Connect publishes the results of our annual Readers’ Poll. Among the many, many categories in “Best of Savannah” are those that involve live music – the best and the brightest, according to our readers.

Savannah, like most college towns, has a healthy music scene. Anywhere the creative juices flow, and where there are young people eager to hang out and experience, there’s good music. Some of it is original, some is pretty straightforward, some is bizarre and experimental, some is just like mama made back home.

One of the cool things about music in a college town is its fluid nature. Just as musicians sometimes leave town for greener green once their degrees are completed (or for less studious reasons), there’s always someone new, every autumn. Goodness knows who or what will strike that creative rush o’ gold this season.

Here’s a quick guide – by no means complete – of the musicians, bands and artists most endorsed by Connect readers, plus a number of performers who’ve caught our attention (or the region’s attention, or the country’s) that you probably ought to know about. You’ll be hearing from them.

Eric Culberson Band. A soulful blues guitarist, Culberson’s been gigging around town for the better part of 25 years, and his trio is the zenith of fiery finesse. On his most recent CD, Culberson veered into more experimental rock territory, with exquisite results. In the 2011 Best of Savannah poll, he was voted Best All–Around Local Musician, and Best Blues Band/Artist.

Black Tusk. In the Lowcountry, metal is served up hot with a swampy, blues–edged grit, and this pure power trio – signed to the national label Relapse – does it as down and dirty as anyone. They play in town infrequently because they’re on the road, or overseas, so much. Voted Best Metal Band.

General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers. Odd time signatures, out–of–nowhere harmonies and impossibly vague lyrics (also impossibly alluring) are the calling cards of this student–based acoustic group.

Britt Scott & Magic Places. The raven–haired Scott, who sings sultry jazz cabaret swoon at Mata Hari’s speakeasy, has a new band on the way and is a former member of Free Candy, provides the vox in this hazy psychedelic wash of electronica and rhythm. Magic Places is the nom de stage of musical wizard Paul Goerner.

The Train Wrecks. The secret weapon in this hard–charging Americana country quartet is lead guitarist Stuart Harmening, who could have played with Gram Parsons had he been born 30 years earlier. Singer/songwriter Jason Bible is one of Savannah’s true originals. Voted Best Country/Americana Rock Band.

Cusses. Read more about Savannah’s high–energy trio in this week’s Noteworthy section, but be advised: Between Bryan Harder’s fuzzed–out, poly–syllabic guitar, Brian Lackey’s octopus–on–amphetamines drumming, and the addictive, powerful hot vocals of Angel Bond, no other band in town gives you more bang for your booze–hall buck.

Kylesa. “Molten hardcore darkness is soldered together with classic and stoner rock riffs and trippy psychedelia, sonically dense with textured inlays of abrasive, rhythmic punk and subtle but catchy pop sensibilities.” We said that in a January cover story, and it still sounds pretty cool. Another Relapse Records group, the killer Kylesa is on tour for most of the year – the band is wildly popular in Europe and Japan – but they call Savannah home and gig in town when they’re able.

Free Candy. A relatively new punk trio, Free Candy mixes rockabilly, surf, the Pixies and the Cramps into a hard–pummelling, extremely fun package. They wear costumes and makeup, too, so they look as cool as they sound.

Liquid Ginger. There are a number of “classic rock” bands in town – here’s a recommendation for the Veraflames, who gig infrequently – and this one, devoted almost exclusively to ‘70s and ‘80s covers, is the best–known, hardest–working and most alluring. Lead vocalist Ginger Fawcett has irrepressible stage presence.

A Nickel Bag of Funk. Vocalist Leslie Adele is the centerpiece and the beating heart of this soulful collective. Her powerhouse chops turn vintage and contemporary rhythm ‘n’ blues into something exceptionally soulful. Incredible musicianship in the band, too, from the keys to the bass. Voted Best Local Funk/R&B/Soul Group or Artist.

Burning Mansions. Singer/guitarist Jonathan Murphy also has a blues–based band, Jon Lee & the Canebrakes, but Burning Mansions’ vintage–sounding rock evokes the glory days of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Robin Trower and post–Experience Hendrix.

Bottles & Cans. In Ray Lundy, this electric blues/rock outfit has a distinctly idiosynchratic vocalist – his gruff delivery and left–of–center phasing make him the closest thing to Tom Waits in Savannah. A fun band, and unpredictible.