March 20 marks the start of the Savannah Music Festival, a 17-day feast of music taking place at venues throughout the historic district. In its 25th year, the biggest music festival in Georgia is getting even bigger with more shows than ever. Its mainstays are jazz and chamber music, but the festival also boasts an impressive lineup of international acts and mainstream performers, from flamenco to classical to Cajun.
Some of the most anticipated shows are already sold out, but there is still more than enough music to go around.
In preparation, we've highlighted a few shows to whet your appetite.
Aoife O'Donovan and The Lone Bellow
This pairing brings together two different Brooklyn-based ensembles. Aoife O'Donovan is an alt. country songstress with folk roots. She has collaborated with artists from Alison Krauss to Yo-Yo Ma, and is in demand for her vocals, which resemble a softer Grace Potter. O'Donovan is joined by The Lone Bellow, an up-and-coming contemporary country band with indie-folk influences. Think The Lumineers but with more mandolin.
Playing: 7:30 p.m. March 20 and 21 at Ships of the Sea North Garden
The Avett Brothers
When the SMF announced The Avett Brothers would be returning this year, tickets sold out so fast that organizers added a second performance to appease the Avett-hungry masses. Made up of banjoist Scott Avett, guitarist Seth Avett and bassist Bob Crawford, The Avett Brothers have taken Americana music by storm. Their loose, raw energy make for entertaining live performances. With six albums and a deep archive of songs to choose from, each show is sure to have a varied set list.
Playing: 8:30 p.m. March 20 at Johnny Mercer Theatre. The March 21 show is sold out.
Asif Ali Khan
Expand your musical horizons with this nine-member Sufi soul ensemble. Hailing from Pakistan, Asif Ali Khan plays qawwali music, a type of devotional, trance-like singing that dates back 700 years. They'll be playing instruments that you won't normally hear, like a harmonium, tabla and dholak.
Fun fact: A group of qawwali musicians is called a "party."
Playing: 7 p.m. March 25 at Unitarian Universalist Church
This Country Music Hall of Famer has more Grammys than any other male country artist. His guitar and vocals have graced more than 400 albums in various collaborations over decades in the business, but this show is all about Gill. And it's not one to miss.
Playing: 8 p.m. March 28 at Johnny Mercer Theatre
When the Scots Met the Irish
This set combines the best of Scottish and Irish music. Scottish group Lau will be joined by a quartet of Irish players assembled for the occasion. Lau, an award-winning British folk group, is in constant demand overseas and rarely makes U.S. appearances. Add Irishmen Kevin Crawford, John Doyle, Cillian Vallely and Duncan Wickel to the mix and you've got a room full of very talented blokes.
Playing: 8:30 p.m. April 3 at Charles H. Morris Center
Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.