Music, moshing, munchies and more: experiencing AURA Fest

Julia Fetter

Vendors line the courtyard, offering a variety of products and services. People gather around the main stage, waiting for the next band to start.

When festival-goers want to do something different, they can peruse various bands’ merchandise, grab some food or even get a massage.

This may sound similar to a music festival that you have attended. This was the specific atmosphere at Savannah’s AURA Fest this past Saturday, Feb. 18.

AURA Fest was a rock-and-roll music festival put on by Coastal Rock Productions at the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. It lasted all afternoon and attracted people from all around coastal Georgia, the low country and beyond.

Let the music begin

The festival took place in the museum’s gardens, yet had a balanced amount of open space and cover. Most people ventured to the larger stage, the Southbound stage, first. That stage sat under lofty rafters and had crowd barriers running along the front of it, in case things got rowdy later.

As attendees walked there from the courtyard, a line of band merchandise tables were stationed along the left side. Some merchandise tables, along with the old arcade games from Graveface Records and Curiosities, also lined the back.

That area was where the first band of the day, local Savannah band Between Symmetries, played their set. With many of their songs, the verses of the tunes would swell from clean vocals backed by mellow instruments to passionate screams backed by resonating riffs.

Many of the band’s songs chronicled venues the band has played in Savannah. Other times, the songs explored topics like the singer’s relationship with his father. The crowd seemed fairly receptive and willing to stick around for more.

Mannequin heads, tacos and more music

The clouds had not turned to rain, so the air was slightly brisk but pleasurably cool. One of the vendors there, House of Strut, had a tent version of their vintage clothing shop set up.

There, the tent had everything from shirts to rings to a basket filled with little knickknacks like a small hammer head, bracelets and a bullet shell. That coupled with the mannequin head suspended in the middle of the tent which gave the vendor a different but interesting vibe.

It was a short walk from the courtyard back through the stage area and the parking lot to arrive at the food trucks. Those vendors offered everything from sweets to sandwiches. A taco from Dark Shark Tacos seemed like a feasible lunch.

Eating, as well as drinking, is key to maintaining one’s energy when attending a music festival. It helps when what you are eating is a soft taco filled with vegetables and beer-battered mushrooms.

The taco did not last long, which meant it was time to get back to the Southbound stage before the next group, a rock band called Attalus, took the stage.

Spirit and anticipation

The third band that performed was The Funeral Portrait. Their vocalist, Lee Jennings, along with Vatican’s Nolan David Mobley, were interviewed for an article that published this past Thursday in The George-Anne about their bands.

They did not disappoint. Their guitars were noticeably more central to the music, as Jennings had earlier mentioned. All the band members, except the drummer, regularly moved around the stage.

The crowd seemed somewhat unsure of whether or not to fully endorse The Funeral Portrait with their cheers and applause, but that seemed to pick up when the band played their last song, “Casanova (C’est La Vie)”. The chorus, which repeats the song’s title, seemed to be a catchy point for the festival audience to sing along. They did, by lending their shouts and throwing their fists.

The end of the band’s set involved a lot of guitar tossing, swinging and twirling, in a way that managed to leave the guitars relatively unscathed.

Moving with a purpose

Vatican opened the second stage, the Scarbrough stage, shortly after 5:00 p.m. They burst on stage with their crunchy, distorted guitars and guttural screams. People continued to crowd around the stage and farther back toward the Scarbrough House.

They, like Between Symmetries, were also a local band. That, combined with their musical style, helped create a hyped atmosphere for people to express themselves.

Soon after Vatican started playing, the vacant space in front of the stage was flooded with people moshing. For those who may not have witnessed it, moshing is an aggressive form of dancing that can involve pushing, stomping and swinging one’s arms. There are also those who choose to express themselves by running around in a circle or fully flailing their arms and kicking their legs.

None of the other bands at AURA Fest got as animated of a response from the crowd. That may also have to do with the time of day, as people were still arriving at the festival and seemed fairly energized.

Making the most of it

Around sunset, the amount of people at the festival reached its maximum between 200 to 400 people. Many of them looked eager to see the more well-known bands.

The second band to play the Scarbrough stage was local band, Me and the Trinity. They seemed to create a more intimate, interactive vibe with the audience.

The vocalist stepped out into the crowd and let fans scream into his microphone. Like Vatican, they seemed to really use the small stage and the space in front of it to their advantage.

Night takes hold

The sun had fully set and nighttime took hold. Therefore, it was time to scarf down another meal.

Dinner was a basket of chicken tenders and fries from Molly MacPherson’s food truck. It was much-needed after the long rounds of standing and walking.

As the food in the basket dwindled to a few honey mustard-covered fries, it seemed like time to indulge in another feature of the festival, massages.

Virginia College students from its therapeutic massage program staffed a tent by the courtyard. Massages may seem like an odd aspect to have at a music festival. However, it makes more sense when considering all of the activity, like standing or holding up a phone, that people do during a music festival.

As the masseuse worked her magic, it was easy to drift into a quasi-trance and forget a music festival was happening. Then, like that, she was done, and the next act started promptly.

The final notes

The rest of it went by rather quickly. Oh Sleeper, ZAO and Unearth were some of the bigger bands at the festival, and they all played on the Southbound stage.

The bands each had a commanding stage presence and used it to their advantage either by engaging the crowd in song, jumping into the crowd or bouncing around the stage with a contagious energy.

That energy persisted, even as some, already worn out from the day’s festivities, began to leave. The last moshing of the day happened when Unearth sung the last songs as the festival reached its inevitable conclusion.

Overall, this music festival was one of the biggest rock festivals to happen near Statesboro in a while. It brought together people from multiple communities to form a larger community.

This larger music community seemed primarily concerned with enjoying the music and enjoying it with others that liked it, too.