A Shot of that Blue Stuff, OR: People, Sound and Friendship

January 26th, 2012

Hello, friends!  Rob here.

First, a bit of entirely pleasant business to attend to.  We’ve been ironing out our next trip to Pensacola (late March!  Woooo!) and I realized that two weeks ago, in my hurry to brag about selling out Vinyl in Pensacola, I neglected to mention that we didn’t do it alone.  We were supported by a wonderful Pensacolan group called Timberhawk.  They’re a working band, and they’re capable of performing long cover sets at the local beach haunts, but their original music is also downright fantastic and boy, wouldn’t it be great if they’d play with us again sometime…

Anyway, hi!  How are you?  Good to hear it.  I’m doing great, thanks.  It’s been a crazy little blur of days for The Revivalists.  Green Bar in Tuscaloosa is always entertaining, and that probably goes double for Waffle House after a show.  Late night Waffle House is the kind of place where weirdos tend to come crawling out of the woodwork, and usually I have to spend a few minutes looking around for them before I  remember that I’m sitting at the head of their table.

Woke up in Brimingham on Friday (thanks to Leslie and Jodi for the floor space and clean towels!) and hopped over to Montgomery.  Montgomery, Montgomery.  What a magical place.  We played at a club called Alley Bar, which was an interesting mix of elements.  The venue space was a sort of repurposed parking garage/loading dock type of area with a good sound system, a limited bar and a nice big stage.  It was a pretty big room, and we had a good time filling it with people, sound and friendship.  But then, attached to this venue space, is the main bar area (barea?).

Alley Bar itself is a large, stylish bar with just enough of an upscale feel to not quite seem intimidating.  BUT!  There is even more!  For within this bar is yet another bar.  A sub-bar, if you will.  The sub-bar is a small room completely enclosed by mostly glass where the temperature is kept at a near-freezing temperature (don’t worry, the bar keeps a few gaudy fur coats outside in case you don’t have one) so they can serve shots of various liquors and liqueurs in shot glasses made out of ice.  MADE out of ICE.  And then, when you’re done, you get to throw your ice shot glass on the floor like a peanut shell at a Texas Roadhouse, where it will hopefully shatter in a sufficiently awesome manner.

Three sets and one bottle of cinnamon whiskey later, we were all packed up.  Before heading to our hotel, we decided to actually check out the nightlife for once.  Unfortunately, it was about four in the morning at this point.  Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem.  A mere block away from Alley Bar there was an underground jazz club called Sous la Terre that had all the grit and character of any number of seedy New Orleans dives, with one distinct advantage: When I said “underground,” I didn’t mean “obscure,” or “subversive,” or “illicit” (although at least two of those words certainly apply).  I mean it was literally under the ground, which, as any good geologist will tell you, doesn’t happen very often in New Orleans.

There were two musicians playing while we were there: a keyboardist who was probably in his fifties, and a trumpet player who could have been the other man’s grandfather.  Now, in my opinion, “really old jazz musicians” rank just below “avalanche survivors” in terms of the measure of respect they deserve, so I’m not going to sit here typing words and words about how old this guy was, but he probably didn’t ride his bicycle to the gig.  There was a mysterious blue concoction behind the bar that they served in shot form.  It tasted blue.  The band brought the house down with a rendition of “Lean on Me” and then we were tired and it was time to sleep.

Saturday probably couldn’t have gone much better.  After an uneventful drive back from Montgomery (which is really all we can ask from a drive these days), we arrived at the Howlin’ Wolf, set up, sound checked, and dispersed to clean up for a big night at home.  I admit I was a bit worried about having so many bands on the bill, but the entire thing went off, as far as I could tell, without a hitch.  Unfortunately, I was too busy selfishly attending to my own hygienic and dietary needs to catch some of the earlier bands, but Gold and the Rush, Sun Hotel and Habitat all killed, and then it was our turn.  All I am going to say about our show is thanks to everyone for showing up and thanks again for staying and keeping up the energy and one final thank you for catching Dave when he jumped off of that speaker.

Sunday and Monday were all about Liveset.  We were a bit wary about doing a full-band acoustic performance through two microphones because of how loud and complicated our shows usually are, so Team Liveset was kind enough to indulge us with a little tech rehearsal/run through on Sunday.

With everything in place, we arrived at the French Quarter house on a beautiful Monday afternoon and just had fun.  It feels weird saying this about a show where the audience was watching us from computers in different states, but it was a great way to interact with all of the friends who tuned in to watch.  Despite the lack of a physical audience (apart from eight Liveset people and a few passers-by who watched through the open front door), there was a great sense of togetherness and the show took on an almost conversational tone.  Thanks to Rachel, Ross, Ben the engineer (“Bengineer” for short), Ben the cameraman, Tyler, Sky (possibly Skye), Johanna and Hunter for making the event possible, and thanks to Liveset as a whole for providing such a wonderful platform for artists to connect with audiences.  Hopefully they won’t mind a repeat performance sometime down the line.

Speaking of “down the line,” shows this weekend!  Baton Rouge Friday!  Lafayette Saturday!  Done.  Alright, I’m outta here.  Keep it real.  But also remember that it’s only 329 days til the end of the world, so you’ll need to keep it real with an appropriate sense of urgency.

At the End of This Post I Will Tell You Why SOPA and PIPA Are Horrible

January 18th, 2012

Hello, friends!  Rob here.

Welp, first week back!  I forgot how sore my jumping-up-and-down-onstage muscles can get when they don’t receive regular conditioning.  Still, The Revivalists couldn’t have asked for a better first week back from not really playing a whole lot of shows (there is probably a one- or two-word phrase for “not really playing a whole lot of shows” but I don’t know what it is).  Sometimes, terms like “shaking the rust off” get thrown around when one comes back from a break.  However (and I can’t imagine that this would have anything to do with the fact that we spent at least 20 hours at practice over the last two weeks), this weekend was not the case.

Lower calf muscles notwithstanding, we hit the ground running in Orange Beach on Thursday.  The venue, Happy Harbor, had a cool vibe that somehow managed to blend the sensations of an open-air beachfront establishment with an underground basement, and the good folks there couldn’t have been more hospitable.

But Friday, of course, was the main event.  After the longest Pensacola-free stretch in the last two years, we returned.  It was our first show at Vinyl music hall, a high-class room and one of the biggest venues Pensacola has to offer this side of the Civic Center.

We sold it out.

There is a distinct pleasure from having your cornerman (in our case, hustler extraordinaire Dave Glassman, who I am convinced is secretly the mayor of Pensacola) come onstage with a tray of shots and announce that his town deems you worthy of a capacity crowd.  2012 is going to be a wonderful year.

Saturday, Hattiesburg helped cheer us up after the Saints’ glorious tactical retreat from San Francisco (what the hell kind of name is “Candlestick Park,” anyway?), and now we’re just plain chillin’.  We’re all geared up for this weekend, which will, in all likelihood, be fun.  We’ll be hitting Green Bar in Tuscaloosa on Thursday, then hopping over to Montgomery on Friday.  Saturday, we’re back in New Orleans for the second annual Revivalists’ Back from Break Multi-Band Concert Situation (as far as I’m concerned, even that is a better name than “Revivapalooza”) at the Howlin’ Wolf.  There will be approximately 400 bands playing, and all it costs you is $10 with a student ID!  It’s $15 if you’re not a student, but hey, you’ve probably got a college ID lying around somewhere…  Anyway, there are numerous supplementary details contained within the following Facebook event page:

http://www.facebook.com/events/124902664294026/

Lastly, on Monday we’ll be doing something a little different: We’ve been invited to perform stripped-down (the music, not the musicians) on Liveset at 3:30 on Monday afternoon.  Be sure to tune in, because we’re working out some special arrangement of our songs to better fit the mood of the performance.  It’s going to be fun, different, and on the internet!

Well, those are all of my band guy words for this week.  However, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to end today’s entry on a bit of a serious note: 337 days until the Mayan calendar ends, which will absolutely be the end of the world and is not just that calendar’s equivalent of a long cycle of dates ending with large, round number (like back in the year 2000 when the world also ended).  Okay, enough nonsense.  For real this time:

Hello, friends.  Serious Rob here.

Congress (there’s a word that I’ve never used in this blog before) will soon be voting on the a pair of bills called the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA” for short) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).  The intent of these pieces of legislation is to protect intellectual property by taking a hard stance against online distribution of copyrighted material.  In addition to outlawing websites that intentionally distribute copyrighted material (fair enough), SOPA/PIPA seek to hold accountable sites that contain links to other websites or even relatively minuscule amounts of copyrighted material.

For example, the entirety of Youtube could potentially face shutdown if a single user were to upload copyrighted material.  If you type your favorite band’s name into Google, and their software brings up a link to an illegal torrent site that you don’t even notice because it’s on page 276 of your search results, Google gets in trouble.  And while Youtube and Google can probably afford to maintain the strenuous vetting processes these laws require in order to keep their noses clean (which hasn’t stopped Google from protesting them anyway), could the same be said of any untold number of small businesses and start-ups operating online?

Please believe me when I say that I understand the importance of fighting online piracy in order to protect the rights and livelihoods of countless people.  I do.  I am a person whose intellectual property is currently available for illegal download in Russia (also worthy of note in that link: pre-George era press photo).  However, that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the thought that these bills could mark the end of the previous decade’s renaissance of free information and user-generated content.  I know it can sometimes be hard to take sites like Youtube seriously, but there’s no denying that Youtube, Facebook and Wikipedia (to name a few) have all changed the way we live.  SOPA and PIPA put all of this in danger.

Of course, this is all conjecture.  The obvious intent of these bills is noble, and they won’t necessarily bring about all of these doomsday scenarios in which America becomes a police state and the internet is just another place where people go to be arrested for having opinions.

Except that they might.

Not because of the internet stuff.  Sure, the internet is an incredible bastion of equality and free speech, of connections and communities, of ideals and innovation, and to restrict it would be to compromise the last level playing field on Earth.  But to me, what is far more disturbing about these bills is the precedent they would set.  SOPA and PIPA are dangerously vague in their wording.  If enacted, they will give a lot of power to a small number of people without setting very specific guidelines as to how and when they can exercise their authority.  Forget weighing the merits of free speech for creepy internet weirdos against the plight of the downtrodden film studio executive, because, with or without them, SOPA and PIPA are fucking scary.

If I’ve convinced you, or if you already didn’t need convincing, here are a few ways you can make your voice heard:

http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa/ – Has an excellent video providing a more technical explanation of what is at stake
https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/ – Google’s petition
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:CongressLookup – And finally, a personal appeal from Jimmy Wales that doesn’t make me ache with guilt

If you want to read more about SOPA and PIPA before making up your mind, feel free to Google them yourself and then click on the links to their respective Wikipedia pages.  And then take a moment to think about how pissed you’d be if you couldn’t do that anymore.

Withstand This!

January 11th, 2012

Hello, friends! Rob here.

It has finally arrived. After what was essentially a month-long break from playing shows, the day of reckoning is nigh upon us. Tomorrow, The Revivalists begin our 2012 semi-constant-tour-ish-thing in earnest.

This is going to be a good starting run. We get to kick the year off in a brand-new city (for us, I mean. Orange Beach, AL is probably at least a few years old) on Thursday and then return to two of our best homes-away-from-home on Friday and Saturday. Friday will mark our first-ever show at Vinyl, which is one of Pensacola’s nicest musical venue-type establishments, and then Saturday we’ll be at Bennie’s in Hattiesburg to finish the run up-close and personal with some good friends. Definitely looking forward to our first weekend run of the year.

One reason I’m looking forward to it is that we’ve been practicing like a real band this week, and so we’re going to have some new material to debut tomorrow. We even recorded a neat little bluegrass(-ish) version of “When I’m Able” (with help from Nashville’s own Jonathan Pears) that will be available for listening somewhere on the internet once Zack’s done tweaking the knobs and pressing the levers that make it sound good. It’s really encouraging to have had such a productive week. Financial restrictions notwithstanding, we could be releasing two albums this year at the rate we’ve been going.

Unfortunately, financial restrictions tend to be pretty damned withstanding.

But that’s none of your concern! All you need to be worried about right now is fitting your next Revivalists show into your busy schedule of being really cool people! There are going to be a lot coming up soon, and we’re in a constant state of planning, routing and booking, so keep an eye on our shows page to make sure you know when we’re going to be all up in your area, or whatever!

That’s it for today! Just a friendly reminder: 344 days until the end of the world. Please try to get us famous before then so that when space archaeologists come mining for people stuff they will listen to our music and be like “hey those guys were pretty good.” Alright thanks bye.

2012 Begins: A Hope for Unicorns

January 4th, 2012

Hello, friends!  Rob here.

Greetings, everyone!  Hi!  Hello, there!  Welcome to 2012!  The future of tomorrow is now!  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I said something almost exactly the same as that at the beginning of 2011!

Hopefully everyone survived the long weekend over New Year’s Eve.  For my part, it was definitely close.  The Revivalists started the weekend off with a record-short trip up to Shreveport and back.  Straight to (where else but) Fatty Arbuckle’s, set up the PA, watch The Lackadaises play great music, play (great?) music ourselves, pack everything up, and drive back.  Door to door, the trip was about eighteen hours, from 4:30 PM on Friday to 10:30 AM on Saturday.  Plus, we had two flat tires (one of which required a very nice gentleman and his wife to drive to the venue at midnight on a Friday and put a tire onto our wheel for us) while we were in Shreveport*.  What’s that?  When did we sleep?

Well, it was okay. When we got home, we had all of four hours before we had to be at Maison for sound check.

Saturday, as you likely already know, was awesome.  Hell, you were probably there.  Maison was packed with friends both old and new.  After a great set from Brass-A-Holics (no, Google, I most certainly did not mean “bassaholics”), we took the stage just in time to count down, ring in the new year, and then play really loud rock music.

Another year done.  Another year begins.  It keeps getting better.  Speaking of which, here’s a little taste of the cover art for our upcoming album, City of Sound:

Nope, no hints here.

No, I’m not going to tell you what it is.  Mostly because I’m not sure myself.  Our artist, Eugene Serebrennikov, who did the art for Vital Signs as well, is sending it to us in small pieces as part of a shameless scheme to drum up anticipation within the band for the finished product.  I must admit, it’s working.  This is all we’ve seen so far, so your guess is as good as mine!  Assuming, of course, that your guess is unicorns.

That’s all for this week!  We’re off for the weekend, so we’ll be working up new material until we return to life as show-playing band guys next week.  Maybe we’ll have some new tunes to debut in Alabama next Thursday.  In the meantime, remember: It’s a mere 351 days until the end of the world, so please do try to do something productive today.  Thanks and goodnight.

*: Somebody buy us a new van please.