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Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Of Wisconsin and Wedding Hashtags

Hello, friends! Rob here.

So, um. Ed is married. Holy crap? Also, wedding guestbooks are so 2006. It’s all about the wedding hashtags these days #edandmaggie2014

We’re approaching the end of a long break, which itself comes on the heels of a long break. There have been many long breaks so far this year. But now is time for a long tour! We’re very excited to be spending the majority of April on tour, and to be spending the majority of that tour with the fantabulous Moon Taxi! For those of you not in the know, Moon Taxi is a band from Nashville and they rule pretty hard, so us going on tour with Moon Taxi is like Batman going on tour with Superman, except for all the good they have done I don’t think either of those guys are particularly talented musicians, and they may or may not actually exist.

Side note: My word processor apparently thinks “fantabulous” is a real word.

Working backwards now: South By Southwest sure is crazy, huh? It’s like, instead of having a few bands be in the same city, let’s just put all of the bands into a five-mile radius and make them fight each other, “Beat It” video-style, for the three parking spaces in downtown Austin. That’s really all I can think to say about it right now. In the past I’ve always compared South By Southwest to the scene in every movie about the Vietnam War where a bunch of wide-eyed recruits step out of a helicopter in some army encampment thirty clicks north of Pleiku and see men in torn-up fatigues playing cards and roasting a pig not twenty feet from whatever patch of jungle they just finished flame-throwing and it begins to dawn upon the recruits that theirs is now an impossible world where violence and chaos and barbarism go hand in hand with humanity and normalcy. A world not governed by morality, or nobility, but by one simple directive:  Survive.  The unit’s shotgun-toting Corporal tosses one of them a beer and spits a greeting around the sides of his cigar: “Welcome to hell, boys.”

Anyway, South By Southwest is kind of like that, but with tighter pants.

The run leading up to SXSW was short, but surprisingly demanding. We only had a few shows, but we found ourselves dashing from one cool media thing to the next* in between. The shows themselves were all quite nice. I’d love to just say the grandstand stompdown in Chicago took the cake and be done with it, but we were really blown away to play to such an enthusiastic crowd on our first visit to Madison, WI. The welcome was very promising in Bloomington, IL as well. Those three shows in three days were kind of like working backwards through the process of building a relationship with a city. We started in Chicago, which by now is a well-fortified bastion of friendship and musical success. Madison is new hotness, in an unexpected but much-appreciated sort of way, and Bloomington is like a clean slate that we can’t wait to build from the ground up without mixing any further metaphors. Good times in the cold middle west.

Side note: My word processor does not think that “stompdown” is a real word, even though I use it about once a month.

Oh god that reminds me I haven’t updated this thing since freaking Mardi Gras I am so sorry friends. In years past, I have caught myself grumbling about being “too busy” during a time that I wish I could be spending with all of the loved ones in New Orleans who have become my surrogate family since college (not that I need a surrogate, my regular family is great), but maybe it’s good to stay busy during Mardi Gras. To quote George, New Orleans is a dangerous city when you’re not busy. I’ll spare you the details (mostly because I ended up sparing myself a lot of the details), but suffice it to say it was a fun and exhausting couple of weeks.

And that brings us, more or less, circling back around to present day. We’ve made pretty productive use of our Ed’s honeymoon break. Ed and his new wife Maggie (don’t worry, there isn’t an old one anywhere) spent most of it honeymooning (as you may have guessed). Andrew took a plane to Spain with his family (it was actually France, but that doesn’t rhyme and I got confused for a second). Dave and Zack did some duo gigs and crossovers with a great Chicago funk group called The Heard, and George and I got to play complicated music with a fun side project we’ve been calling Space & Harmony. During the weekend of Ed’s wedding I actually had some supremely talented Canadian trad-jazz musicians (and mercifully low-maintenance houseguests) staying with me, and the following weekend I got to fly to Kansas City for another wedding (#sarahandcorey329), so I’ve been keeping busy, but fun busy. Soon we’ll be back to work busy.

Good thing work busy is fun busy.

*: When I write entries, I leave messages to myself in caps lock and parentheses when I need to link, fact/spell check, or reword something so I can do it when I edit (yes, I edit.  Just imagine what the first drafts must look like) instead of interrupting the flow of brain-words while the tap is running. After the footnoted phrase in this entry (in case you really can’t be bothered, it was “dashing from one cool media thing to the next”), I left myself the following message: (IT WOULD BE AWESOME IF SEVERAL OF THOSE WORDS COULD BE LINKS TO THINGS) I stand by the assertion that making several of those words into links to our appearances and performances on Audiotree, JBTV, Daytrotter, Fearless Radio, and I’m pretty sure there was at least one more, would be awesome. Unfortunately, for a variety of technical reasons, only one of those is currently available to me.  But on the bright side, I can still leave you with half an hour of us playing music, drinking tea, and discussing who would be the captain of our spaceship, courtesy of the good-hearted folks at Audiotree:

Friday, February 21st, 2014

The Things That Started Happening

Hello, friends! Rob here.

We all survived Fridge Tour ’14. The Arctic/Polar Vortex, Snowpocalypse, Wintermageddon, Blizzard Blast (that last one may or may not be a registered trademark of Dairy Queen), whatever you want to call it, was, well, cold. But what’s that you say? It still is cold? Well, not in New Orleans, suckers! I’m writing this entry on my porch in shorts, gearing up for what may be the best Mardi Gras ever. Normally during Mardi Gras we’re skipping in and out of town, running from thing to thing, missing the bulk of the street drinking and wrestling children for plastic spears cultural traditions or whatever, but not this year! This year, we have exactly one show, and it’s a doozy. Friday, February 28, at Tipitina’s, we’ll be blasting off into the stratosFUN with our Floridian friends The Heavy Pets. Hope to see you there!

Oops, I skipped right from the intro part to the plugging our upcoming shows part. Okay, here is things we have been doing:

After an extremely productive eight-ish days in the studio, The Revivalists had about 24 hours to rest and mentally prepare for tour. Nothing really happened during this interval. We split the drive to Austin over two days because driving for eight hours and then loading in and playing a show is bad. Not much continued to happen. Then we got to Austin and things started happening.

At first, the things that started happening were fairly mundane. The Texas shows were wonderful in a perfectly usual sort of way, except colder. We had Friday and Saturday in Austin and Dallas, and then we started driving towards Colorado on Sunday and the things that were happening began to be more interesting.

First, we got a little stuck on the highway.

Not completely stuck, mind you, or even mostly stuck for that matter. Just a little stuck. It was wintry out there, and we had to back our way down an icy slope on a somewhat busy highway so we could hit it again with a running start. Nobody got hurt. Traffic was backed to a crawl with all of the skid-outs, wrecks, and generally cautious drivers. The sky was threatening to darken, and the roads were not safe. So, knowing we had all of Monday and some of Tuesday to make it to Fort Collins, we pulled off the highway somewhere around Wichita Falls and watched the Super Bowl at a Buffalo Wild Wings, because oh did I forget to mention that it was Super Bowl Sunday.

And then it got cold.

It would probably be more accurate to say that we came upon the cold than to say that the cold came upon us. Sure, there was ice in Louisiana, and temperatures were low in Texas. But Colorado was cold, and the cold was Colorado. This felt ancient. A majestic, barbarian coldness that had always been and would always be. Waning, perhaps, in the Spring, and waiting through Summer, but never fully absent.

It made load-out really super fun, you guys.

Overall, it was actually pretty cool. Sure, it’s sort of unpleasant hauling band stuff in and out of a trailer at 9000 feet above sea level and six degrees below zero (this happened multiple times), but it made for good exercise, the roads got safer right after we spent $200 on snow chains, and the trailer only froze shut like, twice. The shows themselves were an excellent blend of tall-stage venue-type shows and punk rock-style crowd-in-your-face throwdowns (320 South in Breckenridge is a soaring example of the latter). We capped Colorado off with a packed show at the lovely Bluebird Theatre in Denver, and then it was time to get out of the mountains and out of the cold.

Just kidding! It was cold everywhere! Fun fact: Lawrence, KS, while a full 10-15 degrees (F) warmer than anywhere we were in Colorado at any time, actually felt the coldest out of any place I have ever been, because humidity is the bane of human comfort! Fortunately, the times were good. My anointed mother was at the show in Lawrence, so that was cool. We had big fun in equally-frigid St. Louis, and we even got out of the show early enough to get some quality time with our old friends down at Broadway Oyster Bar.

Everybody caught a cold in Nashville at about the same time. Usually, when a cold goes through the band, one person catches it first, and then it spreads through the band over the course of a few weeks, silently picking us off one-by-one. How, then, did we all get sick at once? Long story short (and it is a long story, I just deleted three rambling paragraphs on the subject), there were a lot of old friends in Nashville, we were passing around a jar of honest-to-god bathtub hooch, and apparently that whole “ethanol kills germs” thing might just be misplaced optimism.

Our optimism was not misplaced in Athens the next night. The Georgia Theatre is one of our favorite rooms in all the land, and Athens was extra-rowdy on Thursday, as the city had been completely snowed in for a few days prior and was just beginning to poke its collective head above the surface. Apparently whole sections of town didn’t even have internet. Imagine! Plus, we were sharing the stage with Stokeswood, who are some of our tightest band bros ever. Things got rowdy pretty quickly. People were singing, dancing, crowd surfing, and this one guy who was right up front kept demanding that I give him one of my beers.

Sorry dude, I needed those. For art.

And then it was Aura Festival! I’ve spent countless bytes of wordpress’ data storage talking about how beautiful the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park is, so I’ll skip that if you promise to just picture everything in the next paragraph or so taking place under a canopy of spanish moss. We had a long day at the festival. The band’s load in was mid-afternoon for an early evening set, and we could have made it a quick in and out, except that Ed, George, Dave and I were tapped for Joey Porter’s (of The Motet fame) Aura Superjam, which was originally scheduled for right after The Revivalists’ set, but kept getting pushed later on the schedule as a few bands found themselves unable to get to the festival on account of weather stuff. Aura was a long, fun day full of friendship, cool musicians, and kombucha (so much kombucha), but to my recollection nothing particularly crazy went down. Zack’s anointed mother was there, so that was cool.

The next day, thankfully, we didn’t need to wake up too early to get to Mobile. It’s always great to play shows with Gov’t Mule. The band, crew, and community are all wonderful people to be around. And finally, after years of ending tours in New York, or Seattle, or freaking India, the last show of Fridge Tour ’14 was a mere two hours from home. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the tour.

Now we are home, but oh drat I almost forgot to mention Musketeer Gripweed! Musketeer Gripweed is not only a very cool and obscure reference, but also a band. A wonderful band, at that. We did four shows with them, they were a big part of all of the fun in Colorado, and I would be remiss not to mention them here. So now I am whatever the opposite of remiss is. Don’t know, not gonna look it up.

And finally, presented without comment:

Happy Mardi Gras!

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

…And the Flash Was Blinding

Hello, friends! Rob here.


We’re making a record.

Lately, I’ve started to catch myself using the word “record” as a generic term for a collection of songs by a single artist/band that are packaged and sold together in a particular order under the same title. This is new for me, and it’s a little bit unsettling. My whole life, I’ve used “album.” To me, it just makes the most sense: A record is vinyl (the preferred medium of college students and their grandparents), an 8-track is that thing the one guy from your high school had to listen to in his stylish-but-unreliable old car, a tape is a cassette, a CD is the thing onto which a 15-year-old you burned that Five for Fighting song and then wrote a girl’s name on in lime green Sharpie. An .mp3 is a necessary evil and barely deserving of mention. To me, saying “record” or “CD” or whatever feels like using the word “Coke” as a catch-all for any soft drink.

“Album,” on the other hand, isn’t so brand-specific. It’s more about the content than the medium. In the Classical era, the word referred to “a blank tablet on which the Pontifex Maximus registered the principal events of the year; a list of names.” How perfect is that? An album is a collection of moments. It’s a bunch of different pictures and scenes and moods and ideas all in one place. Thumbing through a photo album, you can look at one picture and say, “that was the road trip we took up the coast,” or “that was that Christmas when we all got those funny socks,” or oh man, “remember that Fourth of July when we all got food poisoning and missed the fireworks?” And those are all bits and pieces and memories, but even a spare handful of pinpointed little microseconds can have the magic of evoking Who We Were When. This thing we’re working on in here, it’s who we are right now. In ten years, it’ll still be who we were when we were playing like this or writing like that or when our lives were changing in one way or another. Who we were when we were listening to Zeppelin or reading Fitzgerald. Who we were when we felt buoyantly in love or incurably alone. It’s all of that, and we’ll put it all together and place it into the world with the hope that somebody will open it up and feel something.

It’s an album.

Sorry, you probably wanted to know how things are going. That was what I meant to tell you when I started writing, but I got lost pretty quickly. Anyway, the short answer is “good.” We spent all last week in pre-production, so, while there has been some workshopping, we’re much more prepared than we were when we tracked City of Sound, and that plus [I don't even want to think about how many] years of being a band in the interim has made us a much more productive force in the studio. So, to be more specific, we’re somewhere between the start and the finish, and I think we’re all feeling pretty darned good today.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you don’t know what a “photo album” is, or, God help you, if you think Apple coined the term, ask your parents. You’ll probably learn something important.

And finally, in light of all this photo talk, here’s a picture:

Talk about MUGGING for the camera!

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