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Monday, September 22nd, 2014

In Which The Revivalists Commune With Nature

Hello, friends! Rob here.

Today’s entry comes in the form of a logistics problem:

Imagine that you are some sort of traveling entertainer. Like, I don’t know, just throwing something out there, first example to come to mind, just for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re the leader of an exhibition yo-yo troupe. Your yo-yo troupe tours the country by automobile, wearing matching backwards hats and performing highly choreographed and surprisingly impressive feats of coordination and daring using a popular children’s toy. Your routines are set to music, mostly current hip-hop and top 40 hits. The name of your troupe is something edgy and vaguely urban, like “The Zero Gs.”

So let’s say that you and the rest of The ‘Gs just finished a fun and challenging weekend of performances in the southeastern United States. You started out in Mobile, AL, which is close to your troupe’s home base (you all live in Chalmette, LA). It was one of your most enjoyable yo-yo exhibitions to date. You played in front of a big outdoor crowd, many of whom seemed to be longtime supporters of your yo-yo troupe, based on their jubilant enthusiasm and obvious familiarity with many of your more popular yo-yo tricks.

After the show in Mobile, once you were done saying your goodbyes and packing up all of your yo-yos and backwards caps, you still had to drive for a few hours. There were many miles between The Zero Gs and your next engagement, which was actually a double-header in Augusta, GA for the city’s Arts in the Heart festival. You drove into the night, checked into a hotel for a few hours, then woke up earlier than you would have preferred and continued driving.

The festival in Augusta was lovely and you wish you had had more time to explore it. There were booths representing the culture and cuisine of upwards of forty different countries, and stages showcasing various forms of art, dance and music from around the world. Unfortunately, you had a very limited amount of time there because you were yo-yo-ing at the festival AND at the festival’s official late-night afterparty down the street at a venue called Sky City. The latter performance also featured a group named Stop Light Observations, who, for the purposes of this purely hypothetical scenario, are a team of jugglers and contortionists instead of a cool band with whom you’ve done several shows in recent memory.

The whole weekend, while extremely enjoyable, was admittedly a bit draining. But now it’s Sunday morning and it’s time to check out of your hotel in Augusta. You have two days until your next exhibition, which takes place in Knoxville, TN. Your obvious choices are either to remain in Augusta for the days off or drive directly to Knoxville and stay in the same place for three nights. In theory, you could save a bit on hotels by driving all the way back to Chalmette, LA on Sunday, but it would take all day and then you’d just have to turn around and leave again on Monday in order to make it to Knoxville on time. Conversely, you could find a cool place to stay somewhere in between, like maybe Nashville for example, which will be easier on you and your exhausted teammates but significantly more expensive. What do you do?

The Revivalists found ourselves faced with an eerily similar dilemma when planning the first half of this ten-day run we’re on right now, and we think we came up with the correct answer: rent a big cabin in The Smoky Mountains and kick it with some nature (click for big):

Nature!

(Also pictured: New front-of-house engineer Chopper Brady, tour manager David Melerine’s freakish, panorama-distorted neck wattle)

How’d we do?

Friday, September 12th, 2014

First In Line

Friday, September 12, 2014, 4:05 AM – Indianapolis International Airport

“Pre-check on the left.”

I am on the right. I am not really sure where I am supposed to be standing or what I am waiting for until the TSA man presses a button and the wall in front of me begins to collapse like an accordion, folding in from left to right. I notice that I have somehow found my way to the front of the line. I will be the TSA’s first customer today. I feel like the first guy to buy tickets for The Phantom Menace.

Hello, friends! Rob here.

The Revivalists are currently at the end of concourse A in the Indianapolis airport, trying to tune out a sustained, high-pitched beeping noise coming from somewhere behind us. In what must have seemed like a brilliant idea at the time, we booked the absolute first flight out of Indianapolis in order to give ourselves some breathing room on the trip to Fredericton. We checked out of our hotel at 3:30 this morning, after playing a medium-early set at Phases of the Moon Festival in nearby-ish Danville, IL. Tried to sleep from about 11 PM until then. It didn’t take.

I’m thinking about doing shorter, more frequent updates for a while, just to try to keep things more current. How current? Check it out: We are sitting in black chairs with armrests and we are all very tired.  Mike is wearing sunglasses, Ed is on the floor, it’s still dark outside, we board our flight in about half an hour. BOOM. Literally up to the minute. It might be cold in here. I might just be shivering because I’m underslept.

I’m a little bit worried by how easily the words are coming. Writing right now may have been a terrible misstep and it may have been a stroke of genius.  Only time will tell. Either way, I’m tired, and I think I’m done here. See you soon, Canada!

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

One Big Family

Last Monday, as we pile into the van, Andrew shares some unfortunate news: Brian Farmer, Warren Haynes’ longtime guitar tech, a legend behind the scenes of rock & roll and an all-around great guy, has died. Andrew heard the news from our manager earlier this morning. We talk about Farmer on the short drive to Jen’s house just outside the beltway in eastern Nashville. Miles away, the sad news breaks on an official level and spreads in an electronic ripple.

*  *  *

Jennifer Hartswick whisks another batch of eggs and talks shop with Dave in the kitchen. A few of us linger and converse over cups of coffee and a bowl of trimmed strawberries, while the rest spill over into the living room. Even though it is Monday, we are having Sunday brunch.

Last night, Jen, who occasionally tours with an obscure indie musician named Trey Anastasio, graced our stage twice, once with her dulcet voice and once with her blistering trumpet work. Now she is making us breakfast. How awesome can one person be? The food comes out in waves, and between bites we talk about music and try to guess the secret to Jen’s sublime homemade gravy. (She says the recipe changes every time, but today it was a pinch of lemon zest.) We barrage her with compliments, and she ducks:

“Sorry I didn’t have any lobster for you guys.”

*  *  *

Packy Norton, proprietor of the “internationally infamous” Chicken Box and de facto mayor of Nantucket, skids his weathered van into the parking lot of the Beachside Hotel and chirps the horn two times in quick succession. He is likely grinning that marvelous, bomb-defusing grin of his, but it is difficult to tell because his entire head is enveloped in a bright green Kermit the Frog mask. Generally, one would be trepidatious about piling fourteen people (band, crew, and a few girlfriends) into a motor vehicle whose operator’s field of vision is narrowed to the width of the two nickel-sized eyeholes at the back of Kermit’s gaping pink mouth, but this is Packy we’re talking about. It’ll be fine.

Packy is a host without rival. Today, before the show, he is driving us out to Fisherman’s Beach to spend the day eating lobster and playing games on a manicured lawn overlooking the sparkling expanse of the Atlantic.  Part of the reason it’s so great to come to Nantucket and play at The Chicken Box is that it’s basically a vacation. But even without all of the material provisions, we would still love this place because of its proprietor. Magnetic, vivacious, and relentlessly down-to-earth, Packy Norton is the kind of guy you can’t help but love.

*  *  *

This is already an awful cliché even before you multiply it by a factor of “we’re at a music festival surrounded by hippies,” but you can really feel the love Saturday at Peach Festival. It’s a beautiful day off for us, and so many of our closest band-friends, people we know just from being in a band and being on the road, are here. Plus, it’s the last Peach Fest for this incarnation of The Allman Brothers Band, and possibly one of their last shows ever. There’s a certain sweetness in the atmosphere, a little bit sad and a little bit beautiful.

During the Allman Brothers’ set, Brian Farmer strides across the stage, swaps guitars with Warren, and swaggers back to his post in the stage-right wing. He used to do that exaggerated “duck-down-and-step-quickly” walk that you’ll see most techs walk when they have to come onstage, but he quit doing that when his last boss, Johnny Cash, told him to “stop being such a pussy” and just walk upright. Besides, his tenure with Warren Haynes has made him a fan favorite in his own right. To the spectator, Warren means Farmer and Farmer means Warren. In a way, he is as connected to the fans and as integral a part of the experience of seeing Mule or The Allman Brothers or Warren Haynes Band as the band members themselves.

It’s hard to believe that a week from now he will be gone.

*  *  *

It’s moments like these that make me appreciate just how truly fortunate we are- not just to be doing something we love, but to be a part of this wonderful patchwork community, this extended cross-country family of musicians and crew and managers and promoters and professional appreciators; family that we saw on the west coast last summer, family that we’re looking forward to seeing in New York next month, family that got us on the list for that show when we had a night off last week. Packy Norton is family. Jen Hartswick is family. Brian Farmer was family.

There are people back in the real world that we’re closer to- spouses, significant others, relatives, friends- people we see more than a few times a year. But there’s a sense of understanding and fraternity in this upside-down musical community that comes from shared experiences, common challenges, and a unique set of cultural mores. There’s a bond. And Farmer shared that bond with hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Brian Farmer never had to be good to us, but he always was. He was good to everyone. He had a huge soul. He was quick with a joke, full of incredible stories, and, in spite of an occasionally foul mouth and a healthy penchant for ribbing, he was truly, fundamentally, kind. He was one of the best.

We’ll miss you, Farmer. The whole family will.

Previous Posts:

September 2014

July 2014

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