I've been thinking about electricity a
lot lately. When we last left off a few weeks ago, we were on our
way to Wesport, CT. What I didn't mention (for fear of jinxing us)
was that, due to what I can only describe as the vagaries and
technicalities of bus law, we were running, oh, roughly ten hours
late. The late-morning sound check we had so thoughtfully scheduled
in order to facilitate an easy changeover before our set had sailed
away so long ago it might as well have been the Santa Maria. The
next problem was that the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival was an
outdoor event which takes place by a marina in what appeared to be an
at least semi-residential area. On a school night. Due to what I
can only describe as the caprices and vendettas of homeowner's
associations in areas with above-average property values, it was
unclear at the time if we were actually going to be able to play our
full set, or if we were even going to be able to play at all. Noise
complaints, police, etc.
Something like forty-five minutes or an
hour after we were supposed to start, we arrived at the venue. Raw
Oyster Cult, featuring our good friend John Gros, had kindly extended
their set to buy us some time. The house crew had already wired up
the stage as best as they could in our absence. We pulled up,
ditched most of our convenient-but-ultimately-superfluous equipment,
hauled our bare necessities up a ramp, plugged stuff into whatever we
could find, and made a handful of exploratory noises (ooh, great
band name. Dibs.). If I recall correctly, we went from zero to rock
concert in twenty-one minutes.
It was awesome.
I got started in school band when I was
twelve years old. I was interested in the alto saxophone, but had to
move over to the flute for my first year of concert band before I
could switch to sax for jazz band. Not really the point of the
story. The point is, before every band performance, our band
director, this snazzy cat named Bill Brown, would always talk about
what he called "electricity.” He would ask us: could we feel
that electricity? It should feel like a buzz, or a tingle. The thing about
electricity is, if you let it get the best of you, it can shock you.
It can kill you. But it can be harnessed. It can be used productively. It can light up
I confess, as I get older, I've grown
resistant to the effects of electricity. Resistance, like
electricity, has its own benefits and drawbacks. Experience blunts
the jitters and butterflies that mess up your focus, and focus can be
as important to a musician as it is to an olympic gymnast. But if
you're completely closed off to what's going on around you while you're
playing, and you're rejecting the energy of the room and the spirit
of the music, it's impossible to give an authentic performance.
Sometimes I find myself having to generate my own electricity, using
time-tested tools like a shot of whiskey, a few calisthenics, or a
good old-fashioned battle cry. (I'm not kidding about that last one. Many
traditional martial arts teach that shouting before or during an
attack helps elevate one's adrenaline levels.)
I don't want to start talking about
what city had the wildest crowd or which night was the best show,
because that's just not generally how I like to think about things,
but I will say that that set, which started an hour late, was cut
twenty minutes short, and ended with us coming back out for an encore after the house crew had understandably deactivated the P.A.
system (again, homeowner's associations), had more raw electricity
than I've felt in years. I'm willing to risk outright bragging in
saying that we lit up the house.
As a side note, before I forget, John
Gros (who I didn't even get the chance to talk to that night!) is an
exemplary human being and I sincerely hope that I will someday have
the opportunity to share the kind of support and patronage with some
up-and-coming New Orleans musicians that he shared with us when we
Okay, so, that's a little over seven
hundred words, and that brings us up to... Monday. September 5.
At this pace, we'll be writing a novel. And at my typical writing
pace, you'll be reading this sometime in 2017. So let's proceed to the lightning
Monday/Tuesday, September 5/6 – TCOB
in NYC. That's "takin' care of business in New York City,” for
those of you who aren't down with the abbrevs. Monday was mostly a
shopping montage for Tuesday's press photo shoot. Tuesday we paid a
visit to the Spotify office and got to see some of the cool ways they
can use technology to cold brew their own coffee in the break
room help us connect with our listeners and fans and
friends, and then did the aforementioned photo shoot.
Wednesday, September 7 – Buffalo.
Town Ballroom. We hadn't been to Buffalo in a while, and it was
really cool to get to come back and play a lovely old theater like
the TB. Also, funny story, I went to their website to double-check
that they are, in fact, an old theater, and I saw that The
Proclaimers are playing there soon, which is weird, because in
Northampton I remember some of the house crew saying that The
Proclaimers were coming through later in the week. So I'm pretty
sure we're all walking the same five hundred miles.
Thursday, September 8 – The
Shelter St. Andrew's Hall, Detroit, MI. It's our first time
in Detroit! Ever! And they bumped us up to the big room! I know I
already used the strikethrough gimmick earlier in this entry, but
whatever. New cities are exciting! Also, at one point I was having
a beer at a nearby bar and I overheard this guy standing right next to me tell his friends he
was disappointed because "nobody from the band is in here.”
Friday, September 9 – Indianapolis,
IN. Vogue Theatre. We played this room about a year ago, and it was
our first time in Indianapolis, so I remember being quite pleasantly
surprised when people showed up. Really cool room.
Saturday, September 10 – Hamilton,
OH. David Shaw's Big River Get Down. Though it's Dave's hometown,
Hamilton has been a special city for all of The Revivalists over the
years, and it's great to see this event and this community growing
and thriving and oh okay fine here:
(Video by Sam Allouche)
For real though, what a lovely day.
I've gotten misty-eyed in the past talking about
the weird and wonderful network of family and friends we've met,
built, grown, and occasionally stumbled backwards into knowing over the course of this
adventure, and I can tell the BRGD is going to be an annual lovefest
for years to come.
Sunday, September 11 – Off day. Spent most of it watching football. Pretty sure the Saints are going
to be a butt sandwich roasting on top of a dumpster fire this year.
Monday, September 12 – Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH. Nice to get back to the ol' BB, but not
much specific to report.
INTERMISSION: On the overwhelming
majority of these tour dates we have been supported by a wonderful
group of musicians known as The Temperance Movement. It has
been an absolute pleasure getting to know and hang with them over the
last few weeks, and you should definitely give them a listen because
I can't imagine the kind of person who doesn't respond to
their particular style of honest, no-nonsense rock and roll, and I don't want to. Damon,
you're gonna have to give me a little more time on that hit list.
Tuesday/Wednesday, September 13/14 –
Syracuse, NY. We played the Westcott Theatre on Tuesday night, and
then the next day they were kind enough to let us (and Temperance)
come in and get a bit of rehearsal time. Also I got
a haircut and the barber shop had some really weird magazines:
Thursday, September 15 – Northampton,
MA. Northampton is a pleasant town with a charming main street.
We'd been there once before, long years ago, in a much smaller room.
During load-in, one of the house crew at Pearl Street Nightclub
mentioned that The Proclaimers would be coming through sometime later
in the week.
Friday, September 16 – DANG IT BOSTON
STOP BUYING ME ALL THESE G-DARN SHOTS nah just kidding you guys are all
right. After how it went last year, we had high hopes for our return
to the legendary Paradise Rock Club, and boy howdy were we ever
whatever the opposite of disappointed is. Appointed?
Saturday/Sunday, September 17/18 –
Speaking of annual-ish traditions that make us feel the love, let's
take a moment to talk about Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival in
Fredericton, NB. That's New Brunswick, Canada, for those of you who aren't down
with the Canadabbrevs (note to self: you can do better). Harvest is a festival like
no other, made up of tents, street stages, clubs, and buskers. It is
run by an incredible team and every year it's just so easy and such a
blast. This year we got to share the stage with Marchfourth Marching
Band, who, aside from being top-notch musicians and even better
humans, are also great because they are perhaps the only band in the
world that makes me feel like maybe seven Revivalists isn't too many
people for one band. Show was Saturday, Sunday was a day off.
Monday, September 19 – Bus day. Long
drive from New Brunswick to...
Tuesday, September 20 – State Theatre
in State College, PA. Home of the Nittany Lions! Another new city,
and another fun show. Tuesday was also a very special day, because
it was the day that this officially happened:
I had that same band director from
sixth grade all the way through my high school graduation. Every
year, twice a year, he'd give that same speech about electricity
before our semester concerts. He would always tell us to come back
and visit when we were big-time musicians and drop by his office with a
CD. I never got the chance. He died when I was in college. Some
freak brain thing. Aneurysm or tumor or some such. The vagaries of
life. The caprices of fragile being. I wonder if he ever knew just
how much I learned from him.