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In Which The Revivalists Commune With Nature

September 22nd, 2014

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?

First In Line

September 12th, 2014

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!

One Big Family

September 2nd, 2014

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.

Figuring It In

July 8th, 2014

A young man wakes up on the second floor of a Holiday Inn. He’s not that young. He’s not that old, either. That is, unless you ask his girlfriend, who has taken to chiding him for being “so old” each November, knowing full well she’ll attain the same age the following July. He thinks about her and smiles.

Our debatably-young man is a bit distractable at the moment. He gets distractable when he is excited. He is excited because today he is going home.

…Further complicating the issue of this perhaps-young man’s age is the matter of his lifestyle. His laughable excuse for a job has allowed him to keep roughly the same daily schedule that he has kept since his Junior year of college. And in a few ways, the job is getting easier. That squeaky-clean Holiday Inn in which he is currently taking a few minutes too long to shower? A year or two ago it would have been a mere Days Inn, or Red Roof, or even the dreaded (and so-called) America’s Best Value. Any further back than that, he’d be sleeping on the floor of some college student’s apartment.

So he’s living like a spoiled teenager, but his easy job is also hard. And in a few ways, it’s getting harder. Nowadays, there are so many more obligations. Not that this is-he-or-is-he-not-young man would ever complain about being busy (yes he would). There are so many more opportunities involving radio stations, and websites, and showcases, and promotional this-or-that-or-the-others now. It’s all great, really. But he is convinced that his erratic lifestyle is making him age more quickly. Typically there will be a few days of unreliable sleep, of late hotel arrivals, of early lobby calls, of instant coffee, of clenched fists, recitations of personal mantras and “powering through,” and then he’ll have a day off in Silverlake to eat vegan stir fry and jog around Echo Park. People his age, young people who call themselves old, they go to classes after work and practice muscle confusion in order to stay in shape. Our man of ambiguous youth has to wonder which muscles he’s confusing just living like this.

And all the time he’s loving every minute of it, and all the time he’s just waiting to go home to that girl who thinks eight months makes for a disgraceful age gap. It’s her birthday in a few weeks. He’s actually going to be around for it this year.

. . .

Hello, friends! Rob here.

Forgive the intro. I composed it mostly in my head while going through my hotel checkout routine last Monday, the day we finished a long drive home to begin an unprecedented month off from touring. I wasn’t sure if I was going to post it, since it didn’t feel particularly relevant at the time, but the more I think about it, the more it feels like a state-of-the-union, “Pirate-Looks-At-Forty” type of thing. As we finally manage to punctuate the ambling run-on sentence that has been the last few years of touring, it’s almost impossible not to look back, take stock, and taste pride and gratitude in equal dose.

That’s right: After a long, confusing stretch of shows which I may or may not be able to describe as one cohesive tour, we have some time off from the band and we all feel pretty good about that. But what the heck do you care? Zero is what the heck you care, and rightfully so! You want to hear about shows and stuff!

We got back from California/Blackstock, a run that makes zero sense if you look at a map, and had a few weekdays to recuperate before we skipped town again.

The most recent run of shows started in a repurposed church in Jackson, MS, where it was incredibly hot. Also fun. After that, we got to play a mudpacked Wakarusa, Dave’s hometown, a venue where the green room was teeming with classic arcade cabinets, a cool theater in the part of Kentucky that calls itself “Cincinnati,” and then Chicago, followed by also Chicago (Taste of Randolph afterparty late Saturday night, then ToR itself Sunday at sundown). It was all great, and mostly familiar procedure. When we finished our business in Chicago, we left our van in the suburbs, packed only the bare essentials, and hopped a flight out of Midway for a week of promo gigs on the West Coast.

If the Midwest leg was familiar procedure, the West Coast wasn’t. The first several days consisted entirely of super-short showcase performances, flights, and hors d’oeuvres. Thursday of that week was particularly grueling: we woke up at 6 AM in San Jose, CA to drive to the San Francisco airport in two rented vehicles, flew to Seattle, played three songs, did some elbow-rubbing, and then drove from Seattle to Portland in two other, different rented vehicles. That’s business. Friday in Portland was a bit of a long one, too. In the afternoon, we played a fun, intimate set in the Bing Lounge for a fantastic local radio station called KINK, and then at night it was over to Dante’s, a stylish venue nestled between two strip clubs and a homeless shelter and dripping with punk rock credibility, to play a show that we had booked on less than a week’s notice.

Portland was fun.

Saturday morning we flew home. Thursday evening we flew back to Chicago. We retrieved our vehicle (kind thanks to the Rogers clan for garaging it for us, and double that to Aunt Chrissy for washing all of our van-pillowcases), drove a few hours, got a few hours of sleep, and then it was time for Electric Forest. If you clicked that link, you’ll notice that it wasn’t a link to the festival’s website, but rather to a Google image search. That’s because Electric Forest really needs to be seen to be believed. The tall trees, the costumes, the lights, the art installations… It’s a sensory circus. So often we have to treat festivals like surgical strikes; in, out, and on to the next one. It was a welcome change that we had enough time to (NOTE TO SELF: whatever you do, don’t say “get lost in the forest”) um, lose our bearings . . . in an . . . arboreal . . . region. (Nice.)

The tour ended with a riverside amphitheater set in Peoria, IL. We had never been to Peoria, IL before. We did not know what to expect from Peoria, IL. Peoria, IL was one of the most fresh and frenzied crowds we have ever had the pleasure of entertaining. It was really one of those unexpectedly serendipitous shows where everything just feels great. Overall, the audience was younger than usual, and after the show I got to talk to a lot of early-teenagers who were just picking up the saxophone for school band or what have you, which is something I both enjoy doing and rarely get to do. (Usually I’ll have someone around my age come up to me after a show and tell me how they quit playing the saxophone after high school, which kind of bums me out.) But anyway. The show was a fun, sweaty mess on the banks of a river at sundown. It was a great end to the tour, and it left a good taste in everyone’s mouths heading into the break.

See you in August.

The Weight

June 2nd, 2014

Today is pretty much the opposite of yesterday.

Everywhere you look, it’s uniformed Marines as far as the eye can see. Well, that and sand. We are in a desert, after all. But back to the Marines. This story is about them.

They carry their rifles with them at all times. Apparently it’s part of their training. They have to get used to the weight of it; lugging around a big deadly piece of metal everywhere they go. They just refer to their guns as “weight.” None of the guns are loaded, but just in case, they have these barrels full of something-or-other set up by the entrances to every building on base, and they have to point their guns into the barrels and make sure the chamber is clear before they can enter the commissary, or the cafeteria. They hold their guns while standing in line to order chicken fingers. Four of them lay their guns across their laps and spread a deck of cards out on a square table. I see one man with a real gun slung over his back pointing a fake gun at an arcade machine.

Most of them don’t even put their guns down to watch us play.  Talk about intimidating.

The Marines of Camp Pendleton are gracious hosts, but nevertheless, a civilian (especially a band-civilian wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt and a five o’clock shadow) can’t help feeling like a bit of an outsider on a military base. Maybe that’s not the right way to put it. Being in the presence of all of these men and women, many of whom are practically kids, who have signed up for something far greater and perhaps far more terrible than most of us will ever know can make one feel insufficient.

And some of them are so young. And some of them aren’t. We talked to a few guys who were around 19 and about to head to Afghanistan, and some guys who had been in the corps for seven years and had been to exotic places, like Spain, or Jacksonville, NC. We talked to medics, and specialists, and guys who launch missiles the size of telephone poles off the back of a truck.

They admire us for what we are free to pursue, and we admire them for what they have sacrificed. Not just the wounded, not just the dead, but all of them.  Every kid trudging through some unforgiving landscape with a rifle on their back gave up comfort and safety and autonomy so that the rest of us don’t have to. And the damnedest thing is, most of them don’t really seem to think about it that much.

They just get used to the weight.

 

Hello, friends! Rob here.

On May 18th The Revivalists played a show at Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton in Joshua Tree, CA.  A day or two after that I wrote the preceding, and it was edited and turned into a semi-coherent series of words this afternoon. The whole experience was a bit of much-needed culture shock for us, especially considering that it was the day after the Joshua Tree Music Festival. The only thing those two shows had in common was that both of them were behind gates in the desert.

I think I really like deserts.

In a city, or in a suburb, or on a beach, or in a college town, or even in the mountains, there’s a sense of dominion. Like people own this land.  Like people even can own this land. I don’t feel that way in the desert. We spent Joshua Tree weekend staying at a Days Inn next to a Sizzler and a Dollar General, but somehow it felt, to me at least, that out there it was up to the wild to dictate the terms of our relationship. The town’s borders are drawn not by bureaucrats but by rock formations. Rodents scurry across residential avenues in broad daylight and seek shelter in burrows at the roots of resilient local flora. At any moment the warm, soft wind can kick up dust and make you close your eyes.

Under the sprawling night sky there’s a sense of emptiness and isolation that’s eerie yet strangely comforting. It makes sense why, for centuries, humans have looked to the desert as a place of cleansing, healing, and spiritual exploration. It’s the perfect place to leave things behind.

Anyway, the last few weeks of touring have been awesome, and also kind of nuts. Two nights ago we were at the inaugural Blackstock Music Festival in Blackstock, SC. The weekend before that was Memorial Day weekend, which we spent in Lake Tahoe and Northern California. California, by the way, is not very close to South Carolina. I’m kind of not sure how we pulled that one off. I think we rode in the van a lot, and then also maybe a little bit in this weird special van that can drive on the sky?

Naturally, all of the shows were transcendent, life-changing experiences. California is really a wonderful place. L.A., San Diego (with Nahko & Medicine for the People, who are amazing!) and San Francisco were all slammed, and there were surprising and heartwarming contingents of diehards at some of the smaller shows in places we haven’t visited as much like Sacramento and Santa Barbara. And on the other side of the country, Blackstock was great. Beautiful location, top-notch production and hospitality, wonderful people, extremely sweaty weather… What more could a band-guy ask for in a festival?

Okay, this is getting a little long as it is, so I’m just going to kind of unceremoniously wrap things up with a quick shout out: When we arrived at Joshua Tree, this band was playing, and they were just incredible. Really creative, tight, funky music that was equal parts accessible and “out there,” technical and dance-to-able. (Dances are “danceable,” songs are “dance-to-able.” Look it up.) That band is called Scott Pemberton Trio and we all like their music a lot.

Blog over.

Turns Out #grandmabetty Is Already A Thing

May 8th, 2014

Hello, friends!  Rob here.

Well, that’s another New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in the bag, and it was another one for the ages.  Three full shows in two days, plus a litany of side shows, sit-ins, late nights, early calls, dashing from one thing to the next, eating and sleeping sparingly and as permitted by schedule…  By now the whole routine is quite familiar, but that doesn’t make Jazzfest any less exciting.  So many people come to visit, so many musicians cross boundaries, there’s an atmosphere in the town that keeps you going long after the coffee and the alcohol and the adrenaline have worn off.

I always thought it was a cruel joke for Tulane to schedule finals on the same week.

With so many memorable events this year, it’s both hard and easy for me to pick a personal favorite.  I got to kick off my entire weekend at Fiya Fest by performing “Masquerade” with a beefed-up sit-in horn section featuring Khris Royal, Carly Meyers and Jen Hartswick.  The last note I played all weekend must have been sometime around 5:30 in the morning on Sunday, when I dropped in on The Mike Dillon Band’s raucous late-late-late-night Saturday set at the Howlin’ Wolf (also alongside Carly Meyers, I am just realizing).  In between those bookends we had both a stellar set at the ‘Fest itself and a late-night (as opposed to late-late-late night) show at the newly-ish reopened Joy Theater, the latter of which featured sit-ins from members of The Motet, a juggling duel (yes, that is correct) between Zack and their trumpetist, Gabe Mervine, and a surprise (even to us, I confess) guest appearance by Warren Haynes.  Dave played an awesome riverboat superjam on Friday, Ed got to trade licks with Sonny Landreth at the Gov’t Mule show before jetting off to his own gig Friday night, and probably other cool things happened that I either lost in the shuffle or missed entirely.

So that’s why it’s hard to pick a single greatest moment from our Jazzfest weekend.  But here’s why it’s actually easy:

Feel the love.
(Photo Credit: Zack Smith/New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival)

That’s David onstage at Jazzfest singing “Happy Birthday” to his biggest fan: his ninety-year-old grandmother, Betty.  What you can’t see in the picture is a crowd of several thousand people singing along.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

You Can’t Be Too Drunk for Country Music!

April 21st, 2014

Hello, friends! Rob here.

It has been, I don’t know, probably three or four years since we really started touring in the southeastern United States. Which means it has been, I don’t know, probably three or four years since we started hearing that we should link up with this band out of Nashville called Moon Taxi. We had never heard of them before, and then all of a sudden, like the flipping of a switch, there were traces of Moon Taxi everywhere. Stickers in green rooms. Posters on venue windows. They were here last night and it was phenomenal. They’re coming here tomorrow, do you know those guys?

The thing is, we didn’t know those guys. Eventually, we did a few one-off shows with them separated by a few years, but for a very long time it was like Moon Taxi was this extradimensional being existing tangentially to our reality and only leaving the occasional trail or trace. They were myth. Fable. The unicorn at the end of the rainbow. And all the time people were telling us we needed to go on tour with this unicorn.

I know that the term “tour de force” isn’t meant to refer to a literal tour, but the Moon Taxi tour has been an absolute tour de force. A tour of force. Whatever. It was awesome. Lots of awesome. Bucket-loads of awesome. It was such a parade of awesome that today, now that it’s over, it feels like the whole tour is over, even though we have another week to go.

Of course, this tour has also been a bit of a meat grinder. Although the Moon Taxi shows began at Auburn and Baton Rouge, we didn’t start being for real gone until the April 10th show at The Lyric in Oxford. After that, it was a long (looooooooong) drive to Tortuga Music Festival in Ft. Lauderdale. We took a day off and had passover seder at Zack’s mom’s house, drove all day to Charleston, played a show, and woke up before the sun to fly to the show in Philadelphia.

And then it got real.

We capped off the Moon Taxi tour with Thursday and Friday at Brooklyn Bowl and Saturday at the 9:30 Club in DC. We’ve been to Brooklyn Bowl a few times before, but the 9:30 Club, like Moon Taxi, is another one of those cryptozoological tour myths. For years, people in the DC area have been asking us why we weren’t playing the 9:30 Club (the answer was that we didn’t have enough fans yet). So, as with Moon Taxi or the Sasquatch, we had kind of built up this sense of anticipation and wonder about the place.

Anyway, we sold out the shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Obviously, this is an incredible accomplishment and we are just absolutely floored at the love and support and friendship we have been receiving these last few days. Which isn’t to say that we haven’t seen all of those things in truly humbling quantities over the years, but this was a bit of a crystallizing moment. To come into The Place To Play in a big city and sell it out the first time we play there was just amazing. We’re all still kind of floating from that one. A few weeks ago, I compared a Revivalists/Moon Taxi collaboration to a classic superhero team-up, and I stand by that.

It was Batman and Superman.  Sasquatch riding a unicorn.

Also, along the way we kept picking up more and more people. Since last summer we have been touring with a company of eight: the seven handsome gentlemen you see onstage, plus a sound engineer/tour manager/facilitator/cool bro. We added a lighting director(/cool bro) for the week, which is something we’ve been talking about trying for quite some time now. In Philadelphia we were joined by a lifelong friend of Dave’s who has accompanied us on the road on a few previous occasions. Some of the girlfriends (and one wife! I swear I’m more excited about that than they are) flew in for the Brooklyn shows as well. When we drove from Brooklyn to DC, there were a total of thirteen people in the van.  Today we’re back down to eight.

Also, we didn’t drive from Brooklyn to DC. After the second show at Brooklyn Bowl, we drove three or four hours to Towson, MD (which is a town in Maryland and not the title of a medical soap opera) and caught three or four hours of sleep in a labyrinthine Days Inn so that we could be at Sound Garden Records at ten in the morning to play a few songs for Record Store Day.

So between the resounding success of the weekend, the intensity of our commutes, and the steep reduction of population density inside our touring vehicle, today has the feeling of an ending. Fortunately, it is not even a little bit of an ending. In fact, we’re about to play Boston (another one of those mythical creatures) for the first and second time(s)! So one could argue that this is just another beginning.

The end.

Of Wisconsin and Wedding Hashtags

April 1st, 2014

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:

The Things That Started Happening

February 21st, 2014

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!

…And the Flash Was Blinding

January 25th, 2014

Hello, friends! Rob here.

Welp.

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!