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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!

I Think The Hotel Is Moving!

January 15th, 2014

Hello, friends! Rob here.

It’s time. We’ve got the rest of January off. Well, “off.” This week we’ll be firming up some abstract musical concepts. Next week, the time will have finally has come. Ignore the grammar. Focus on this: Next week, The Revivalists are heading back into the studio.

Boom.

It took me about two days, but I’ve finally recovered from Phantom Boat Syndrome, which is a term I’m pretty sure I made up for the intermittent sensations of rocking back and forth that one experiences on dry land after spending an extended period of time on a seafaring vessel. In about that same amount of time I have satisfactorily developed the reflex of responding to all questions about JamCruise with “wait, I was on a cruise?”

It really is kind of a blur. Music lasts from early in the morning until very early in the morning. Rumored mealtimes are ignored in favor of a round-the-clock buffet. Day becomes night becomes meaningless, and sleep turns from a necessity to a necessary evil that worms its way into the gaps between activities.

And speaking of activities, it’s astounding how much more there is to JamCruise than music. There’s an incredibly open and supportive community. There are friendly neighbors, interactive door decorations (including a few shoe organizers filled with halloween candy or fortune cookies), and a whole community of regulars who seem to know each other like family. There’s yoga, an awesome gym (why can’t every treadmill face a floor-to-ceiling window at the front of a massive boat speeding through the Caribbean? Is that really too much to ask?), a spa, and even a sports bar. As of this posting, the Saints’ season has come to a premature and tragic end (having weather in your stadium is cheating!), but the spirit was alive and well on the boat. Watching the Saints’ nail-biting victory in Philadelphia with a crew of what must have been about forty Saints fans (half musicians, mind you) huddled around a booth television in the sports bar was an early highlight of the cruise.

And then you have the port days. I think there are usually two, but there was only one this year. Our second, an island excursion in the Bahamas, was cancelled because the conditions were too dangerous for us to take tender boats (whatever those are) from the ship to the docks on the island. But my girlfriend and I still got to spend an overcast afternoon walking the streets of Falmouth, Jamaica. For the first few blocks out of the port (and before you even get out of the port they try to trick you into staying there and buying diamonds), it was just rows upon rows of highly motivated shakedown artists tempting us with offers of braided hair and whatever “ganja” is. After a minute or so of avoiding eye contact and muttering “no thank you,” we were relieved to find ourselves in a peaceful residential area, quiet but for the chatter of schoolchildren walking home in groups. It was a nice break from the hurly-burly onboard.

Oh, also: if you ever go to Jamaica, try the oxtail.

Of course, the cornerstone of the whole experience is music. Not just music. Not just great music. Not just sixteen-hour days of music. What makes JamCruise so special is the way the environment fosters sit-ins, crossovers, and mash-ups of all kinds. The artists are a lot like the passengers in this regard; for a musician JamCruise is a great opportunity to get together with old friends and to make a few new ones. And it makes for absolute magic: giant horn sections, three-bassist breakdowns, Djs sharing the stage with jazz guitarists…

The paper lineup looked promising going in, but the best parts of JamCruise often appear to be the least planned. For example, the beach day in the Bahamas was slated to feature an acoustic show from Warren Haynes on the island, but when it was canceled due to dangerous water, they just put Warren on a sea plane and flew him to the boat. No kidding. The large stages and extensive backline on the MSC Divina allowed for more sit-ins than would have been possible on the island, and for a plan B, the show turned out to be quite memorable. The whole week is like a string of instant memories.

It should go without saying that The Revivalists had a good time. We had two sets of our own, each of which had its own distinct appeal, and we got to learn a few new songs in preparation for Alan Evans‘ movie-themed superjam. We were also fortunate enough to entertain a bunch of special guests. Our sincerest thanks and warmest friendship goes out to Mike Dillon, Carly Myers, Billy Iuso, Roosevelt Collier, Eric Krasno, and Maggie Koerner for making our shows extra special. George Porter Jr. sat in with us as well, but he gets his own sentence because the man is a freaking legend.

That was pretty much the week. Just a whirlwind of fun, work, fun work, Magic Hat beers, banana drinks, and of course, friendship. And just like that it was over, and a few thousand worn-out passengers spilled through customs and out into the taxi line at the Port of Miami. We had a post-cruise show in Boca Raton with our new band-friends, Monophonics, and then we got up kind of early the next morning and drove back to New Orleans.

The rest of the month will be studio preparation, followed immediately by studio. We’ll have a few days off after recording, and then we’ll get back to being on tour forever. And that’s all I have to say about that, so bye.

2013: A Year in Review

January 2nd, 2014

Hello, friends! Rob here.

Happy New Year! Thanks to everyone who came to see us at The Civic Theatre Tuesday night. It was a really special evening filled with joy and magic and friendship and confetti cannons (so awesome). Sorry if you got sprayed with champagne. Special thinks to our dear friends in Dirtfoot and Cardinal Sons for being fun bands and handsome gentlemen and for making good noises.

Well, it certainly has been a while. In attempting to explain my unexpected hiatus as Official Band Historian, I can’t really point to any one thing. Perhaps it was related to my falling desperately ill during the longest tour of the year and slipping into a crevasse made out of whatever the opposite of motivation is. Perhaps, after a few years of fairly consistent production, I simply came down with a case of what professional athletes refer to as “the yips,” and just decided to take a break after months of staring at screens unproductively. Perhaps I was simply too distracted by what an amazing year 2013 was.

Yeah, let’s go with that one.

Whatever the case, 2014 is upon us and, appropriately enough, it begins not only on a Wednesday but a Wednesday when I, like most Americans, have nothing better to do than spend fourteen hours sitting on a laptop in my pajamas. (Yeah, yeah, I know I’m posting this on Thursday. Shut up.) It’s time to get back to writing words about things that band guys have been doing! I think I left off sometime around the end of a massive summer, when we were heading home and heading towards some downtime. Vacation. R&R. Non-touring days.

Girlfriend Reconciliation Interval.

Longer periods of GRI have been a very positive trend this year. As we develop our working relationship with our wonderful representatives at Madison House and Hard Head, the machine becomes increasingly well-oiled, and we are able to tour much more effectively, which means that instead of being gone every Thursday-Sunday from 2010 to halfway through 2012, we are out for 2-5 weeks, and then home for 1-2 weeks. Whole weekends in town. That’s not just shore leave; that’s real people time. That’s enough time to justify buying groceries.

Seriously, one thing they’ll never tell you about being a band guy is that it’s impossible to keep a refrigerator stocked. Why buy anything perishable when you’re ever home for four days at a time? Depending on your tour schedule, it might actually be more economical to order a drink at a bar while waiting for the grilled cheese truck to show up than it would be to buy a loaf of bread and a pack of Kraft singles.

To say nothing of vegetables.

Back on track, though. Honestly, it would be difficult to just pick up where we left off and try to tell the story of Everything That Has Happened Since Then, and I doubt that either of us really has the time or the inclination for that. So instead, I thought it would be appropriate (read: expedient) to rattle off the highlights, lowlights, and downright crazy-lights of 2013.

New York Festival Marathon, June 7-9: This weekend was the epitome of summer touring. Four shows, three days, two festivals, one afterparty. It started with a post-Governor’s Ball throwdown at the Bowery Ballroom, after which we had to hightail it overnight to Hunter Mountain so we could play an early set on the outdoor stage at Mountain Jam, and then an indoor set at night (which goes down as a serious contender for best show of the year), after which we had to drive back to the city (also overnight) so we could play an early set at Governor’s Ball some thirty hours after playing a Governor’s Ball afterparty. Our tour schedule tapered off a bit after the summer, but that kind of sleepless dash-rock-rest was the essence of this year’s touring. Well, that and car trouble…

National Sigafoose Remembrance Day: Sometimes, the only explanation for the way a day has gone is that higher powers are testing your resolve. September 20, 2013 is a day that will live in infamy. The day that a not-at-fault, low-speed automobile accident and a subsequent series of rippling problems nearly doubled our travel time from Auburn to Lafayette and put us in serious jeopardy of missing a show. We pulled out a win in the end, but we were bereft of our shiny new vehicle for over a month. Also, “to Sigafoose” something now means to cause damage by hitting it with a trailer accidentally.

Free Outdoor Summer Concert Series-es: It is unreal how many of these things we played in 2013. And while they all had their own flavor, the same key elements were always there: Stage in a park, blankets, lawn chairs, families, vendors. An introduction from a prominent local figure. From May to July, we probably played about one of these per week. Sometimes we would do them back-to-back. It’s okay because they’re fun.

HOLY SHIT WE SIGNED A RECORD DEAL: This one may not be self-explanatory, but any attempt to elaborate on our signing a deal with Wind-Up Records would basically boil down to “we spent a while hemming and hawing and negotiating and then pulled the trigger on what may be the biggest decision of any of our lives.” Actually, that’s pretty much all there is to say about the whole process. Why can’t all writing be this easy?

The Best of All Festivals: Bonnaroo is the eminent and quintessential music festival. It’s a hot, sprawling machine. Amazing lineup, superb hospitality, positive vibes all around. When it’s over, everyone goes home and tells the internet that last year was better. In typical Revivalists fashion, we had two sets and an interview/performance in two days, which did nothing to deter us from sampling the buffet of awesome that was Bonnaroo 2013. The shows, the people, the late-night scene… Not to mention the sheer milestone factor of playing the ‘Roo.

MAPLE SYRUP HOCKEY HOSERS, EH?: Speaking of milestones, our first international show took place on September 14 at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. I’ve touched on how wonderful the weekend was in a previous entry, so I’ll just leave it at this: Our neighbor to the north may seem polite and tidy, but they can throw a hell of a party.

Georgia Theatre, 10-18-2013 – The Lost Show: As part of our deal with Wind-Up, we will be re-releasing City of Sound packaged with, finally, an industry-grade live disc the likes of which some of you have been clamoring for for years. How do you make a live disc? Simply put, you record everything, and you use the good stuff. Sometimes that means mixing and matching, taking this song from this show and that song from that show so you’ve got good performances of all the songs you want to release. Other times, a single show is so close to perfection that the moment you get off stage everyone kind of looks at each other and just goes, “yeah, that was the one.”

This was the one.

It was one of our best shows ever. Great energy, inspired performances, and few or negligible mistakes front to back. The crowd was nothing short of electric, and we had some amazing moments interacting with them, including a goosebumpy “Soulfight” during which we could barely hear ourselves over the audience singing along. And we got it all on- oh, the recording software crashed like half an hour into the set? Alas.

The Revivalists Pay Homage to One of the Greatest Bands of All Time by Making a Room Full of People Feel Slightly Uncomfortable: Also we played some of their songs I guess. At any rate, this year made it official: We’ve got a full-blown tradition on our hands. After we had so much fun pretending to be a bunch of Michael Jacksons last Halloween, we kicked a few ideas around the old van (“Hall and Oates and Hall and Oates and Hall and Oates and Oates” was a close runner-up), and decided that for Halloween we would pay tribute to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, both in song and dress. It was an interesting challenge to focus our sound and condense our instrumentation in order to fit the Chili Peppers’ raw arrangements, and the whole thing culminated in a very enjoyable evening. Also, Dave spent weeks trying to convince me to do the sock thing with him, and I was very seriously considering it until the second he walked out for the encore, at which point I was really glad I was wearing pants.

Okay, it was a Flea-style skeleton bodysuit, but still.

Jazzfest JAMboree! OR: We’ve been JAMbushed! OR: Somebody call the JAMbulance! OR: ABC’s critically-acclaimed comedy comedy series “Modern JAMily!” OR: Last summer when I was backpacking across Europe I spent a week in JAMsterdam! OR: I can write with both hands because I’m JAMbidextrous! OR: Moral JAMbiguity: We’re still at the Howlin’ Wolf for this one, but turn the clocks back about seven months. After a rewarding week on tour keeping pace with Gov’t Mule (following a bus band in a van is no lean feat), we staggered home with a day to rest before a very busy New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. True to form, we had four shows in two days, with a lot of running around, a lot of late nights and early load-ins. You’d think we would have been ragged by the end of it (hell, I thought so), but I guess all that bus band-touring-with paid off in terms of stamina, because the late-night Saturday JAMalgamation at the Howlin’ Wolf to cap off the whole thing was one of our absolute best (if you’re getting tired of hearing me say things like “this show was one of our absolute best,” then you probably shouldn’t be reading a list of highlights from the previous year).

We had had some cool sit-ins before this point, but the Jazzfest JAMaretto Sour was more like a revolving door of very special guests. It was the first time we’ve managed to assemble such a menagerie of stellar musicians. It felt like a hard-earned, long-awaited, and much-appreciated nod from a community of musicians that we have revered for years, to say nothing of how fun the evening was. It was loose and off-the-cuff, but we never really lost control of the scene. You know you’re having a good time if that moment when you look around and say, “hey guys, it’s 5 AM, maybe we should call it a night” happens while you’re still onstage.

That, my friends, is JAMbition.

So… Do you guys want to go to India?” If anyone ever asks you this question, the answer is always “yes.” Doesn’t matter who’s asking, doesn’t matter in what capacity they want you to go. Go to India. It’s magical. There’s an intangible sense of openness, of welcome, in India that touches you almost immediately. Our time in Bangalore was the most eye-opening and densely inspirational 96 hours I have ever experienced. We barely had time for any Real India Stuff, but even riding around a car and looking at everything was an enriching experience. It’s unfathomable how different life is over there, and how similar people are everywhere. Same planet, different worlds. I have a half-written India story that kind of got buried in my late-year slump, but I’m still too intent on digging it out to later to start over from scratch and recount the whole trip now.

High Sierra Music Festival: In three days we played two full shows and one stripped-down acoustic webcast set in a sweltering van, and I heard that it was all really great, but I spent the whole time delirious with a fever so don’t ask me for details.

The Mountain Marathon, OR: “Travel Logistics Nightmare” Sounds Like The Name of a Jam Band: Mountains, festivals, overnight drives. New horizons, automotive issues, free outdoor summer concert series-es. A few tough van calls followed by a rewarding mid-tour breather. This was everything that made 2014 special rolled into one grueling five-day stretch. After a few weeks of van trouble and two overnight pit stops in two deteriorating gold mining towns, we finally abandoned our old 15-passenger Chevy Express (literally abandoned. Like, left in the parking lot of a hiking trail) on the way to a show in Vail. Two days later, we left Snowmass in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. I’m getting a headache just trying to remember the logistics involved in getting ten-ish people (we had a few girlfriends touring with us at the time) and a few thousand pounds of music stuff halfway up a mountain without a proper band-mobile, so I’m just going to tell you that we paid a guy $200 just to tow our trailer from Vail to Snowmass and hopefully not steal all of our stuff.

Don’t worry, he didn’t.

We muddied up our spanking-new vehicle driving through the enchanted forest on the way to a two-story switchback staircase of a load-in in Crested Butte. We woke up in a hostel at seven o’clock the next morning and showered next to a bunch of European backpackers. We made it to Telluride by the skin of our teeth. We successfully navigated technical issues during a killer set at Ride Festival. And then we had ourselves a party. It was tough, but we powered through and we were rewarded with a day off in a beautiful mountain town and an easy show the next night at the local opera house.

To me, that was 2013. It was all about working through challenges and making everything bigger and better. It was stay-up, step-up, and hurry-up. It was a climb, and the view from the top was breathtaking.

…And it was this:

Welp, that was pretty cool.

Bring it on, 2014.

Running Wild

October 11th, 2013

Hello, friends!  Rob here.

It’s break again!  You know, for not actually being on real, uninterrupted tour these last two weeks, it sure feels like we’ve earned a bit of a break.  Both weekends were pretty intense no-time-for-sleep-just-get-to-the-next-thing kind of weekends.  When I last wrote, it was a Thursday, and The Revivalists were headed to Tuscaloosa for our last show with the sensational Tumbleweed Wanderers.  We had a great time in ol’ Tuscaloo, bade farewell to our new friends over some late-night Jimmy John’s, and got right back into the cycle.

The next night was a fraternity party in Athens, GA.  I’m not certain what the theme of the party was, but based on casual observation I can only assume it was “really drunk girl.”  After the show in Athens, we drove to Atlanta so that George would be able to fly out early the next morning for a wedding in Connecticut.

“But wait,” you say.  “Didn’t you guys do Saturday and Sunday nights in Destin?  How do you play music shows without George?  Aren’t bass players kind of important in contemporary music?”

The answer to all of those questions, including the one that wasn’t a yes or no question, is yes.  You see, we knew well in advance that we would be down a man for a few weekends in October, but the inaugural Global Fish Aid was a joint Fiyawerx/Gulf Coast Original Music Productions venture.  That’s like a gravitational singularity of awesome, and we just couldn’t pass it up.  So we enlisted New Orleans heavyweights Eric Vogel (bass) and Khris Royal (saxophone) and turned the weekend’s shows into more open, off-the-cuff, jam-type experiences.  And boy howdy was it fun.  It’s always good to play with new people. And it’s double-always-good when they are absolute beasts.

SIDEBAR: I think there’s a new thing going on, almost exclusively among SEC sorority members, where girls will wear a really big t-shirt with not-particularly-long shorts, and that’s their going out outfit.  Is this new?  Where did this come from?  Can I blame Miley Cyrus?  I would say I feel like my parents right now, except my parents are cool.

We returned home on Monday of last week, took Tuesday to catch our collective breath, and then started the lengthy drive to Dallas on Wednesday evening so we wouldn’t be exhausted for our show at Prophet Bar on Thursday night.  Oh, wait, that’s not what happened.  What actually happened was that we got a call on Wednesday because Dallas’ local morning show, Good Day Dallas, had had a cancellation and hey guys can you be at the FOX affiliate station in downtown Dallas at seven o’clock tomorrow morning okay great thanks see you there:

Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

That’s us running on about three hours of sleep and being thoroughly out-chippered by the trained professionals at KDFW.  Fortunately, we booked two nights in the same hotel in Dallas, so we were able to get the remainder of a full night’s sleep after filming the morning show and rock Dallas super hard Thursday night.  It was a bit of an early morning on Friday to get to Canyon, TX in time for load in at West Texas A&M University.  We had the unusual privilege of performing in the WTAMU Buffaloes’ basketball arena as part of some kind of homecoming pep rally.  It was a pretty early show and a relatively quick in & out (dry counties tend to have that effect on bands), which was good because we had about nine hours of driving to get to Austin.

Austin is the best.  We teamed up once again with our old friends/selves from a parallel universe, Moon Taxi, to bring a magical aura of fun rockin’ music to The Parish in Austin.  Austin is a great environment and it felt really good to pack a house full of wonderful people.  Plus, Moon Taxi is awesome.

So that was our weekend.  It was mostly long drives and in a weird way it kind of flew by.  Last Friday or so the band did that thing bands do sometimes where one guy gets a cold and then everybody gets a cold, so over the course of this entry picture us all cycling through various stages of illness.

Hey, Pensacola! (More like Friendsacola, am I right?)  I would be remiss if I failed to inform you that while The Revivalists are on vacation, our very own Ed Williams and Michael “Mike” Girardot are heading your way tonight!  Ed’s gospel-funk side project, RumpelSTEELskin (best name of anything ever) will be opening for the New Orleans Suspects tonight at Vinyl, and you should go to it!  What’s that, New Orleans?  Feeling left out?  Well, guess what?  Tomorrow they’ll be at Gasa Gasa!  Go watch Ed & Mike do stuff!  Yay!

Let’s Cook

September 26th, 2013

Hello, friends! Rob here.

Well, it’s been a little while. I take full responsibility for the gap in communications. I’ve been having a bit of trouble stringing together complete sentences lately (don’t worry, I didn’t have a stroke or anything) and I think I got a little too caught up in the vacation mindset as we took most of August off.  But now we’re back on!

The Revivalists have officially made our international debut! A few weekends ago, we traversed over ninety kilometers of the Trans-Canada Highway and racked up obscene roaming data charges to bring our particular brand of wholesome family rock and/or roll to the lovely people of Fredericton, New Brunswick during the 23rd annual Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival.

I’m proud to report that all of the stereotypes about Canadians are true, which is to say that they’re exceedingly polite and hospitable and they are completely unfazed by bad weather. Our semi-official host, HJBF music programmer Brent Staeben showed us all a wonderful time and personally I can’t help but feel as though Fredericton is a good place.

Other than breaking our personal record for northernmost show (and then breaking it again), the rest of our recent September tour was fairly standard. We’ve hit some new places, some familiar places, a few of those outdoor-summer-concert-series things of which I am unshakably fond…

Dave’s family came to Atlanta while we were playing one such outdoor-etc in nearby Roswell, Georgia, and he jumped out of the van to stay with his family while we had a few days off. Naturally, we took this as an opportunity to mess with him. You see, our exciting new chariot, Sprinterfell, runs on diesel fuel. And definitely NOT biodiesel. David has owned quite a few clunkers in his day (including Vandalf, The Revivalists’ first touring vehicle), and as a result he has borne witness to a litany of automotive catastrophes even without including anything band-related. When it comes to cars, he can be a little shell-shocked.

So we did what any good friends would do. We led him to believe, through a series of band group text messages, that we had accidentally filled the tank with biodiesel and that we needed to either repair or replace the engine, which would cost us well upwards of ten thousand dollars. Zack even managed to enlist a third party to play the part of a surly mechanic during a phone call shortly before revealing the ruse:

For those of you unsure, unaware, or unconcerned, that is legendary luthier Paul Reed Smith. Zack has been playing a PRS amplifier for a little while now, and so he took advantage of a day off in the DC area and paid Paul’s headquarters a visit. At some point he mentioned the prank, and Mr. Reed Smith was apparently all to eager to participate, gleefully cursing into the phone while telling Dave our vehicle needed “a whole new back end.”

We’re bad people.

And then there was last weekend. I know I’ve used terms like “marathon” and “endurance trial” in the past, but last Thursday-through-Sunday was a very strong contender for the most physically and emotionally taxing weekend in band history.

The Thursday show in Auburn wasn’t tough in and of itself, but it’s part of the equation because it took place about eight hours’ driving time from our next show in Lafayette. We were originally expected to arrive at 4 PM on Friday, but we negotiated to 5:30 so that we would actually be able to (sort-of) get any sleep Thursday night.

We still didn’t sleep very much. Sometimes, believe it or not, it is difficult to keep seven band-guys on task immediately after playing a show, especially when the task in question is one so patently unappetizing as load out. We left Auburn at 10 in the morning, running on about five hours of sleep.

In retrospect, we should have seen it coming.

It was an ominous day on I-65 S. The bright, wet heat of the day brought out about a trillion little black, flying bugs to mate. It was apocalyptic. Not for us, so much. But future generations of whatever species of insect that was will learn about that day in history class. We were popping so many of them on the windshield that, from inside the van, it sounded like it was raining. I was going to take a picture of the front of the automobile and post it on social networks.

It was a strange, sweltering day, but spirits were high. We were making good time. And then, speaking of reasons to take a picture of the front of an automobile:

Details obscured to protect the identity of the jackass who hit us.

That happened. We were parked next to the guy in the picture and he pulled around in front of us too tightly and clipped our front bumper clean off. Eleven days after Paul Reed Smith, posing as a mechanic for a practical joke, told Dave that our vehicle needed “a whole new back end,” we found ourselves unexpectedly in need of a whole new front end.

“Karma” isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind.

We exchanged information and stuff, but we were eager to get back on the road and the damage looked to be purely cosmetic, so we pulled back onto the interstate without doing much in the way of diagnostics. The damage was not purely cosmetic. As of today, we still don’t know the fullness of what’s messed up under the hood, but the alignment is shot (like, if you want to drive straight you have to turn the steering wheel about ninety degrees clockwise form where it should be) and we ended up having to tape down some parts of the wheel well that were scraping up against the tires. We hobbled our way to New Orleans.

We were originally going to blow past our beautiful home on the I-12 bypass, but because Sprinterfell was feeling more unsafe by the minute, we had to stop in town and change vehicles. After two weeks on the road, it was a bit painful to spend a thirty-minute layover in New Orleans waiting in the parking lot of a U-Haul store, but we needed to do a bit of hitch-shuffling to get our old vehicle (to which we fortunately still have access) in proper towing shape.

Certainly nothing more could have gone wrong, right? After all of that? Friday was done being terrible and we were only a few hours late. Home stretch, guys. Let’s roll. Wait, we need to stop for gas. Wait, the keys are locked in the van.

The only set of keys.

Locked.

In.

The van.

I’m almost-but-not-quite stupid enough to write a detailed report of how to break into a vehicle that I own and post it on the internet, but suffice it to say that there was a bit of MacGuyvering involved, and that The Revivalists were definitely not meant to be car thieves.

Certainly nothing more more could have gone wronger, right? After all of that? Friday was done being terrible-er and we were only a few hours more late. The rest of the drive actually managed to pass without incident, and we arrived in Lafayette well after we were supposed to, but with enough time to set up our instruments on the side of the stage, stretch our legs, and catch our breath before a hurry-up sound check. It was our first show in the state of Louisiana since early June, and it was a complete riot.

And that’s the story of the worst day of banding ever. The show technically started after midnight, so literally nothing good happened on Friday, September 20th, 2013. Sorry if it was your birthday or something. Your birthday sucked. The end.

Just kidding. It never ends. That was only two days out of four, and two engagements out of five. Saturday could not have possibly been a better welcome-home present. Sincerest gratitude is due to everyone who came out and helped actually sell out Tipitina’s. This was a major milestone, and, coming off of a pretty grueling Friday, one hell of a bounce-back. I’m sure Saturday will go down in the annals of band history as one of the best times ever. That is, assuming we ever amass enough history to necessitate annals.

Just what the hell is an annal, anyway?

We had to curtail the post-game celebrations on Saturday (but we didn’t) because we had a very long Sunday. Sunday was a challenging double-header, but now that it’s over I can look back and say that it was a great way to cap off the tour. We started by hosting a Tipitina’s workshop, which was cool because we were able to just leave our gear onstage after the show on Saturday. It was very rewarding to have a chance to engage the next generation of musicians, and these workshops hold a special significance to The Revivalists, because Zack and Andrew met at one of them many years ago.

And then it was back in the van.

One quick load out, one quick drive, one extremely slow truck stop Subway franchise . . . one quick load in, one quick sound check, and just like that we were ready for the last show of the last weekend of the last tour of the first part of the month. It was loud and hot under the low roof at Happy Harbor, and it didn’t take long to get the foundations shaking.

And just like that, it was over. And just like that, it’s on again. We’re headed to Tuscaloosa tonight.

Tonight is our last night playing with a wonderful band out of Oakland called The Tumbleweed Wanderers, and I urge you very strongly to listen to all of their harmonious musical offerings. They’ve been a great group of guys with whom to share stages and green rooms, and we’ve become completely enamored with them over the course of ten-or-so shows.

The end.

Just kidding. It never ends.

The Mountain Part, OR: “Jen Hartswick, This Is Your Life!”

July 22nd, 2013

Hello, friends! Rob here.

It is official. The Revivalists have entered the final week of leg two of the Age of Van Tour! (Hold for applause) We’re over the hump! (more applause) We’re almost home! (more applause) We spent more days doing things!

We’ve been at this one for a long time now. George and I have been playing a game called “That Was This Tour.” As in, “Hey, remember when we were almost late for the gig at The Independent because we were trying to find that Chinese restaurant you guys ate at last time we were in San Francisco? That was this tour.” Or “hey, remember when the border patrol shook us down in Las Cruces? That was this tour.” Or “hey, remember when our van broke down for the third or fourth time five miles away from our show at the beautiful Gerald Ford Ampitheatre in Vail, CO, and we had to get it towed to a shop and it’s still there and they’re trying to get us to pick it up but we’re two time zones away by now and goodness knows when we’ll be back?”

“That was this tour.”

RELATED: We have a new vehicle.

I always knew the extravagant “rock ‘n roll lifestyle” would someday allow me to purchase an expensive brand-name German luxury automobile. I just never imagined it would be yet another transport vehicle that I jointly own with five other men. Yes, we’ve finally moved on (slightly) up from the van and into a shiny new Sprinter, which is the widely-accepted stepping stone from van to bus. In case you’re wondering, a slim majority of the band has succeeded in officially naming the vehicle “Sprinterfell,” but the naming process has been a bit more contentious than normal. There were a lot of great alternates, with “Van Diesel” being a popular runner-up, but none of the other names come complete with nerd cred and a built-in catchphrase:

Sprinter is coming.

(Note to self: Never research break-in periods on a new engine. Especially when you have to use that engine right out of the gate to tow a few thousand pounds of gear up and down an entire mountain range at highway-ish speeds. Also, we probably need an oil change.)

Still, the Mountain Part of Leg Two of the Age of Van Tour was pretty great. We always get to see some scenery when we strike out west, but this time a lot of our destinations were more remote than they have been in tours past. Most of the Mountain Part was just us crawling our way across utter wilderness on two-lane roads from one isolated ski resort to the next. We spent countless hours winding through box canyons and negotiating no-guardrail hairpin turns while gawking at dramatic expanses of mountain, forest, river, lake, and sky, almost too distracted to notice that we weren’t getting any cell service.

Almost.

The shows have been great (of course, I always say that). It’s community-sponsored outdoor summer concert season nationwide, and most every Colorado show took place in crisp daylight next to some intimidatingly beautiful mountain face. The exceptions were a cool little bar show at the Eldo in Crested Butte and a ‘Ride Fest afterparty in Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House. And when I say “historic,” I’m talking hundred-year-old-building, last-summer-Jewel-played-a-benefit-to-save-the-place historic.

So Colorado was as magical as ever, but I have a confession. As a horn player, long stretches in the crisp, rejuvenating mountain air only make me yearn for the atmospheric density of sea level. Sweet, oxygen-rich sea level. Oh, how I missed thee. For a breather like me (that’s a slangy term for “wind instrumentalist” that I just made up and you can totally use), the first sea-level gig after two weeks in the mountains feels like playing basketball on the moon.

This week we’ve been cutting a swath through the midwest. It’s starting to feel ravenous, rabid, the way we’re tackling shows. Maybe it’s just that one week left feels quick compared to four weeks down, but I like to think we can all taste home a little bit. We’ve been getting little tastes of home along the way, with familiar faces abound in Lawrence and St. Louis (an extra special hello to the contingent from Broadway Oyster Bar who came out to see us on Thursday), and pretty much all of the city of Chicago is family now.

Oh, great gosh almighty, Chicago. The Phish/Pearl Jam/Pitchfork Festival/New Kids on the Block afterparty (okay, probably mostly just the first three) at House of Blues was one of the best shows we’ve ever had. The end.

Well, not really. We didn’t even get out of House of Blues until about five o’clock on Saturday morning, and we had a show in Bloomington Saturday night, followed by an overnight drive to All Good Festival. All in all we survived the entire weekend on about thirty hours of bed sleep split between the seven of us. We left All Good early after our set, drove a few hours out, had a family dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, and went to bed early. Now we’re taking care of a few chores while recuperating in a Ramada somewhere in Ohio.

It’s weird being on tour for so long. Patterns tend to emerge. The land turns from hills to plains and back again. Sleep comes and goes in waves. The ratio of clean clothes to dirty laundry in one’s suitcase gradually shifts from “manageable inconvenience” to “sword of Damocles.”

It’s been good, though. Overall, it’s been really rewarding playing so many festivals this year because we’re really starting to feel like we’re part of a community. We see people at High Sierra who saw us at Wanee, or folks at Bonnaroo who were at our VIP set at Hangout… There’s a certain familiarity within the festival scene that can be comforting, especially when we’re on the road for weeks or months at a time. We get to make friends on both sides of the barricades who we’ll see again and again.

Almost as good enough as home.

Addendum:  Yes, we did play High Sierra Festival, and yes, it was a beautiful, well-organized event, and yes, The Revivalists spent three magical days there, but I woke up on the morning of day one with a pretty severe fever, and as such I spent most of that weekend shivering in a hotel room and quietly resenting my bandmates for being able to enjoy themselves. Robert freaking Plant played a set not half a mile from my eardrums, and all I had the energy to do was eat a delivered calzone in bed and pass out while watching “Office” reruns on Netflix. Tragic.

Other Addendum:  The London Souls are really good.

Zero Visibility Possible

July 1st, 2013

Hello, friends! Rob here.

Well, it sure is tour. The first leg of the Age of Van Tour is complete (that’s right, this is one of those fancy tours with an official-sounding name and a stylish limited-edition t-shirt), and now we are a week into the second, much longer leg. For some reason I feel like working backwards, so let’s go for a ride. In reverse:

Monday, July 1, 2013. 12:50 PM. Deming, NM: Dave sits in the chair next to mine in the lobby of the Comfort Inn. I take a short break from my elaborate creative process (alternately writing and plinking around on the internet). My conversation with Dave yields two quotes that bear repeating, neither from me:

“There’s a dentist’s office right by the hotel. I have an appointment at 2:30”

and

“I can’t believe we have to spend $3300 on this fucking van.”

Monday, July 1, 2013. 12:05 AM. Deming, NM: Small desert towns take on an interesting character at night. Despite the warm, granulated winds, it feels still. Almost but not quite unnervingly so. In spite of the circumstances, I kind of like it here. Which is good, because we might be here all day tomorrow.

I guess Andrew was right after all.

Sunday, June 30, 2013. 11:40 PM. I-10W: The van’s transmission is malfunctioning. Dave emptied an entire bottle of transmission fluid into the transmission fluid hole (clearly I am a cars expert), but the vehicle refuses to shift at higher speeds. We, like the unnamed subject of the “Friends” theme song, are stuck in second gear. Time to look for hotels and auto mechanics.

Side note: New Mexico’s highways have bizarrely worded safety notices. Things like “ZERO VISIBILITY POSSIBLE” and “DUST STORMS MAY EXIST”

Sunday, June 30, 2013. 12:30 PM. Kerrville, TX: As we pile into the van to continue the 800,000-mile drive across the vast, featureless expanse of I-10W that connects the part of Texas where people actually live with California (by way of other states), we arrive at a decision made from equal parts boredom and “Wheeeeeee! New(-ish) technology!”: During the course of our journey, we will be posting as many inane things on Vine as humanly possible. You can follow the Vine-a-thon on Vine (duh) or on our Twitter website page if you lack either the means or the inclination to spend any time on Twitter’s spazzy little cousin.

Sunday, June 30, 2013. 1:00 AM. San Antonio, TX: After the show, we bid Mike a temporary farewell. He ducks into the Honda Fit he borrowed from his parents and drives back to Austin to spend a few days with his family. If all goes according to plan we’ll be in San Francisco in time to pick him up from the airport on Tuesday night. We finish loading the trailer, make a quick detour to look at the Alamo, and begin the long drive to the west.

Saturday, June 29, 2013. 7:15 PM. San Antonio, TX: Backstage at Sam’s Burger Joint (an excellent music venue, don’t be fooled by the food name), Mike fishes a bottle of gummy vitamins out of his bag to discover that they have all melted into a single amorphous green mass with the approximate viscosity of rubber cement. For the third day running, the word of the day is “Oh my God, it is so hot. Please let it be less hot than it is. Or kill me. Just kill me.”

Friday, June 28, 2013. 10:30 PM. Austin, TX: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds rule pretty hard. Great band, nice people, top-notch horn section stuff (which is all I really care about), you name it. Their lead singer Arleigh Kincheloe and harmonica-ist Jackson Kincheloe (they are, in fact, brother and sister) come onstage during our set to rock some “Whipping Post” with us. It is awesome, and I think a video will exist at some point.

Friday, June 28, 2013. 4:00 PM. Austin, TX: We pull up in front of Stubb’s BBQ (an excellent music venue, don’t be fooled by the food name) to load in and we can see those squiggly heat lines coming off the roof of the car in front of us. Once again, the word of the day is “Oh my God, it is so hot. Please let it be less hot than it is. Or kill me. Just kill me.” Three of us go shirtless for load in.

Ladies.

Friday, June 28, 2013. 12:00 AM. Dallas, TX: I didn’t realize we had quite so many friends in Dallas. It really warms my heart to see a packed room at midnight on a school night. Of course, that could just be the heat in Dallas. I think today’s word is “Oh my God, it is so hot. Please let it be less hot than it is. Or kill me. Just kill me.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013. 10:00 PM. Houston, TX: Good show tonight. I think we’re going to like Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013. 5:00 PM. Houston, TX: Houston is hot. It’s more than hot. This isn’t just heat; it’s oppression. It’s supernatural. Illogical. Profane. It’s a heavy, solid heat. I can feel it pushing down on my shoulders and I can feel the thickness of it in my chest every time I inhale. It makes loading our gear up a flight of stairs on the outside of the venue super awesome.  Fortunately, there’s no way it could possibly stay this hot all week.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013. 10:30 AM. New Orleans, LA: As per tradition, we drive separately to Andrew and Mike’s house, pile in the van, deliberate over whose turn it is to drive, and leave town half an hour later than we had planned. This leg of the tour will be the longest continuous stretch out of town in band history. I tend to have mixed emotions at the beginning of extended tours, but at least we’ll be spending July away from the New Orleans heat.

Thursday, June 20, 2013. 2:30 AM. New Orleans, LA: We made it. We got home bit later than expected, but we didn’t explode. That’s always good. We enjoy a week off. The band starts a Vine account, a few guys have solo shows and sit-ins, and little else happens. As it should be.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013. 12:15 PM. Kansas City, MO: After spending all morning in a shop and being driven from the shop to pick us up, the van won’t start. Again. Dave calls the mechanic, and after a brief conversation he climbs underneath the van and does something very technical to the starter solenoid (I believe the procedure is known as “hitting it with a screwdriver”) while I try the ignition. After a few unsuccessful attempts, the engine turns over. We resolve, perhaps recklessly, to make the fifteen-hour drive to New Orleans without stopping the engine once. We will have to fill our gas tank four times.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013. 11:30 PM. Kansas City, MO: Kansas City is cool, the Crossroads district is cool, and opening for Tedeschi Trucks Band is really cool. But what isn’t cool is that our van won’t start. We call AAA. A very affable tow truck driver named Steve plays along when we ask him to tow us all the way to New Orleans, then hitches up our vehicle and drops it off at a repair shop. So much for knocking a few hours off of the drive tonight. Also, Ed was duped into eating one of what the restaurant adjoining to the venue refers to as its “Ultimate Death Wings,” so he is basically dead. Ultimate dead. It will take him close to twenty-four hours to fully recover.

June 5-16, 2013. Age of Van Tour, Leg One: I have discussed the Tour Time-Compression Phenomenon at length in previous entries (short version: tour really screws with your perception of time), but this tour has been extreme. Between Bonnaroo and Sleepless New York Festival Weekend, there was some serious TTCP going on, and in my head this whole two-week run is pretty much a huge mishmosh. So that’s how it’s going to come out here.

There were a lot of parallels between Bonnaroo Weekend and the Sleepless New York Festival Weekend. Both saw us performing four shows in three days (one indoor show on Friday night and three festival sets over Saturday and Sunday in both cases), neither allowed for much nap time, both were incredibly hot, there wasn’t a single jerk at either, and both were like, the best things ever.

As a huge item to cross off of the band’s collective bucket list, Bonnaroo eclipsed all of our wildest dreams. It was big, wet, hot, and utterly exhausting, but an amazing experience. The shows were all great, the crowds were rabid, and the whole thing was just generally very well put together. There were also a lot of uniquely magical moments, like the Billy Idol and R. Kelly sit-ins at the Saturday night superjam, the entire David Byrne/St. Vincent set, and even just walking around the festival late at night when all the crazies were out.

The Sleepless New York Festival Weekend might have been even more grueling than Bonnaroo. We started out playing a Governor’s Ball afterparty at Bowery Ballroom in New York City, and then we had to get in the van and drive to Hunter Mountain (arriving at about dawn) in order to beat daylight traffic on our way to Mountain Jam. This, of course, was after driving overnight from Philadelphia to beat daylight traffic getting into NYC, and before driving overnight from Mountain Jam to get back to NYC for Governor’s Ball. Also we played two sets at Mountain Jam.

Did you get all that? If not, here’s the simple version: We played a lot of music, we saw some music, we barely slept, it totally ruled. Anyway, back to the reverse chronology:

Monday, June 3, 2013. 8:45 PM. New Orleans, LA: The sun sets late over the levee. Andrew suggests that we change the name of the tour to “Kill the Van,” because we might be on the verge of upgrading our vehicle. At first everyone seems to like it, but then it seems a little bit too punk rock, so, much to Andrew’s frustration, we stick with “Age of Van.” Dave’s surprise early 30th birthday party/picnic/potluck/unofficial Revivalists sendoff party was a roaring success, but now the Junebugs are starting to roll in and it’s time to go.

We’ve got a lot of work to do this Summer.

From Zero to Tour Mode in Chocolate Cake

June 6th, 2013

Hello, friends! Rob here.

Happy birthday to Revivalists lead vocalist and chief grower of sweet afros, Mr. David Shaw! He’s 108 years old today, and still rockin’ every bit as hard as he did in his late seventies and early eighties!

Well, it’s summer tour all right. It’s pretty humid in the van and, um, other stuff I guess? Come to think of it, climate is the only difference between summer tour and other tours. It’s bright, it’s hot, we change shirts more often, but the rhythm is still the same.

Last weekend was an excellent warm up for bright and hot. We had a really fun crowd in Lafayette on Thursday, and I’ve written so many permutations of the sentence “Pensacola was great and we love it there” that it’s barely worth mentioning how great Pensacola was on Friday or how much we love it there. Fortunately, there’s still something to talk about from Friday because HOLY WOW THIS BAND CALLED NAHKO AND MEDICINE FOR THE PEOPLE OPENED THE SHOW AND THEY ARE SO EFFING GOOD AND YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO THEM ALL THE TIME FOREVER. They do an amazing job of tinting straight up feel-good rock with shades of world music without getting too hippy-dippy. Plus, they’re just awesome.

It was kind of interesting how Thursday and Friday were so similar (raucous indoor night shows in familiar cities) and then Saturday and Sunday were both extremely sweaty sunshine day festival gigs. We barely made Saturday’s show in Atlanta, and as a result we had about eight minutes to get from parking the van to playing the downbeat. Fortunately, the crew at Virginia Highlands Summerfest was incredibly on-point, and we were able to practically almost pretty much start on time and considering we’d had about a forty-five second sound check everything felt way better than it had any business feeling.

We were out of Atlanta early enough that we were able to get to New Orleans by a reasonable bedtime, so we didn’t have any excuse to be late for Oyster Fest the next afternoon. It was a fun show, and home is awesome, but my lands was that a sweaty show! I think Sunday might have been the sweatiest day of my entire life. Anyway, then we got to groove out to the Gin Blossoms and go home early and throw Dave a surprise early birthday party the next day.

And now we’re out again. We’re in Philadelphia tonight. Last night was a good start to the tour. Virginia Beach is full of very nice people, and near the end of the set a waitress at Jewish Mother (which is actually the name of a venue) brought Dave the largest slice of chocolate cake in the world and we led the crowd through “happy birthday” while Dave spoonfed bites of cake to front-row spectators.

So I’m feeling pretty good about humanity in general today. See you in Philly.