I’d been reading about The Revival Tour for a while and was looking forward to the next incarnation. I’d missed the first year when Ben Nichols toured with Chuck Ragan, who is the creator and prime mover of the Revival Tour. Basically it’s all the artists on stage sharing each other’s songs or songs that influenced them. Many of the artists started out in punk or heavy metal and have brought those influences into their folk/country style songs.
My friend Kenny, who is the sound guy at Bowery Ballroom, texted me that afternoon and asked if I’d like a table because it was going to be a 2-1/2 hour show. So when I got there, there was a table with a “Reserved for Carene” sign on it. I felt even more important when people kept asking me how I’d scored a table. There are three chairs at every table and just before the show began a couple asked if they could sit there. I told them they could as long as they were quiet while the musicians were playing. They bought me a drink as a thank you.
Originally my ticket was for the 8pm show but that sold out so they moved the show to 6:30pm and added another show at 11pm. Kenny asked if I’d like to stay for the second show. I told him I’d have to see how I felt after the first show. The first show was so good I knew I’d have to stay for the second. I got to stay at my table and another couple asked to join me. They did not buy me a drink. I didn’t get out of there until about 3am. The 11pm show looked almost as crowded as the sold out show.
At this show the only musician I was very familiar with is Cory Branan. I discovered him through his connection with Lucero and I’ve seen him open for the boys and open for another act at Maxwell’s and have become a huge fan. Twice I’ve missed him when he played shows in Brooklyn and I missed him when he was in Austin so I was excited to see him. And even more excited when he was on stage – his hair is longer and he’s got a beard and he’s even prettier and sexier than ever.
I’m somewhat familiar with Chuck Ragan also. I think if rtb were to hear him and Ben Nichols singing together, she’d have to run out of the room because of all the raspiness. The audience was very familiar with most of the musicians – singing along and shouting out requests. Everyone started together and then each musician took a solo turn, sometimes with a few others coming onstage to lend help with background vocals or guitars. Ragan also played mandolin and harmonica.
Joining everyone on bass was Joe Ginsberg and on fiddle was Jon Gaunt. Both were incredible. Ginsberg bowed and plucked the bass and it was clear and heavy. Along with Gaunt’s fiddle it felt like an old-fashioned hootenanny on stage. There were times when the fiddle and harmonica reminded me of Dylan in the Rolling Thunder Revue/Desire days.
First solo turn was by Kayleigh Goldsworthy, who was supposed to be a special NYC guest for the first show only but they asked her to stay for the second show. Most of the other musicians hung out at the side of the stage to watch her perform. Ragan joined her on harmonica for “Tennessee.” She’s a very good guitarist and her voice reminded me of other young female folk singers around today.
Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) played the tour in Philadelphia and Ragan asked him to come along to NYC and other dates. Hause was usually singing the high tenor harmonies so it was nice to hear his natural voice. He’s one of those performers who gets totally into the song and will sing off mic to get the audience involved and ask them to sing along.
Hause introduced Branan as one of the best songwriters. He played “Hell-bent and Heart-first,” a new song (“it is what it is”), “The Corner,” “Prettiest Waitress in Memphis,” and “A Girl Named Go.” Most of the audience didn’t seem to be as familiar with Branan as they were with the others but by the end of his set he had blown everyone away as he always does. He plays guitar faster than anyone you’ve ever seen and he is one of the best lyricists you probably have never heard. After his set the other musicians watching were applauding and one was doing the I’m-not-worthy-bow from Wayne’s World.
Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio) said that Branan was one of his favorite songwriters. Andriano’s highlights were “Hurricane Season” and “Hollow Sounds.” He was another one where the audience knew most of the words and shouted out requests.
Tommy Gabel (Against Me!) was obviously one of the most anticipated acts of the night. He’s young and a very good guitarist. In the second show a very drunk man was singing along and went to an older verse and Gabel had to tell him that they’d already sung that verse and you could see Gabel trying not to laugh through the rest of the song. Most of the audience knew the songs and sang along loudly. Someone named James joined Gabel for two songs (not sure if it was bandmate James Bowman).
Ragan finished up the solo turns. Once more the audience was familiar with most of the songs. During one song I could see Cory asking Goldsworthy (as they stood on the side of the stage) if she wanted to go on stage and sing back up. She said yes, they both took off their jackets, and they joined Ragan. As they left, Ragan asked Cory to stay for the slowest song of his set. Songs included “The Boat” and “Meet You in the Middle.”
Everyone then sang together again and one song was a beautiful a cappella. They also sang Cory’s “Wayward and Down.” I love the way that Cory goes off mic and plays guitar as if he’s playing and singing for himself and no one else. They ended the first show with Ragan’s “Revival Road.”
Ten minutes after the musicians had left the stage, the Bowery crew had swept the floor and the place looked like this.
Joining the second show was Jenny Owen Youngs, who is one foot-stomping, guitar-plucking, hell of a musician. Cory (as the others did) played a shorter set. He did add “The Freefall,” which has one of the best opening lines: “I was fucked up/as my haircut/she was wasting good perfume…” Cory announced several times that his new cd comes out on May 22nd. Another special guest was Anthony da Costa, another indie singer/songwriter.
The night ended with another version of “Wayward and Down” and then “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” For lots of reasons that song makes me think of Jack and, just as my father had been with me the night before, on this night I had Jack at my side. I got chills during the verses and from the harmonies. And Hause took a tambourine into the crowd and was singing and then I lost track of him and suddenly he was next to me leaning over the railing, banging on the tambourine, and singing.
I had music from the night playing in my head on the taxi ride home and while I was getting ready for bed and when I got up the next day.
By Carene Lydia Lopez