Foot-stomping, singing along, musicians in the crowd – an all-acoustic evening of Americana and post-punk. The Revival Tour hit the Bell House and all of Brooklyn was rocking.
This is my second year seeing the Revival Tour and my only disappointment is that I didn’t know about this sooner. Chuck Ragan leads a band of young musicians with backgrounds in punk, hardcore, Americana, and folk in an all acoustic blow-out of familiar and new songs.
It was Saturday afternoon and I decided to check if the doors for the Bell House would be 7pm or 8pm. Imagine my surprise when I saw it was doors at 5pm and show at 5:30pm. (There was a late show for another act at 10pm.) It was now 4pm and I rushed out to get there on time. The tour buses were out front and the tables and chairs were outside the club but the doors were not open. There were only two or three couples when I arrived but soon the sidewalk started filling up and I was thinking that this was going to get ugly if they didn’t open the doors soon.
The doors opened, a line formed, and then I had to get on the line inside because my tickets were will call. Confusion reigned because some of us bought our tickets through the Revival Tour site in January and others bought their tickets later through the Bell House. It was a sold-out show and I did not want to stand, so I was getting anxious about being able to secure a seat inside the club. Once inside I could see that the one of the usually reserved sides next to the soundboard was taken up by a makeshift bar. The other side was reserved. No sofa. Two tables near the bar with four stools – all taken. I decided to lean against the front of the stage, which turned out to be a great spot for the show. Not such a great spot before the show because I had to listen to this guy talk to the two women with him. He was explaining the monitors to them (They had no idea what they were. Or what a mandolin was.) In his explanation it was obvious that he didn’t know that the monitors and house speakers provide different mixes. Also that spilling your drink into the back of the monitor can be as bad as spilling it into the front.
While we were waiting for the show to start, I could see a framed picture. I use talismans on stage when I sing, so I found this interesting.
The set list was taped to the floor. These were the opening and closing songs for when all the musicians are on stage. When they sing individually, the musicians can go wherever their heart leads them.
The house was playing music from past Revival Tour participants so we were listening to a lot of Frank Turner and Ben Nichols. Happy Happy was I. The song leading in to their appearance on stage was Jay Farrar’s “Windfall.” Everyone came out on stage and sang Ragan’s “On the Bow” a cappella. Singing back-up at the start and close was a red-haired woman. Ragan’s introduction sounded like Terri Gooseberry, which I’m sure is incorrect. Also on stage providing great back up were Addison Burns (who also was roadie) on drums, Joe Ginsberg on upright bass, and Jon Gaunt on fiddle. All were fantastic.
After each musician got a song with everyone on stage, Toh Kay (Tomas Kalnoky of Streetlight Manifesto) did his solo turn. His acoustic guitar had the sound hole covered in masking tape. Everyone around me knew the lyrics to his songs and were singing loudly. The lalalas he added to his (and to others’ songs) made me think he was Israeli but it turns out he is Czech. His set list was written on his forearm so he kept lifting it up to check. It was a very lively set.
When Jenny Owen Youngs called out to her fellow musicians to join her on stage after singing some songs alone, she referred to them as her bearded companions. She opened with “Your Apartment” and included “Ring of Fire” in her set. She told a story about the songwriter of “Jackson” (Billy Edd Wheeler) coming to see Ragan and the show and he complimented her on her version of “Ring of Fire.” He also gave her alternate lyrics to “Jackson” that use the word twine – as in holding up your pants twine. For one of her songs, they switched instruments around, with Ragan on bass and Ginsberg on mandolin. Ragan provided mandolin, guitar, or harmonica in addition to back-up vocals for everyone at some point.
Rocky Votolato also did a cover but his didn’t fare as well. He forgot the lyrics to “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and was hoping the audience would help out. Youngs came on stage with the lyrics on her iPhone. His set was not as low-key as Youngs’ but not as high-energy as Kay’s.
It looked like Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) was the musician a lot of people came to see. I was standing right underneath him and I was surrounded by guys (they were all guys) singing along loudly and constantly shouting out requests. “Pray for Tucson” was one request he played. Other songs were “Heavy Heart” “Autism Vaccine Blues” “The Shine” and one where he changed the lyrics at the end to add the names of other musicians. For the new song he jumped into the audience, leaving the rest of musicians singing on stage.
Ragan (Hot Water Music) started with “Geraldine” and covered “Coal Tattoo.” Out of all the foot-stomping on stage, his was the loudest and I could almost feel the stage shaking.
Everyone came out again and each took a turn at a song. Hause broke a string while singing Pearl Jam’s “Got Some” and handed his guitar off to an audience member. (He did retrieve it when the song was over.) And there was a guy stage right wearing a red leather almost Michael Jackson Thriller jacket that Hause borrowed while Youngs was singing. When everyone on stage was laughing at Hause he shouted out, “Rock and roll!”
When everyone ended with Ragan’s “Revival Road” the audience started echoing back lyrics turning the Bell House into a real revival show and Ragan and Hause broke out in huge grins.
What a great show. The musicians are wonderful and there is such camaraderie on stage – it is how you imagine it always is when a bunch of good musicians get together.
Bell House had a guy selling some food by the exit so I grabbed a pulled pork sandwich and ate it outside. And on Third Avenue I saw there is a new restaurant (BBQ) that I will have to try in the future.
By Carene Lydia Lopez