The First Unitarian Church
I've been to a lot of really great shows this past year, but lately I've found myself pretty strapped for cash and resigned to a lot of weekends on my couch watching reruns of bad tv shows and screwing around online. It takes a lot for me to make it out to a show lately, and unfortunately, I haven't been able to make it to a lot of killer shows. One show that I refused to miss was The Revival Tour, featuring Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry, and Ben Nichols. This wasn't billed as your standard three-act show. Each artist was going to be in and out throughout the night, playing songs together, as well as independently. They wanted to recreate the feel of old vaudeville shows, and the result was awe inspiring.
To start the night, Chuck, Tim, Ben, and a handful of supporting musicians all hit the stage. Digger Barnes manned the upright bass, John Gaunt played fiddle, and I'm not sure of the pedal steel player's name, but he killed it all night. Initially, this "supergroup" played a handful of songs together, including some of their "hits." After this disbanded, Jesse Malin hit the stage and played a semi-solo set. He was accompanied by some of the backing band, as well as a keyboard/accordian playing woman. I was ok with his set for a few songs, but after a while it just dragged on. He played a Bad Brains cover, as well as a Hold Steady song and "Bastards of Young" by the Replacements (which he slowed to a crawl and made painful). All in all, a lackluster performance. The lucky shows following this had Frank Turner in his place, and other strings of dates have Sundowner, Austin Lucas, and Tom Gabel. I guess Philly got the short end of the stick.
Next, Richmond's favorite son Tim Barry played a nice mix of his solo songs, and got the crowd pretty into it. The sing-a-longs for "Dogbumped" and "Avoiding Catatonic Surrender" had a punk rock intensity, and "Exit Wounds" secured its place as one of my favorite Tim songs. He didn't play any Avail songs, but it didn't matter. He sounded great, and despite the fact that his songs are simple and repetitive, his intensity and sincerity are blatantly obvious.
Lucero was never a band that I was super into, but I've always enjoyed the Ben Nichols solo songs I've seen on YouTube. Needless to say, I was really impressed live. He's a fun showman, despite hobbling around on crutches and sitting for a majority of the set. I didn't recognize any of the songs, but Jon Loudon informed me that they were all Lucero songs, so I'm going to have to check them out more thoroughly.
There's not much that can be said about Chuck Ragan. Hot Water Music is one of the biggest influences on my music collection, and Chuck's solo stuff has been plentiful and inspiring over the last year or two. Live, he delivered yet again. Any of the solo songs that I could've asked for were played, as well as "Bleeder," "God Deciding," and "California Burritos." He played mandolin, guitar, and harmonica with such excitement that it was hard to not just stare in unadulterated awe. I make it a point to see him whenever he comes around in any form (HWM or solo), and I can honestly say that he's one of my two favorite songwriters of all time.
After Chuck's "solo" sstuff they whole band came out for a few more songs, including closing with "Revival Road," which they recorded just two days later. Grab it! As a whole, this was by far one of the best shows that I was lucky enough to catch this year, and I'm hoping that I get to see any and each of the performers again in the near future. It's great to see a tour built on genuine friendship and respect, both personally and musically, and that's exactly what The Revival Tour is.