2013: A Year In Review

  • January 2, 2014
  • /   Rob
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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.