Monday, April 8, 2013


Felipe M

In anticipation for The Revival Tour date in Chicago tomorrow, we take a fond look back at last year's date in Chicago.  

For those that don't know what The Revival Tour is, it's basically the Warped Tour of folk-punk/acoustic music.  There is no time slots for bands.  There are no headliners.  Best of all, there are no stops; once one act is finish, another one immediately follows, and there's plenty of collaborations and group songs on stage.  

The last time I went to this event was back on October, 25, 2009 at Reggie's Rock Club.  I thought I was there to see a Chuck Ragan show, but instead, was surprised to see the format that was being used.  I felt like I was part of a campfire event or a spontaneous hoedown that broke out in the middle of the city.  It was such a fun time and Chuck Ragan finally appearing solo for about 5-6 songs was the best part of the night.  He was so strong and energetic.  He definitely was the show-stopper.  But he then gave way to Jim Ward (former At the Drive-In guitarist) and he wasn't as loud or as forceful as Ragan, but his soft crooning was pretty captivating in itself as it really felt we were back in his hometown of El Paso, TX sitting beneath a dark open sky with a huge bonfire providing the only light in the darkness.  

That night, Ragan had announced that after the show, the rest of the group would make their way to the adjacent Reggie's Music Joint, which is the bar and grill wing of the concert venue and continue to play there for the rest of the night, taking requests, and having audience members sing along on the tiny stage at the bar.  Jim Ward was still playing well after 11PM and if I were to believe Ragan, they must have been jamming at the bar well past after midnight.  According to the schedule, they were due in Minnesota the next day as well so kudos to them for finding extra time to play in Chicago after their show.  Unfortunately for me, it was a Sunday and I had to go to work the next day, but that must have been pretty awesome. 

The participants in the 2009, Chicago stop of the tour were as follow:
  • Ragan
  • Ward
  • Austin Lucas
  • Bob Lucas
  • Audra Mae
  • Haywood Yards
So fast-forward to 2012 and I now know the difference between a Chuck Ragan show and The Revival Tour show and now I know what to expect.  Well, what happened next was beyond my wildest expectations:

April 9, 2012: THE REVIVAL TOUR, The Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL

Devon, Ricardo, and I were there really early.  Too early.  We arrived little before 6:30PM, supposedly the start time of the show.  Knowing what I know about this show, I made a concerted effort to arrive early for this gig.  We must have waited for 45 minutes, standing and staring at the stage and looking at nothing but acoustic guitars, microphones and their stands, and no people.  The crowd would scream out in anticipation and then the yells would die down as we collectively waited for the show to start.

Finally, after the long wait, all the musicians that were to perform that night came out and did a couple of songs together.  The musicians at this show were:
  • Chuck Ragan (with Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg)
  • Dan Andriano
  • Cory Branan
  • Austin Lucas (special guest)
  • Nathaniel Rateliff
  • Surprise guest, Tim McIlrath
There was another "surprised guest" at this show, but I don't remember his name.  He was a lanky guy who played his guitar sitting on a stool. He was the only guy  who did that throughout the show.  He played fast-paced songs with a light, soft, high-pitched voice.  Andriano seemed to have been a huge fan of his.  If I remember correctly, he would reappear later that night in support of Andriano, singing the Alkaline Trio song, "Blue Carolina" from the album Good Mourning.  I guess I'll never find out who that dude was.

Austin Lucas was fun to watch.  He was running all over the place.  When Ragan went on stage to sing "Let It Rain," Lucas bolted from backstage and grabbed a mic, barely making it on time to sing the chorus of that song.  But his solo performance was good as well, with his honest songs of introspection.  He seemed to have the most fun interacting with people that night.  

Conversely, Rateliff was putting us to sleep with his stage presence (or lack thereof), and his slow and quiet, songs to match his inconspicuous delivery.  I was falling asleep on his set.  Every song was predictable, starting off very tranquil and every song finished with a short, abrupt, yelling of lyrics.  Tried giving this guy another chance by listening to his songs online, but got the same result.  He's just a bit boring for my taste.  

From my viewpoint, McIlrath looked awkward on stage.  He performed 3-4 songs, mostly new songs from his band Rise Against.  The awkwardness came in the fact that he looked like he felt like an intruder instead of being a guest on stage.  Even when all the musicians gathered on stage to perform collectively to finish the night, McIlrath seemed like he didn't want to be there.  He had to be coaxed on stage in order for him to be a part of the final couple of numbers. Not because he was being arrogant, rather because he felt like he was receiving undeserved spotlight.  McIlrath is a cool, classy guy, but too humble to a fault. His body language seemed to have dictate that all of the other acts had been touring and performing hard for months and he might have felt that they deserved all the attention and applause.  Tim is a big name in the punk scene, especially here in Chicago, so I guess he did not want to take anything away from the other performers, but the other performers, through an unspoken bond, made sure to let Tim know he was just as important to the Tour, even if he was just there for one stop.  They made sure to include him in every group song to finish off the show.  

And that's what this Tour is all about: friendship, camaraderie, unity, peace, and harmony through music.  Lucas, like McIlrath, was there as a guest and he wholeheartedly thanked Ragan throughout the night for letting him be a part of the Tour before and echoed the sentiments of the spirit of The Revival Tour.  It was a common theme throughout the night.  Nobody best exemplified this theme better than Andriano.

Dan Andriano, I believe, was making his final stop of the tour.  He admitted on stage how bittersweet it was to be home again and finally getting to see his family, but got really emotional when he explained that he was leaving the tour as well.  He couldn't praise the tour and Ragan enough.  He also might have been a bit drunk on his solo set as well.  But his set was genuinely heartfelt as he sang every song with much emotion, knowing this was the last time he would be sharing the stage with everybody involved.  

I've mentioned before how in 2009, Ragan was the show-stopper of the Chicago tour date.  Well, that title was rightfully earned by Cory Branan.  Ragan, appropriately enough, introduced him by saying, "If you don't know who this next act is, you will definitely know him by the end of the night."  His was the most energetic, extravagant, aggressive, and animated solo performance of all that night. He was cracking jokes with the audience and he performed with much gusto.  He was a lot of fun to watch as a lot of his songs had the most upfront and overt lyrics.  To my surprise, the album versions of his songs don't carry that same energy.  But if he ever comes to town, I'd highly recommend for anyone to check him out live. 

In the past, Chuck Ragan has talked about how he would like to see the Tour continue its future excursions even without him.  Although that would be the ultimate in success if a Tour can continue on without its star founder, The Revival Tour without Ragan would just not be the same.  He is The Revival Tour!  Regardless, we look forward to another installment tomorrow night at the Chicago House of Blues

More music is available here

Check out Chuck Ragan's website.

Check out The Revival Tour website.  

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