With so many fantastic bands on the road today, it’s often easy to let certain ones fly under your personal radar. Everyone has “gaps”: those groups that all your friends love, that everyone’s been telling you to check out forever but, for whatever reason, you haven’t gotten into yet. For me, one of my biggest gaps has always been The Revivalists. Their name is everywhere on the live music circuit, their famously fervent die-hard fans are vocally evangelical, and the reviews of their live shows consistently fall somewhere between “shock” and “awe.” Their single “Wish I Knew You” is even earning some mainstream radio play, a relative rarity within this particular live music bubble. Last night, I finally got the chance to fill my Revivalists “gap” at their highly awaited performance at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY, and the entire experience affirmed the widespread devotion to the NOLA-native band.
Chatting with the folks on the rail pre-show, it quickly became clear that the “RevHeads” were a different breed. In contrast to many fan bases in the extended “jam scene,” the often-territorial front row diehards were notably welcoming and diverse. They happily explained the finer points of the band to this Revivalist virgin, telling their best “road warrior” stories, comparing notes about how far they’d traveled to get to New York, and introducing me to their extended families. [Shoutout to the family rolling three generations deep on the rail, their matriarch just as excited about her latest Revivalists experience as her daughter and two-year-old granddaughter who accompanied her].
There was even a blind man front-and-center, an ecstatic smile plastered across his face throughout the evening. You can see him in the photo below, ecstatic as vocalist Dave Shaw leaned over the barrier to sing to fans, just feet away from where he stood. All ages, all origins, all walks of life, and all overjoyed to welcome a new RevHead to the tribe, earning points for the band before a single note had been played.
Austin-based rock fusion quartet White Denim got the evening’s festivities underway just before sunset. The band made a big impression on the Central Park crowd, with everything from straight, fun, driving rock, to elements of funk, indie, and even salsa folded into a perfectly chill summer opener. The band also welcomed local guitar hero Eric Krasno (Lettuce, Soulive, Eric Krasno Band) to add some extra spice on for a pair of tunes, the second of which saw guitarist/vocalist James Petralli run laps around the stage, fist-pumping as Krasno let loose.
The reasons behind The Revivalists’ fans’ unlimited devotion quickly came into focus the moment the band hit the stage. Just as much early-Maroon 5 pop as down-home NOLA slide guitar soul, the band’s songs are undeniably catchy in a familiar yet fresh and unique way. Frontman Shaw exudes natural showmanship: jumping around, sitting on the edge of the stage, hopping up on the rail to commune with fans, and hilariously tapping a crowd-facing security guard on the shoulder, charismatically encouraging the audience to let go and dive headfirst into the show.
And while Shaw was clearly the focal point of the show, the rest of the talented 7-piece delivered thrilling highlights of their own. Pedal steel maestro Ed Williams vitalized each tune with his piercing slide tone, guitarist Zack Feinberg added appealing sonic texture, and saxophonist Rob Ingraham lent the band an irresistible New Orleans brass flavor. Drummer Andrew Campanelli and bassist George Gekas kept the rhythm section perfectly in the pocket all evening. Keyboardist/trumpet player Michael Girardot added some extra showmanship to boot, prompting big cheers as he (literally) jumped from standing on his piano bench playing tambourine back down to the keys, still managing to perfectly hit his cues.
Not content to waste an opportunity to play with Kraz while he was in the house, the band once again invited the Brooklyn guitarist to the stage to help them encore with “Wish I Knew You” before closing out the show with an always-welcome rendition of The Beatles‘ “Hey Jude.”
As the septet left the stage, Shaw addressed the crowd, thanking everyone in attendance including both the familiar faces and the new blood. “We’re glad you’re here. Let’s keep it going. Let’s take it to Madison Square Garden. Let’s make that a thing.” With their undeniable showmanship, infectious songwriting, and impressive musical ability–along with their deeply passionate and welcoming fan base–that dream surely isn’t out of the question in the coming years. Word is getting out, and you can take it from me: once you’ve gotten a taste of live Revivalists, chances are you’ll end up coming back for more. I know I will.
The Revivalists continue their tour with a performance at Stone Pony SummerStage in Asbury Park, NJ tonight. For a full list of upcoming performances, head to the band’s website.
You can check out a full gallery of photos from both White Denim and The Revivalists’ Central Park SummerStage sets below, via photographer Andrew O’Brien (OBImages).