The Revivalists and Their Fans Spread the Gospel

The Revivalists
The Revivalists Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

The Revivalists
Revention Music Center
March 29, 2019

Most concert reviews are the written thoughts of one person, some solitary soul assigned to venture into a venue, listen to songs performed live by an act and formulate opinions on the experience. The earnest reviewer evaluates the tonal precision of the music, the energy of the performers and how the audience reacted to it all.

That might be the model for most concert reviews, but you can toss it out when reviewing The Revivalists. The New Orleans-based roots rockers played Revention Music Center last night, back in town to offer old favorites and new selections from the latest album, Take Good Care. The vibe was so communal that any recap of the evening begged for more than a lone reviewer’s impressions. So, the rest of this is a joint effort between the fellow assigned to cover the event and those who happily spent their time and money to attend the show.

“They come to Houston every year about this time and it’s normally something my oldest son and I always do,” said Elizabeth, who was in attendance with her husband, Ricky, and their kids. They are fans going back to the band’s early days playing French Quarter Fest in New Orleans. “So, we were excited this year when they moved from the House of Blues to this venue because it’s a bigger venue. We love that more people are loving The Revivalists.”

click to enlarge The Revivalists' faithful, L-R: Elizabeth and Ricky; Krystal, Ryan, Kat and Dustin; Maggy. - PHOTOS BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
The Revivalists' faithful, L-R: Elizabeth and Ricky; Krystal, Ryan, Kat and Dustin; Maggy.
Photos by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

What we learned from Elizabeth and Ricky and many others last night (and even before last night: check out the “Personal Bias” notes below) is that people love to share this band with others. It's one reason the band has grown from humble roots to playing massive stages and getting fantastic, high-profile opportunities. And why not, we realized, when the band took the stage to, quite appropriately,“When I’m With You,” after a workmanlike opening set from Rayland Baxter. “All My Friends,” a new favorite from the recent release, was also high up the set list by design. When the audience danced and sang the lines “All my friends take good care of me,” it was an overt reminder of the give-and-take between band and fans. More than many other acts, The Revivalists’ crowd works as another member of an already large group. They take a role in helping the band grow by great word of mouth.

“So, Krystal and I work together. We came to work one day and both of us said we have this band you have to hear,” said Ryan, our good-natured case-in-point, who was at the show with co-worker Krystal and their friends Kat and Dustin. “Not only was it the same band, it was the same song that we both found at the same time, which was ‘It Was a Sin.’”

There’s no irony to the notion that a funky tune like “You and I” – also featured early in the set – exhorts a connection. In the audience at a show by The Revivalists, you feel a part of something, something you want to go tell on the mountain. Last night, that feeling kept going with “Keep Going,” which featured saxophonist Rob Ingraham. By the time the band reached “Catching Fireflies,” which closed the pre-encore set, this writer was ready to spread the gospel.

click to enlarge Front man David Shaw - PHOTO BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Front man David Shaw
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

But first, there was time for a “Celebration,” the first encore song, which also allowed Ingraham to do his thing center stage while donning a Texas flag as a cape. That went into a cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy,” and for the follow-up, vocalist David Shaw went full evangelist and asked the fans to raise their right hands to the sky, which we did, of course. Then, we were hit with the spirit when the band launched into its biggest hit “Wish I Knew You.” When you’ve got them feeling it, you stretch it out some and the band did so by adding a few measures of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” to the tune before veering back. They did this as well for the show closer “Soulfight,” interspersing a bit of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” for that one.

“Their sound is very different. I like how you can hear all of their instruments in each song that they play,” said Maggy, who summarized nicely why this band is beloved and why fans are eager to gather others for the flock. “And it’s a really live, upbeat feeling. I just wanna dance. It just puts me in a better mood.”

The Opener: We were in Revention’s lobby chatting with fans of The Revivalists for part of his set, but we smartly made our way into the show space to catch some of Rayland Baxter’s offerings. The alt-country artist introduced himself as Rayland, like one of the sections at Disneyworld, he said, emphasizing “Ray Land,” for new fans. The track “Casanova,” from Baxter’s recent album, Wide Awake was especially well-received, as was “Young Man,” from his 2015 album Imaginary Man.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

Personal Bias: Back in 2015, I was roaming the parking lots at NRG Stadium one Sunday morning, working up a story about music Houston Texans fans dial up for their tailgate parties. I met with a group of nice folks who couldn’t wait to tell me all about one of their favorite bands. That’s how The Revivalists first became known to me. Not sure if Ashlea, Rachel and Travis (and his friend, also Travis) made the show last night, but they were the first of many I’ve now met who put up for The Revivalists.

The Crowd: Converts and apostles.

Overheard in the Crowd: “I’m going to send this to my dad,” said a fellow to his friends, as he steadied his smartphone to capture video of one of the band’s songs.

Random Notebook Dump: Had a nice chat with some of the staff with Shield Events. These are the folks who manage the space between the performers and the crowd, among other things, at Revention Music Center shows. The crowd wasn’t too boisterous (no crowd surfers that we could see) last night, but the Shield folks said they’d seen some excellent shows at the hall recently, citing the recent Excision show and its 245,000 watts of bass as a banger. These folks sometimes have an unnecessarily tough job, so it was nice to see them have a relatively easy go of it with The Revivalists’ music-focused fans.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.