Concert review: the Revivalists

Definitive New Orleans band the Revivalists perform at the Velvet Lounge in Washington DC.

VIENNA, Va., June 15, 2012 –Of all the venues in the Washington DC area, the Velvet Lounge on average starts their shows the latest. This is why on an average Tuesday evening at the start of the summer, the New Orleans band, The Revivalists, were able to make the audience feel as though they were enjoying a band performing a late night weekend show.

It helps that this club has all the makings of a classic hole-in-the-wall dive bar. The staging area for the venues musical acts is on the second floor. It’s a narrow and intimate space that can fill up quickly, and people can be standing shoulder to shoulder before they realize it. It’s perfect for authentic rock and roll bands that enjoy playing up the seedier side of the genre. The Revivalists are that kind of band.

The Revivalists are a very roots-oriented rock and roll band with aspirations towards loose jam aesthetics. There’s an incredibly loose and improvisational feel to their show. They flow from one song to the next and interact with the audience like they were hosting a giant party. In a way, when you look at it, this is exactly what they’re doing.

Being the only band playing at the Velvet lounge on a recent Tuesday, their set was notably longer than it otherwise would be. Even though the set was essentially two hours of playing, if it weren’t a weekday, it wouldn’t have been surprising if they just kept playing until whenever.

Granted, they would probably have had to close up shot eventually, or they might have run out of songs to play. The band actually hasn’t been around long enough to develop a discography that would keep them on stage performing much longer than they were. The Rivivalists does have a specific knack for stretching out each of their songs, however. Yet due to the energy exuded by the band, and especially by lead singer Dave Shaw, none of their solo spots becomes monotonous or overbearing.  

This energy also allows for an organic feeling that permeates their music, rather than something carefully orchestrated that can end up losing the audience’s interest. With Dave Shaw at the center of the band, moving around as much as he does keeps the audience jazzed for the entire night.

The Revivalists also possess other quirky qualities that lead them down a uniquely interesting path. The most soloing by anyone in the band is performed by saxophonist Rob Ingraham. It’s the kind of touch the band adds to their sound, which gives them their unique feel. The effortless incorporation of further elements, like Ed Williams’ pedal steel guitar or Michael Girardot playing organist-like keys, gives the band a fuller sound, even around the outer edges of their set.  They’re able to harmonize into a cohesive whole where other bands might easily diverge in multiple directions.

This lively New Orleans sextet has been gaining a lot of steam in their home city, winning the Rivivalists their fair share of local awards. This hasn’t necessarily translated into more national success for them. But they possess the kind of positive vibe that means it won’t be surprising when they do score points on a greater scale.  Currently, they’ll probably make most of their reputation playing the summer festival circuit where they can maximize the crowd that would be most interested in the kind of music they perform.

While festivals will likely be where the Revivalists will make their early mark, it’s places like the Velvet Lounge where they will probably leave a more lasting, positive impression. They’re a rock and roll band, pure simple. They might not be as straightforward as other bands that claim the title. But at the end of the day, they are a throwback to the bands of old who tried out as many things as possible until they found their niche. It’s in this trajectory that, for all intents and purposes, the Revivalists succeed.

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener. Read more of his work in Riffs at the Washington Times Communities.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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