The Revivalists – “Men Amongst Mountains” Album Release Party – Review

The Revivalists

“Men Amongst Mountains” Album Release Party

Music Hall of Williamsburg Brooklyn, New York – July 16, 2015

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

By Barry Brandow

I don’t think there has ever been an ordinary Revivalists show since day 1 of their existence. I’ve gotten to know and have spoken to some fans that have seen them live since those earlier days, and they would whole heartedly agree. I’ve seen them several times over the past 4 years and I can’t think of one. After all, this is no ordinary band and the music they write and perform is also FAR from ordinary. With a few solid recordings under their belt, those of us familiar with their music have already been given validation of their EXTRAORDINARY talents and song crafting skills. With their 4th album “Men Amongst Mountain” scheduled to be released the next day, the feeling among every person in the Music Hall of Williamsburg is that this could very well be the album that launches them towards validation of EXTRAORDINARY excellence in the “mainstream” music world. Most of the time when I see a band I like that has a new album to promote; I don’t like when they saturate the set list with a majority of songs from that album I’m not familiar with. It also means I might not get to hear as many of the familiar songs I enjoy and look forward to seeing them play live. Tonight’s show would be a MAJOR exception! I think I have already seen half of the 14 songs performed live over the past two years and have put them on my “wish list” when I see a show.   I look forward to hearing them again tonight and the others as well.   If they are anywhere near as good as the ones I’ve heard, this is going to be an epic night of music!   Like the sold out show at the Bowery Ballroom in NYC the night before, tonight show is a celebration!   A chance for us fans to show our joy for their success and congratulatory admiration to the 7 gentleman that make up this extraordinary band: George Gekas on bass, Michael Girardot on keys and trumpet, Andrew Campanelli on drums, Rob Ingraham on sax, Zack Feinberg on guitar, Ed Williams on pedal steel, and David Shaw on guitar and lead vocals.

There was one young lady in the crowd that had no idea who The Revivalists were and had NEVER heard a Revivalists song before.   25 year old Ji-Min from Korea, who was traveling alone, was looking for a way to spend her last night visiting the United States and happen to be walking past the music hall as the line outside was starting to form. She asked what the line was for and was told “the greatest band in the United States, The Revivalists, was playing here tonight and she should get a ticket before it sells out” At that same time my wife pulled out and extra ticket we had bought and asked if anyone needed a ticket for the show. The folks at the end of the line yelled “She does” and pointed to Ji-Min.   Without hesitation my wife handed her the ticket, refused her money, and told her to have a great time! She thanked her and got in line with the rest of us.   When the doors opened our group bee-lined to our favorite spot (front and center) and settled in. We noticed a few feet over stood our new friend and invited her to stay with us…which she eagerly did. We told her she was in for a special night and this may very well be the highlight of her whole trip.

Here’s how things went down…..

The band Gedeon Luke and the People opened the show with a very high spirited funky soul set that got everybody pumped and primed as they entered the venue.   Great music to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing.   Inspired by the gospel sounds of Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, and Sly Stone as well as the rock energy and style of The Rolling Stones; Gedeon Luke and his band got the party started from the opening bell and never let up. They were so good our friend Ji-Min thought this was the band we spoke so highly of.

But wait….there’s more!!!

Following a brief break and equipment check the houselights lowered while the capacity crowd focused their attention to the stage and got set to go. The band took their places and David Shaw approached the mic. After he addressed the frenzied crowd they began the show right from the jump with a song from Men Amongst Mountains I hadn’t heard before called “Amber”. I couldn’t sing along, but I wanted to!   I think by mid song we all knew the chorus and sang the line “You want a piece of the party” It’s an awesome song with great lyrics and melodies that build way up to the first of many brilliant solo’s by Ed Williams on pedal steel.     The very familiar song from their last release City of Sound called “When I’m Able” followed as the full house sang along the entire time.

It wouldn’t be a Revivalist house party if David Shaw didn’t hop off the stage and join the crowd. During “Not Turn Away” he did just that. Roaming through the crowd while he sang, David hugged, high fived, and shook hands with all nearby. When he held Ji-Mins’ hand and sang a lyric to the song, the look and smile on her face was priceless.

One of the new songs that has been gaining popularity during shows and has also been getting some radio play called “Keep Going” was next.   The upbeat tempo and catchy lyrics make this an easy crowd favorite. That’s especially evident when the band splits the crowd down the middle and conducted a vocal duel between both sides.   I find myself still singing the “bah da da’s” days later…but not nearly as loud!

The highly energetic Revheads in attendance were literally making the floor bounce. You could feel it under your feet if you stopped dancing for more than 2 seconds. The song “Stand Up” from the new release just might be the song to crash through the floor if it doesn’t blow off the roof. It’s one of my favorites from Men Amongst Mountains. I really like the lyrics and the energy.  Another one of my favorites, “Sunny Days”, from their first EP cooled things down slightly and briefly. The swanky cabaret-like tune starts off mellow but builds up steam in every aspect. The ambitious solos by Ed Williams, Zack Feinberg on guitar, and especially Rob Ingraham on sax make this song a highlight and often requested by every fan.

If song like “Amber” and “Stand Up” didn’t already verify the bands song writing excellence then the next song, “Gold to Glass” sure did. While we caught our breath from the incredible build up and ending of “Sunny Days” it gave us all an opportunity to just chill and listen to the music.   Knowing these opportunities are rare during a Revivalists show, this was the perfect song and I loved what I was hearing. Then the familiar acoustic chords and the smooth steel pedal intro cued us all that chill time was over and it was time to get our groove back on as the song “Catching Fireflies” from the Vital Signs album began.   It’s one of my favorite songs to hear them play live. It’s one of those songs with great lyrics and musical body that transforms into an all out jam with every member being highlighted at one time or another.    Both Rob and Ed’s solos were epic and got the full house rockin!   It gave guitarist Zack Feinberg an opportunity to break out one of his newer toys…a GasCan guitar that I have never seen him play before! It was pretty cool. It also gave front man David Shaw another opportunity to hop off stage and “boogie down” with the people on the floor. I think it was one of the times I felt the floor bounce the most.    There was Ji-Min right in the mix…bouncing around with the rest of us and having the time of her life.

Before the next song began Mr. Shaw introduced longtime friend and member of the band The Heard, Lucas Ellman to the stage to lend a hand blowing saxophone during the next song “Upright”. The sax solo is one of my favorite parts of this song and Lucas handled it incredibly well.

We then bounced back to the music of the new CD, Men Amongst Mountains, and one of my favorite new tunes “Fade Away”. It’s one of the songs that highlights Mr.Williams amazing pedal steel skills and David Shaws passionate vocals throughout. The familiar chorus had everyone in the house singing along.  Like I had said earlier, I’m not crazy about bands saturating their sets with newer unfamiliar songs, but these songs totally kick ass. The next song, “MoveOn” is no different. Everyone in the room felt the same way and got fired up as if they were the songs they had been waiting to hear all night. All these new songs are THAT good! They could’ve played them all twice!   Another catchy new song that has been played in the bands rotation on a somewhat regular basis “I Wish I Knew You” followed. Most of the crowd there had also heard this one before and sang along throughout. The ambitious sax solo at the end again solidified Rob Ingraham as a stellar musician and one of the more entertaining members of the band. If he’s not crushing a solo, he lends his smooth voice to the vocals, or dazzles the crowd with his impeccable dance moves.   Same goes for Micheal Girardot. When he’s not pounding the keys or blowing the trumpet, he also lends his voice to the vocals or jumps to the forefront and gets the crowd revved up even more.   All this comes to fruition during the next song…The extremely popular “Criminal”. While drummer Andrew Campanelli gets the beat rumbling the ominous guitar and flowing bass line kicks in. Then BOOM…Ed’s steel leads Dave into the opening “Hello…”. This is a song that personifies energy and when it reaches the chorus and the line “I am a criminal…I do this everyday” the entire crowd sings and bounces its highest. Even at 52 years old I was bouncing higher than Ji-Min, but not much higher. She can bounce!

The brilliantly crafted song “It Was A Sin” closed the show. Starting out with a soft melody and lyrics this could be the most passionate song on the new release. As the song built up to its climax, Shaw descended from the stage one more time and while he belted the lyrics “Don’t hide from me” the bouncing took over. The hot, sweaty crowd bounced and belted along with him into a frenzy. When the song ended the crowd exploded with a thunderous roar and applause while the band walked off for a very brief break before encore.

The first encore, Shaw took a spot on the floor in front of the stage and while the rest of the band draped the edge the crowd lowered down to floor level as well.   With the feel of a campfire circle they proceeded to play a stripped down version of the song “King of What”.   I loved this version and how it was presented. The next encore is a song I consider one of the more beautiful songs to be written in a long time. The very popular song “Soulfight” had the entire crowd singing along at the top of their lungs.   It was an amazing way to end an EXTRAORDINARY night of music.

When the houselights came up the crowd caught its breath and started making their way towards the exit. Before the band walked off stage David announced that they’d be out in the lobby to meet, sign autographs and take pictures with anyone who wanted to hang.   We were able to get a set list from bass player George Gekas which we gave to our new friend Ji-Min. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and thanked us for our kindness. When I asked her what she thought about what she just saw her reply totally caught me by surprise. In her soft voice and heavy Korean accent she said “They were fuckin awesome”!!! I’m still laughing at her response. She then said “I have a new favorite band” while she pointed to the top of her setlist where it said “THE REVIVALISTS” across the top. We all hugged goodbye and wished her a safe trip home. Home, where she promised to tell all her friends about the “Greatest band in the UNITED STATES”.   I think it’s safe to say that the Revheads just went International!

Oh…If you happen to look at any photos from that night that show the crowd across the front of the stage you’ll see our new friend with her short brown pigtails having the time of her life during her last night in America!

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