Who are The Revivalists and Why Do They Keep Following Me?
RevHeadNation Invades the West Coast
By Barry Brandow • Cover Photo by Travis Shinn
Most every band hopes to develop a passionate and loyal fan base that consistently attends their shows when they come to a particular town. It’s very rewarding to experience the growth each time they return as the crowds and venues get bigger and bigger. The first time into a city a band typically will play a small club for a crowd of 40. Then, the next time they will play the same club where the crowd may double or even triple. Eventually that small club can’t accommodate the amount of fans coming to their show, forcing them to play the larger clubs or even a small theatre for 1000 people or more. Many touring bands hope to develop a fan base through organic growth that also travels from town to town to see them perform.
Probably the first and most famous band to develop a following of fans passionate enough to catch multiple shows on the road was the Grateful Dead. Their fan base, affectionately known as “Deadheads,” travelled far and wide to see their favorite band several times during a tour. There are some fans that even make it a lifestyle. Entrepreneurial Deadheads made a living selling food, t-shirts, crafts, and jewelry to pay for tickets and traveling money. Although many bands like Phish (Phish Heads etc.), Widespread Panic (Spread Heads etc.), Gov’t Mule (Mule Army etc.), and Dave Matthews Band (DMB Family etc.) have many numerous fans that travel great distances multiple times to see them, none will ever reach the magnitude of the Grateful Dead and the Deadheads. Not now and not ever.
For a young, up-and-coming band like The Revivalists from New Orleans, they’ve noticed organic growth each time they return to cities like Philadelphia, New York, & Boston. “The seven man band from New Orleans is quickly getting a reputation for melting the faces of everyone in attendance with their energy and passion,” said longtime fan Bobby Bruno from San Diego. Not only is demand for tickets growing, but the band has begun to recognize familiar faces at each show. That’s pretty much how it gets started as fans in different cities meet, become friends, and start planning road trips around the bands touring schedule. With the help of social media, it becomes rather easy to connect with other passionate fans from all over the country. When bands announce their tour schedule and the dates and locations are posted on a bands fan page (like the one created for The Revivalists called “Rev Heads”), it doesn’t take long for fans to coordinate their schedules and make plans to meet before, during, and after shows. One fan might post on the fan page their plans to attend a show or shows in hopes to reach out to others who may be planning to attend those same shows. The next thing you know several people from the group are joining in on the fun.
Video by Bobby Bruno
As soon as The Revivalists announced their west coast tour dates, which included four dates in Colorado, shows in Seattle and Portland, and four more dates in California, the response on the Rev Head page was immediate. The timing for one fan, Nicole Aguilar from Las Vegas, couldn’t have been better. The day the schedule had come out her boss asked her when she thought it would be a good time to travel to Denver for business. Without hesitation she looked at the bands website, checked the date that the Denver show was scheduled, and told her boss ,“March 4th would be perfect.”
“I’m going to be at the Denver Shows… Anyone else?” she posted. “I would love to meet up with some other Rev Heads.”
“I’m doing all four shows,” replied another.
“Me too,” said a third, and so the process began.
Before you knew it several fans made similar plans while get-togethers and pre-parties were scheduled. The Revivalists, who also read the popular fan page, planned a pre-show meet and greet of their own prior to their show in Aspen. The suggested minimum donation of $25 would be contributed to a charity close to the band: The Roots of Music. The Roots of Music is a New Orleans based charity whose mission is to empower the youth of New Orleans through music education, academic support and mentorship while preserving and promoting the unique musical and cultural heritage of the city. The organization is very close to the band as Anne Messner, the Executive Director for the foundation, is guitarist Zack Feinberg’s longtime girlfriend. The band also extended invitations to members of the Rev Head page who were attending the show. Not only was the response big and successful, but the event raised close to $12,000.00 for the charity. The first $500.00 donated was on behalf of all the Rev Heads who raised money through the sale of “RevHead” t-shirts designed and produced by fellow Rev Head Rob Winchester and his company InHouse Graphics located in Marietta, Georgia. Not only did the shows in Colorado attract fans from the immediate area, but several took advantage of the close proximity and attended all four dates, like Sidni Jones of Utah. Due to her proactive approach on the fan page she was able to meet up with fellow Rev Heads throughout her trip.
Loyal fan, Bobby Bruno from San Diego, took a similar course of action. Bobby, who just recently moved to southern California from the Chicago area, took full advantage of the bands west coast tour plans and purchased tickets for all four shows. Then he set up a separate group page called “Revivalists California Run” and invited fellow Rev Heads who were attending all or any of the shows along the California coast. This made it rather easy to communicate amongst each other and set up rendezvous locations in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
For my wife Lois and I, the west coast run was the perfect opportunity to visit my mother-in-law in the Bay area where the band had TWO shows scheduled at The Independent in San Francisco.
“What a coincidence!”
I’ll never admit it, but it might have been the main reason I flew 6 hours across the country from Philadelphia. My mother-in-law never has to know and I’m sure none of you will ever tell. After all she had a blast at the show we took her to on Saturday night. As a matter of fact, I have seen The Revivalists 16 times and only six of those shows were in my hometown of Philly. It is rather easy for me being so close to cities like New York and Brooklyn where the band makes regular stops two or three times a year. I have also attended shows in Baltimore, MD, Augusta, GA, Hamilton, OH, Hunter, NY, and Atlanta, GA where the band played on New Year’s Eve.
In the bands early days, they made regular stops in areas within close proximity to New Orleans and developed a loyal fan base in Alabama and Pensacola, FL. Now those areas have become special to fans and are among the most desired venues to see some of their best shows– so much so that they attract Rev Heads from all over the country who would like to experience the special connection the band has with those cities and fans.
Speaking of New Orleans, it by far has become the premier location to catch The Revivalists, with shows selling out faster and faster each time they return home. Intimate venues like Tipitinas , where the band called home for many years, have become too small for the rapidly growing crowds that travel from all over to see them in the Crescent City. In fact, the last show performed in their hometown took place at the much larger House of Blues. It’s probably safe to assume that they recorded their last two performances at Tipitinas in November for release on CD and DVD to satisfy the demand of newer fans who many never get to experience what those intimate shows were like. Also, it’s a great way to preserve the memories of those who were fortunate enough to attend those highly regarded landmark shows.
There is good reason the Revivalists’ devoted and passionate fan base have such an incautious desire to catch multiple shows. The band puts on an incredible concert experience. There aren’t fancy lights, pyrotechnics, or a gigantic production. It’s just genuine, hardnosed, high energy rock and roll. It’s an energy that is highly contagious and you can feel it spread from the stage to every person in the audience, whether you’re in the front or back. You feel you want to be part of it night after night, and you’ll miss out if you’re not. That’s how I felt about the 150+ Grateful Dead shows I attended dating back to 1985. I would much rather been telling friends about it than hearing about it from others.
Thankfully there is a fan page like the “Rev Heads” that enable fans from all over to share their experience in the form of videos, photos, and written commentary usually posted within 24 hours of the show. Throughout Mr. Bruno’s West Coast journey he posted several pics and videos from the shows he attended on Facebook to the extreme pleasure of those friends who couldn’t join him. Most notably was a special moment during the show in Los Angeles when The Revivalists invited a young fan (whose mother held a sign noting that it was her son’s first concert) up to the stage to dance during “I Wish I Knew You.” The hashtag #BestBandInTheLand has become a popular hashtag among others posting on the page as well. The page is also a place where fans can exchange or sell extra tickets to others, always at face value. Some female fans might even express how badly they’d like to “squish David Shaws hair.”
The Rev Head fan page has grown tremendously since its inception in early June of 2015 reaching 1600 members almost exclusively via word of mouth. In early August several members of the page did a collaborative album review for Live Music Daily when their latest album Men Amongst Mountains was released. Not only did the article generate additional interest in the album, but when the band shared the article with their fans on their website and Facebook page interest flowed over to the fan page boosting requests and doubling the size. It also helped that during the West Coast tour front man David Shaw posted about the page on his personal Facebook page encouraging his 5000 friends and followers to check it out and to be “part of an amazing community who take care of one another while simultaneously rocking the fuck out.” He added, “Join the Rev Heads group and you’ll be surrounded by the powers of music and people who genuinely care about you.” That alone spiked the member requests an additional 300 in the next 2 days. It kept fellow page administrator Rebecca Costa and I quite busy accepting the many requests. Rebecca and her husband Joe from Central Pennsylvania also joined the growing group of travelers catching the two shows in San Francisco. She was able to make the trip by tying it in with a seminar involving the medical field for which she specializes, IBS. Rev Heads can be highly creative and resourceful when it comes to seeing their favorite band.
As far as the two San Francisco shows that took place at The Independent, they were incredible. Two of the finest performances I had seen by the band in recent memory. They were solid, tight, and created a spiritual energy that all that had seen them before are accustom to. Between the two shows the band played several songs from their 4 album portfolio and only repeated a few. Aside from every song on the Men Amongst Mountains album they played crowd favorites like “Criminal” and “Catching Fireflies” both night and mixed in heavy heaters like “Soul Too Loud,” “When I’m Able,” “Strawman,” “Appreciate Me 1 & 2,” “Navigate Below,” and one of the sweetest and most ambitious versions of “Soulfight” I have ever heard them play.
Friday night’s show had an extra added surprise as the band honored the request of a superfan named Shelly celebrating a milestone birthday and played an awesome version of the Grateful Dead’s “Morning Dew.” I was told they only had a minimal time to practice and put it together, but you would never had known it since it fit like a glove and sounded like a song they’d been playing for years. To finish Saturday night’s show the Revs treated an enthusiastic crowd to FOUR encores including “King of What,” “It Was A Sin,” “Soulfight,” and closing the show with a no-holds-barred version of the Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter” that left every Rev Head in the house gasping for air.
They had one more epic show at Crystal Bay Casino in Lake Tahoe Nevada where several fans who attended Cali shows also made the trek there for the festivities. Now both fans and band have an opportunity to recharge their batteries and gear up for the Major Rager on April 7th in Augusta, Georgia and then at Jazzfest on home turf New Orleans. Then it’s back on the road again.
It’s pretty safe to say that a large contingency of devoted fans have already made their travel and party plans. That could explain why #RevHeadNation, #WeDoThisEveryDay, and #ForTheLoveOfTheMusic are also popular trending hashtags.
Social media has transformed the interconnection between fans and musicians. Young bands like The Revivalists are thoroughly enjoying the benefits, and the fans maybe even more so! As a matter of fact, Sax player Rob Ingraham mentioned in a recent blog that the inception of the Rev Head page was the most gratifying thing that happened for the band in 2015. For a band that released their biggest album to date and played Red Rocks for the first time, that says a lot. Many bands have similar fan pages and connect with their page members. It’s very special when the bands embrace the connection like The Revivalists do. There are many Grateful Dead fan pages (“You Know You’re From Dead Tour If”, “What A Long Strange Trip”, etc.) that utilize the same philosophy and provide a friendly space for fans to connect. I can only imagine how bands like the Grateful Dead in their earlier years would’ve fared in an internet and social media world. That’s something to ponder for a future article. #DeadheadForLife.
For band info and tour dates go to www.therevivalists.com
To make a donation and find out more about The Roots of Music go to www.therootsofmusic.org
To join the fun and connect with other fans of The Revivalists join the “Rev Heads” page on Facebook.
Also, be sure not to miss the band at the Major Rager (following the first night of the Masters Golf Tournament (click here for more info).