The Revival Tour was already too long ago for me to have a good excuse for why it's taken me so long to write about it, so I'll just skip that part.
Especially because the important thing is to put all the emphasis on how amazing the show was.
Have they invented a word better than "amazing" yet?
Well until they do, I'll get to work on the definition...
Monday night, April 16th, Dante's on Burnside.
The Camaraderie (minus one Shamoo) saw Michull, Maggie, Dean, Robin, Jared and me downtown a little before the show to grab a drink and check out the venue. I'd never been to Dante's before, even though I spent the first two years of my life in Portland driving right past it every night on my way home from work at the restaurant.
Quick verdict? New favorite venue. Since Berbati's closed down to make way for the Voodoo Doughnut expansion project, I'd started to lose faith (though I was digging the Hawthorne Theatre where we saw Frank Turner back in October). For the record? Westside concert venue appreciation officially renewed.
Though the adjacent pizza joint was fresh out of their number one commodity, we settled on starting the night with a pint after perusing the merchandise table. I for one was excited to see goods with "Water Tower Bucket Boys" on them. Those boys had joined the gang for Revival Tour 2009 (had it really been almost three years?) and always stuck in my mind. If you're in the Portland area I highly recommend looking them up.
But, cutting to the chase...
Eventually the lights dimmed, the crowd surged and as the guys took to the stage I could feel the electric excitement that always accompanies seeing a musician who's music is practically gospel to me. With the opening strums of "Nomad By Fate" the six of us took to stomping and swaying to the beat almost immediately. Chuck Ragan, Jon Gaunt, Joe Ginsberg, Tom Gabel, Cory Branan, Nathaniel Rateliff, The Water Tower Bucket Boys - the stage was rattling from the ferocity of guitars, mandolins, the fiddle, the bass.
(seriously, Joe on the bass and Jon on the fiddle? it doesn't get much better!)
It didn't take long for my heel to find a steady beat as it pounded to the floor with every note, each song taking me to another memory. All around me were the people I love, their eyes alternating between glued to the stage and falling closed, lost somewhere in their own reminiscence. To my left, Michull and Maggie were wrapped around each other. To my right, Jared thrashed side to side in the way he does when he's completely lost in the music. Behind me, Dean and Robin sang along to every word (Dean's characteristic off-key voice making me think of all the nights we'd all raised our glasses to these songs and laughed knowing we were all collectively - but sincerely - butchering the original notes).
Chuck even outdid himself by bringing up an accompanying vocalist when he sang "For Broken Ears". Was it a fellow troubadour out on tour? No. It wasn't even a professional musician per se. But rather a young man just back from Afghanistan. He had missed the last time Chuck Ragan had played a show and Mr. Ragan wanted to make sure he didn't miss another one. And so he sang for all the shows he had missed while he had been sacrificing so much, so that men like Chuck could keep singing; so that women like me could keep swaying to the songs that have meant the difference between accepting defeat and wrestling for happiness come hell or high water; so that one night in Portland a room full of nomads, miscreants, musicians, artists, butchers, writers, firefighters, and soldiers could all hear what it sounds like when their voices cry out at the same time in some of the purest joy imaginable.
Yes. It was one of the most beautiful swells of sound I've ever heard.
Throughout the show, as the various men took their spotlight, the momentum continued to build. Cory Branan left us all somewhere between awestruck and terrified ("wildcard!"); with a rasp that could give Ben Nichols a run for his money and a slightly crazed look in his unblinking eyes we all stood wondering where the hell we'd been having not heard him before. Tom Gabel had us all singing along until our throats might have bled had it not been for the cooling draught of Guinness rushing to soothe them. Jon Gaunt may well have set his (ever-impressive) beard on fire from sheer friction as he coaxed note after note from that fiddle of his. Joe Ginsberg wailed on the standing bass making his performance the only thing more sensational than his mustache. And Chuck? My word. After years of life on the road and on the stage, his voice is virtually thrashed but still... Oh, but still... I would wrap myself up in it if I could.
Something I'm grateful for is that advice an old teacher of mine gave me: if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.
Well, in this case, I stomped my boot heel.
Because as I stood there, hot and sweaty in a room full of strangers, I couldn't help but think about how we're not really strangers at all. The men on stage had risked it all to bare their souls in the songs they poured out over us; those songs we would have written ourselves if we'd have found the words first (or so we'd like to think). The shoulders I bumped into, and the toes I occasionally (and accidentally) stepped on were those of people who had come to worship these musicians at this temple the same way we had, and probably for the same reasons.
And the arms of my friends - Jared to my left now, and Dean to my right, each of them flanked by Michull and Robin respectively, with Maggie's arm tucked under Michull's to bring up the far end of the six of us - I can tell you my pure joy was the only thing greater than the music flooding me at that moment.
We stood there, linked together in an embrace that, while it might not have been a promise that we'll all always be together, at the same venue, in the same city, in the same way forever - it was certainly the promise to one another that from the first notes, to the final song, this would be one more memory to live in when life decides to take us in six different directions again.
With our heads lifted high, our throats bursting at the seams and a collective rhythm coursing through our veins, we made the promise that bet your stars, one day we'll return...
For revival, sin and soul.