by Jason Estopinal
November 1, 2008 – The Knitting Factory, Los Angeles, CA
Lined up like a row of raw unshucked corn, punk/folk/Americana pillars Tim Barry (Avail), Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music, Rumbleseat), Ben Nichols (Lucero), and Tom Gabel (Against Me!) crowded the stage to a sold out audience of foot stompin’ fist pumpers. More than likely green to the rootsy genre of music of the night, the onlookers at Saturday night’s show at Los Angeles’ venue, The Knitting Factory, were attentive the full 2 hour set. The formatting of the show was quite similar to that of the Amy Grant, Vince Gill, and Del McCoury Band concert that I attended awhile back where the music was played in such a way not very different than a front porch Appalachia session (or for us West Coasters, think one of those sessions when a few guitars and some Bud heavy’s are being passed around a fire-pit). The night started with Tim, Chuck, Ben (and 2 other gentleman providing accompaniment on slide guitar and upright bass, who played the through most the evening) triple teaming one of Tim’s licks, then one of Chuck’s, and then one of Ben’s. Following the triple-team-sesh a somewhat shy Tom Gabel took the stage as everyone else cleared off. Tom played only about 4 songs, one of which was “Wagon Wheel,” a pretty folky Old Crow Medicine Show/Dylan tune that was basically the only one of said genre that Tom brought to the listeners. Gabel was received well and sounded good, but his pop/anarcho/rock songs were about as fitting as MC Hammer’s return to the stage a few weeks back when he co-headlined at The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. All in all Gable and the electric guitar he shouldered (the only one to be seen this night), was entertaining and a nice addition (and I’m assuming the five star tour bus parked in front of the venue was an uncontested bonus that came with the Sire record’s rising star, and was probably a little smoother than Tim Barry’s and Avail’s old jalopy of necessity, the infamous “vanarchy.”). Up next, Ben Nichols (a bit saturated with the 8 Jameson’s consumed prior to his taking the stage) played the same brand of Texas and Punk influenced music he’s been playing for awhile now, which included “The War” and a post-Halloween treat in Jawbreaker’s “Kiss the Bottle.” Ben and his tunes were bitchin, but a bit slow and heavy for the howdownish precedent they had earlier began the night with. Up next came the crowning jewel of the night, Avail’s front man, the much underappreciated and virtually unknown Tim Barry. Barry’s genuineness, intriguing “common man” banter, and song introductions drew the crowd in, and kind of made me want to wear baggy pants and hop a train so that I can write music and entertain people half as successfully as Barry. Following Barry came Chuck Ragan and his raspy vocals that would give Doc Watson’s grandmother goose bumps. Ragan played a HWM song, a Rumbleseat tune, a few of his own, and a pretty amazing Coal Mining traditional. You could almost see what the kids in the audience were thinking, just wishing they could go back in time about a month, and instead of wasting their money on the new Vampire Weekend, bought a Chuck Ragan album and learned every last word so that they could feel complete and belt out those stanzas with more emotion and fervor than a Floridian church full of Baptists singin’ “Be Thou My Vision” on a humid July night. The boys wrapped things up the same way they started the evening, with everyone on stage together (including Gable this time) playin, singin and shoutin, fiddles a blazin, laughing and doing it better than the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and friends closing the night with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” The Revival Tour takes all the best things of the Grand Ole Opry and 924 Gilman, a pre WWII Saturday night Aunt Jemmima Syrup sponsored radio concert and CBGB’s, and an awesome and creepy snake handling church of the South and brings them to the venue right down your street.