the revival tour & a message for the camaraderie

The Revival Tour 2013 almost didn’t happen for me.

I bought my ticket thinking Shamoo was going to go, Dean & Robin weren’t able to make it, Mike & Maggie up and moved to Milwaukee ((they are loving it, by the way!)) and it got down to Thursday and all I could think was, “Blerg. I really don’t want to go alone.”

Not that I wouldn’t have done it, but I knew after seeing Frank Turner by myself two years ago in England that these shows just aren’t the same without friends. And with the music of the Revival Tour being so much apart of my life with my friends, I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to go it alone. To be honest, with the current state of things, it probably would have broken me a little bit.

But what ho! Why it took me so long to think of asking Nathan is beyond me. So I asked, he said yes and the rest is music history.

That being said, and while I had an absolute blast, and Chuck and the boys ((and girl – what up, Jenny O?!)) were truly better than ever… It was not the same without the Camaraderie.

My Camaraderie.

I was absolutely aching for my friends.

The ones who introduced me to this music that has become part of my life’s blood, the stuff that runs through my veins and makes me alive. These musicians who, as I told Nathan after the show when I was reeling from the heel-stompin’, ever-grand finale of “Revival Road”, have become as much a part of my life over the last five years as anyone I’ve known in person were singing their songs, our songs, and none of my people were there to throw my arm around. To hold onto and stomp and wail and embrace verse after verse.

Things are not the same. It is gut-wrenching. It is heart-shattering. I pray this season ends soon and things that are bent and broken will be restored.

That maybe it’s just lost and needs to be found again.

But there, I promise you, is the healing power of music.

Friendship is something worth fighting for. Things will get hard, life will beat the living hell out of you. There will be words and misunderstandings. We will say things out of anger and hurt, things we don’t mean. But that hurt and that anger drive us to be horrible versions of ourselves that are most definitely not ourselves. Time will get away from all of us and we might have to work at it for the first time, but it’s worth it.

Family is worth it.

And that music - that incredible, convicting, eye-opening music, reminded me of that.
((chuck ragan))

The show had already started when we got there so the just-short-of-a-full-on-sprint I was pulling in front of the Aladdin had to have been glorious to behold. But, these are the risks you take when you’re a Portlander insistent on Happy Hour at all costs. In retrospect I can say that the grilled cheese bites with whatever garlic-parmesan-parsley devil dipping sauce it was I was eating were totally worth the lost 10 minutes.

Ah, yes, “The Lost Ten” as they will henceforth be known.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if Chuck Ragan’s low-rumbling voice welcomed you into every establishment you entered? My complaints are only half-hearted.

The curious thing about the Aladdin Theater is that it’s full of seats. SEATS for cryin’ out loud! How are we to properly shout to the rafters with Rows One through One Million in our way?

Turns out, not quite the crisis situation I’d imagined.

Everyone crowded to where I can only imagine the orchestra pit would have dwelled and stormed the stage with enthusiasm and plastic cups full of their fermented favorites.

We arrived toward the final verse of the opening number and settled in toward stage right, eventually nudging up close enough to see the beads of sweat on Joe Ginsberg’s forehead.

Too much information?

((joe ginsberg))
Regardless, I have not one single negative comment about the whole show. From the fortuitous guest appearance by fairly-recent Portland arrival Chris McCaughan ((Sundowner)) ((he pushed past us at the Hot Water Music show a few months back and I’m still rather proud of us for not making a bigger deal of it than we did)) to Jenny O’s hauntingly sweet voice mingling so perfectly with the rough sounds erupting from her tourmate’s vocal chords, it was perfection. From Dave Hause all but professing his undying love for his recently engaged cohort ((upon mentioning Joe’s said engagement Dave made a point to let us know that while he was engaged, yes, he was engaged to him… Dave that is)) ((also introducing him onto stage at one point with, “All the way from Instagram, it’s Joooe Ginsberg!)), to Tim McIlrath catching me more than completely off-guard as I was forced to remember one song in particular that holds special meaning for me was in fact a Rise Against tune – that was a fun one. And with Chuck Ragan himself shouting his particular breed of gospel loud enough to ricochet off of Jon Gaunt’s ever-heavenly fiddle and into the ether – yes, by God, it was damn near perfect.

((tim mcilrath))

As I scanned the stage of this so perfectly unique tour, where no matter who is at the mic you can bet someone backstage will scatter themselves into the spotlight and pick up the tune, finding a harmony who-knows-if-anyone-had-ever-known existed.

((chris mccaughan//sundowner))

A stage littered from one side to the other with no less than a dozen or so instruments – a handful of guitars, Joe’s standing bass, the mandolin I think everyone picked up at least once, an impressive drum set against which leaned Jon’s unassuming fiddle among a pile of picks, strings and somewhere in there, Chuck’s harmonica, probably underneath the tambourine Jenny beat tremendously when her guitar wasn’t in hand.

These musicians are more than just bandmates or tourmates. They are brothers and sisters, able to finish not only each other’s sentences but pick up the tunes where one leaves off and the other must finish. Each can pick up any instrument lying about and play it like that was their only true passion. They know the words and hidden verses to everyone’s songs. These are the words written on their arms and their very souls, so far as I can tell.

You couldn’t sing like that if they were just words on a page and notes from a hollow piece of carved wood.

I realized somewhere toward the end of the show, my right leg growing increasingly sore as my boot heel struck the concrete floor again and again and again, building to the final strums of this acoustic, folk symphony, that this was the music of my life.

Those drums beats were so loud that I had long ago stopped being able to tell if it was my own pulse beating behind my temples or if it was  - oh lord, who was on the drums now? I think they each took that seat at some point in the evening – thumping away.

((joe ginsberg & tim mcilrath))

I went into that show fully prepared for Chuck to destroy me with any one of his songs that hold a deeper meaning. I knew that if Chris so much as played the first chords of “100 Resolutions” I might lose myself entirely. What I couldn’t have prepared for though was just before “Revival Road” when Tim stepped forward from the lot of them, all on stage at this point for the big send-off into the night, to the microphone and played the notes that I’m still surprised didn’t send me to my knees.

The words though… Then the words came…

Am I loud and clear, or am I breaking up?
Am I still your charm, or am I just bad luck?
Are we getting closer or are we just getting more lost?
I'll show you mine if you show me yours first
Let's compare scars, I'll tell you whose is worse
Let's unwrite these pages and replace them with our own words…

((tim mcilrath, joe ginsberg, dave hause, chuck ragan, jon gaunt & jenny o))

Among all of the songs I’ve played again and again and again over the past almost five years since I met the first person I’d know from what would one day be called The Camaraderie - back when he was still so much a Jackal, before I knew any of the other hell-bent angels with luck on their side, before I’d find a kindred spirit in not one but all of them, as friends became girlfriends, before breakups and engagements, through cross-country moves there and back again, and life decisions made somewhere between one end of the west coast and the other - there was one song that I always secretly kept tucked in a safe corner of my heart. Because at that time in my life, all of our lives, I could only see it as something akin to not only truth, but prophecy and, I’ll say it again, gospel.

We live on front porches and swing life away,
We get by just fine here on minimum wage
If love is a labor I'll slave till the end,
I won't cross these streets until you hold my hand

Swing Life Away”, though we’d all be quick to proclaim our love for it, is not one of the top-of-the-list go-to’s when we’ve had just enough of whatever it is and decide it’s time to start singing into the night. It’s not always one we let play all the way through when an old CD gets thrown in the player because “the one song” we were really looking for is maybe, probably, I’m-almost-positive-it’s-on-this-mix!

But there it was.

It was there for me.

And even now as I write this I wish any one of them, just one person from my little family of nomads, were here to throw my arms around.

I hope, oh God do I hope, you all know how much you mean to me. How much your friendships have come to define my life.

Mike, Dean, Robin, Shamoo, Maggie and Jared...
and to so many others who have come into our lives, 
but to you six most of all

You are my people. Come hell or high water. You are the ones I have turned to, leaned on, fallen into, held up, fallen with, stood for, loved and grieved with.

You are my heart outside my body.

John 15v13 has this to say:

Greater love has no one than this; that one would lay down his life for his friends.

That's it.

And while it’s true that I could say many of these things about many friends, there are far fewer I could say this all for.

For anything I’ve ever done to hurt you, I apologize, deeply and truly. For anything I have done for you, I hope to have strength enough to always be there for you in that way.

Among all of the people I’ve been blessed enough to know in my life, you have been the ones to show me a different kind of love. A brotherly, sisterly sort of friendship that throughout the last five years many conversations have been had about, trying to figure out the right words to define it.

And all words failed and brought an aching in my chest because they weren’t quite right.

All words until one.


Chuck Ragan once asked us, “Shall we be the ones that manifest our destiny?”

We will all come and go in various ways when it comes to where we all fit into each other’s lives. That’s the natural ebb and flow of this world.

But one thing will remain the same, at least so far as I can say for myself:

Maybe not in such drastic, literal ways as that lyric may suggest, but you know.

You all get it.

You guys… All six of you…

You’re the one for me.

The only picture of all seven of us together, taken at the Sundowner show 14 December 2012