Hey, kids! Been thinking that what’s missing from today’s jazz festivals is an act that combines a jam-band-lite sound with roots rock circa 1998-2000 (now in heavy rotation on Washington Sports Club’s PA system)? The Revivalists might just be for you.
Yes, they’ve got all the trappings: ska, reggae, and funk grooves; furiously strummed acoustic guitars; the vocalist with the deep, earthy voice; the loud, chopsy drummer; the ’70s musical touchstones. If you ever went to H.O.R.D.E. Festival, you’ve probably seen a dozen bands just like them.
“We’re gonna mix it up,” singer/guitarist Dave Shaw promised as they began their set at the Millennium Stage Monday evening. “Some rock, some jazz, some reggae.” The jazz quotient consisted in its entirety of one chopsy saxophone solo from their guest saxophonist (whose name was indecipherable from the audience, and not listed in the program). The remainder of the muisic was middle-of-the-road “modern rock” that alternated between basic rock backbeat, whiteboy funk, ska, and reggae. Certainly Shaw made the most out of his “rootsy” voice, which falls somewhere on the spectrum between B.B. King and Dave Matthews, and bassist George Gekas did his best to exhibit some personality in a pinstripe sport coat, purple t-shirt, cutoff shorts, mohawk, and pink plastic sunglasses. The audience seemed to enjoy it, although a significant portion (who were apparently expecting jazz, or at least jazziness) left within three songs.
It’s bad music journalism to spend too much time comparing a band to other bands, but the Revivalists’ pastiches were too manifold not too notice. Matthews, Third Eye Blind, Rusted Root, Leftover Salmon, Madness…and, just when I had sworn to myself that I wasn’t going to mention The Allman Brothers, guitarist Zach Feinberg stole, verbatim, a lick from “Blue Sky.” Alas.
But hey, at least it was free….