Arts Desk

DEJF: Revivalists @ Kennedy Center Millennium Stage

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....

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  • The Shape of Jazz (festivals) to Come

    Well, it seems that 99.9% of Jazz festivals these days are about 99.9% everything else BUT Jazz.
    It's like these organizers are just twisting the knife.

    Who runs these things? There are old masters now toiling away in near obscurity, youngsters trying to make their way in the tradition, and yet we get The Revivalists.

    To DEJF's credit, they do have a good number of local heroes every year.

  • James Sagroy

    Touche douche. Touche.

  • Al Small

    I saw the broadcast. By "significant portion" of the audience that left do you mean the entire 80 year old couple? The few hundred other people there seemed to have a really good time.

  • David Shaw

    Thank you Mr. West for your insightful review, we do appreciate all press...good and bad :)

  • Mr. Big

    As a Revivalists fan, I must dissent from your moronic review.

    First, let me note that Dave Shaw, with his respectful comment, has shown real class. However, Dave obviously does not know the meaning of the word "insightful."

    Vocals somewhere between BB King and Dave Matthews? What does that even mean? Almost all rock vocals fall in that range, so you are really saying that you are incapable of description. Reminds me of the saying- writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

    Roots music circa 1998? What the hell is that? Roots music goes back a little further than your thirteenth birthday.

    Zack Feinberg did not steal an Allman Brothers lick from Blue Sky- he paid tribute to one of his influences by quoting him, as musicians often do (e.g. Clapton quoting Blue Moon in Sunshine of Your Love) and as I am about to do.

    One of my influences, Mark Twain, once said of a book, that once you put it down, you can''t pick it back up. That's how I feel about your review.