Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The Revival Tour is led by Chuck Ragan's spirited hoarse voice. It's led by both of his hearts - the heavy one and the elated one. It's just an extension of everything that he lets get to him, lead him and straighten him out. The other men that the leader of Hot Water Music brings out on the road, into the bus with him, are fellow admirers of the finer things in life - though they are also those things that seem never to come without a high price and a lot of skinned up flesh. They are men who have drowned plenty of themselves in bottles, finding that all there is at the bottom of every one is more brown glass, not the simplicity of healing power that they were hoping for down there, after all that drink and dedication. Love stays difficult, even if the intentions stay mostly pure and true. It is the hitch that keeps them fighting through their days and nights and it's what keeps them unbalanced and staggering some. It's what keeps them up until the bewitching hours and beyond them, writing and singing their songs about all of harshness, as it defines what beauty they can find.
For this day and night at the end of the spring tour, Ragan brought his raggedy band of brothers to Rock Island. He, Cory Branan, Nathaniel Rateliff and auxiliary musicians Joe Ginsberg and Jon Gaunt were joined that day by Tom Gabel of Against Me! (who would just weeks later announce his transformation into Laura Jane Grace). On these recordings (minus Gabel, who rested on the bus as they were happening), which run through the solo work of all, one can hear the camaraderie of five men determined to get to the bottom of just what's being asked of them in life. They are willing to see their days run out and all blood spilled just to learn that there's something at the ends of all these roads that might be worth continuing for and not just some rambling chase for the chase's sake. Ragan sings, "Are we not the ones that manifest our destiny/Are we not the ones that spill blood in the streets/Are we not the ones that eat our young, destroy the land and sea/Then cry for help when all is said and done," and it's that thought - of when all is said and done - that he and these other men want to feel good about. It's important to them that there's something worthwhile, when the punctuation closes for them.