Folk music was born from a rich tradition of giving and openness—and no one has done more to bring that original spirit back to the genre in recent years than Chuck Ragan has with The Revival Tour. “It’s an age-old idea and the way that families and communities have shared music for hundreds of years,” Ragan explains when asked where the inspiration for the Revival Tour came from. “At the end of most tours I went on, everyone would end up on stage together anyway so I thought why not communicate more before hand so we can share the old way collaboration onstage from the onset as the folks that came before us all did in the past?’”
Ragan—who is well-known as both a solo recording and touring artist as well as guitarist/vocalist for the legendary punk act Hot Water Music—conceptualized the idea for the Revival Tour in 2005 along with his wife Jill Ragan, however it didn’t come to fruition until 2008 when Ragan hit the road with Avail’s Tim Barry, Lucero’s Ben Nichols and a cast of revolving guests—including Against Me!’s Tom Gabel—for the tour’s inaugural year. “On the first tour we did 52 shows in 57 days. It was a long haul, took a lot of work and time to pull together but once we got on the road it was well worth it,” Ragan reminisces from his Northern California home.
Ragan is also quick to stress that despite the caliber of the musicians traveling alongside him, the Revival Tour is a place where camaraderie overflows. “There’s no hierarchy; it’s about sharing music together and bringing it to people in an extremely honest and grassroots fashion,” he explains, adding that the musicians on the tour all open the show together, join each other throughout the event and close it with a grand finale all together again. “It’s apparent that simple songs of folk music has been rising in popularity and it’s a joy to bring known artists that people already love but very important to us to expose lesser known artists to the world who play exemplary music and live by ethics we admire whether they’re solo musicians, groups or a singer of a band.”
In 2009 the second installment of the Revival Tour featuring Ragan, Barry, Jenny Owen Youngs, Kevin Seconds (7 Seconds), Jim Ward (Sparta), Audra Mae, Frank Turner and others was an even larger success and last year the tour traveled to Australia with the same success with many members of the Revival family for the tour’s first International run. This year the tour will venture on into the U.K. and all over Europe where it will feature the Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, the Loved Ones’ Dave Hause, Chuck Ragan and the Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano all accompanying each other along with Jon Gaunt on the fiddle and Joe Ginsberg on the upright bass. However as anyone who has attended the tour in the past knows, the line-up for each night of the Revival Tour is never truly set in stone. So unless you don’t mind missing something or someone, you want to be there from the beginning to the end.
“There are always going to be surprises and artists that come out of the woodwork and happen to be in that town that night,” Ragan responds when asked what a typical night with these troubadours entails. “That’s the thing about the Revival Tour, though we do rehearse and have some ideas of our collaborations, you never really know what’s going to happen,” he continues. “We’re sharing the music in the most stripped down honest way possible and sometimes there will be folks in town breezing through, so there’s no telling who’ll come up on that stage.”
Since its inception folk music’s popularity has always moved in waves and while Ragan rejoices at the fact that the genre seems to be going through another phase of popularity he also plans to keep the Revival Tour rolling when that isn’t necessarily the case. “We are going to do everything in our power to keep this tour going for years to come because we believe in the music; we put our hearts, souls and energy into it and the ethics we live by aren’t going anywhere,” he continues. “We’re still going to be here regardless of whether there are a lot of folks coming to the shows or it goes back underground where the majority of us come from. In the meantime, we’ve been documenting and archiving as many of the shows, artists and show goers as possible. We all feel we’re sharing something special together and it’s crucial to us to capture as much of that as possible with film, interviews, live recordings or backstage, back of the bus or parking lot hootenannies.”
Staying true to that spirit, Ragan—who recently returned from a trip to Germany where he held an instrument donation drive at the Eine Welt Haus in Munich. A refugee house where he helped build up and support their music and art program—Aside from the cause of supporting children’s music programs, Ragan is striving to make this year’s Revival Tour more ecologically conscious by raising funds for re-forestation projects and appropriating money for impoverished communities. “If you don’t take more time to support the people and the communities who’ve gotten you where you are and do what you can to take care of the world around you, sooner or later everything will disappear. It’s very important for us to do what we can to involve causes we believe in as well as run a responsible and sustainable tour by reducing and offsetting our carbon footprint,” Ragan explains, adding that in the past the tour has held guitar raffles to benefit various charities. “We have a lot of ideas in mind for these upcoming tours so that we can play the music we believe in and give back to the communities as well.”
Let’s face it; there really is no other experience like the Revival Tour and the intangible bond that ties all these artists together is evident at every show. “The most important part of the Revival Tour is the camaraderie and the way people are drawn to each other whether they’re on or off of the stage,” Ragan explains. “We live and breathe this music and I think it’s just a natural instinct for people who believe and live music to want to share that with other like-minded musicians,” he summarizes. “For those of us that have been traveling on the road for years it makes for a more interesting show not only for us involved but also for the folks who are spending their time and money to come see and support it. It truly is an unforgettable event.”