Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
- What: Revival Tour featuring Chuck Ragan
- When: 9 p.m. Monday
- Where: Beauty Bar, 517 E. Fremont St.
- Tickets: $16; 598-1965
Beyond the Sun
Songwriter Chuck Ragan is trying to find a rhyme for Ogallala.
He’s stuck on a bus, stranded by a blizzard in the Nebraska panhandle.
“It’s not so bad,” he says. “Really, I couldn’t ask for more under the circumstances. I’m warm and dry and I can put on a pot of coffee and sit here with my guitar messing around with a new song.”
Ragan and other musicians played Louisville, Ky., in the middle of October and headed west on the second Revival Tour. Their goal: 38 shows in 40 days from coast to coast.
The musicians cruised easily — a dozen shows in a dozen days in a dozen states — until they hit the historic frontier “Cowboy Capital” where there are few trees to slow down the winds that blow across the prairie.
Or an early-season blizzard.
Ice and blowing snow closed Interstate 80 and alternate routes to and from this town of 5,000. So the musicians parked the bus and canceled concerts in Denver and Salt Lake City. Next on the itinerary — Bozeman, Mont., which isn’t exactly Miami.
“I’m not the type to cancel a show, no matter what,” tour founder Ragan says over the cell phone from inside the cozy bus as snow piles up outside. “But when they block the roads there’s not much you can do.”
Ragan isn’t worried about the Revival Tour’s scheduled stop at the Beauty Bar in Las Vegas on Monday. He and the other musicians are hoping for a warm welcome.
The tour is a little unusual. There are no opening acts or headliners. Everyone is equal in this democratic musical revue, which blends rock, punk, Irish folk, Cajun, zydeco and blues — maybe even a little country or bluegrass.
Ragan is joined on the bus by Jim Ward (of Sparta and Sleepercar), Frank Turner, Joey Cape (Lagwagon) and Audra Mae with Jon Gaunt on fiddle and Digger Barnes on upright bass. But the lineup is a little different at every stop as other musicians join the group for a night or two or more and then drop out and are replaced by others.
“What we’re doing isn’t groundbreaking,” says Ragan, perhaps best known for being frontman for the punk rock group Hot Water Music. “I’ve been touring quite a few years, and over the years there tends to be a monotonous cycle of shows in which there are anywhere from three to four or five bands — there’ll be an opening band then a break and then the next band and a break and then the headliner and then everyone goes home.
“It can make for a great evening for us as players and for the audience, but if you go to a lot of shows it can get monotonous.”
And so Ragan created the Revival Tour to get rid of the monotony, touring the nation for two months in the fall with a core group of musicians and being joined by others on the route. The shows are more ad hoc, less formal.
“This brings something a little different to the table,” he says. “We’re not focusing on any one headliner, any one act. There’s nothing pretentious about it, no egos involved. You just get up there and do what you can do. Jump up there with other peoples’ songs — it’s different every day.”
Ragan, a carpenter by trade, doesn’t like to be idle.
When he isn’t performing with the Revival Tour (and producing a CD from the event), Ragan can be found with Hot Water Music, which disbanded in 2006 but reunited last year.
Or he may be found on a solo tour — currently promoting his latest album “Gold Country,” produced by his own label, Ten Four, and released in September.
When the Revival Tour ends Nov. 22 Ragan will take a day off and then fly to Germany for a week of shows with Hot Water Music, and when he returns he will tour Canada and the U.S. promoting his solo album, and then in April and May he will take the Revival Tour to Australia.
Next year he may rethink the tour’s schedule.
“I think in the future we’ll start the tour a little earlier,” he says from the bus, “like Sept. 1.”