THE REVELERS: SUNDAY, APRIL 30—FAIS DO-DO STAGE, 2:50 P.M.
Legend has it that the Revelers began when the ghost of C.C. Adcock appeared to drummer Glenn Fields in the midst of a yoga session and announced there was room for yet another, albeit younger, swamp pop band on the scene. That same night in 2010, Dewey Balfa appeared to accordionist Blake Miller in a dream and informed him that he would be a torch-bearer for generations to come.
Whether you believe everything on Wikipedia, what is true is about the Revelers is that its roots run deep in its predecessor band, the Red Stick Ramblers, who played a wide range of Western swing, gypsy jazz and Cajun tunes.
During the height of their 15-year run, the Ramblers played 200-plus dates per year, toured all 50 states and played some internationally, in addition to releasing 5 albums.
“For good or for bad, some of us learned how to be professional musicians,” Fields says. “And some of us learned it wasn’t the right thing for them so they moved on.”
Fields says that towards the end of the Ramblers’ run, apathy began to settle in. “We weren’t practicing,” says Fields. “We weren’t learning any tunes. It wasn’t fun anymore and that’s why were started the Revelers.”
“We were into a lot of old swamp pop and I’ve always been into Southern soul music,” says fiddler/guitarist Daniel Coolik. “So we made a semi-conscious decision to be the kind of band that you would find playing music from Acadiana that people would dance to on a Saturday night.”
For a while, both bands operated simultaneously with the number of Ramblers gigs shrinking and the number of Revelers gigs increasing. “Eventually we decided to call it quits and do the Revelers full time,” Fields explains.
The Red Stick Ramblers played their last gig at the Blackpot Festival—a festival the band launched in 2006—on October 24, 2013.
Even though the repertoires of both the Red Stick Ramblers and the Revelers are distinct and far-reaching in their own right, Coolik sees the commonalities between them, such as being dance-oriented with elements of swing and blues.
One thing that allowed the Revelers to turn the corner and not just be an electrified string band with an accordion was the acquisition of Vermont-based saxophonist Chris Miller. Though stories differ on how they met Miller, Justus took a liking to the young, spunky saxophonist and asked him to record on the band’s eponymously titled debut. The chemistry worked so well that eventually the Revelers asked Miller to join the band.
“One of the things I’m proud of is the way we play together as a harmonic device,” Fields says about how the different combinations of sax, accordion, fiddle and guitar playing—reminiscent of vintage, horn-powered swamp pop/soul bands.
“We borrow a lot from Gatemouth Brown, Count Basie and T-Bone Walker where the sections are two different voices and play off of each other or double in contrasting voices and play a riff together,” Fields explains. “It was easy for Chris to pick up on that sensibility because he is such a studied musician.”
Over the course of two full-length albums and two EPs, the Revelers have evolved from being interpreters of swamp pop to innovators with in-the-idiom originals, Doug Sahm influences and the adaptation of unexpected covers into their filter.
The band’s second full-length album, Get Ready, featured all original material and was nominated for a Grammy in 2016.
While Fields cites the arrangements as being among his favorite things about the Revelers, Coolik praises their work ethic. “Everybody’s really present when we are playing onstage. That’s really important because travelling and your personal life can get you down. As soon as we play, nobody sweats that shit and the fun part is the set you get to play.”
Whereas a Ramblers booking agent once suggested it was better to have one lead vocalist because it was too confusing otherwise (even though Justus and bassist Eric Frey sang in addition to Linzay Young), everyone sings lead or background vocals in the Revelers. “The band is totally about doing just what you want to do,” says Fields. “We work together as a group but if you don’t want to do something don’t do it. If you want to do something, let’s do it.”
“We made an unwritten rule early on that we wouldn’t say no to anybody as far as musical ideas,” Fields says. “If somebody brought a song to the table, we would do it until we stopped wanting to play it.”
“The path that leads to success for this band is just doing things that make us happy,” he explains, as opposed to developing a marketing plan and hiring a manager and a publicist in order to play the game. “We are not Mumford and Sons. We are never going to be a pop band. If we just keep playing the music we love to play, hopefully people will like it and continue to listen and to me, that’s success.”