Curated performances. Access to talent and influencers. Luxe accommodations. Even vitamin B-12 shots in the morning to put a spring in overnight guests’ step.
The inaugural Revival Experience, a one-day music fest held Wednesday (March 13) at the sprawling Camp Lucy just outside Austin, went off as advertised. A fact made all the sweeter given the event carried the specter of another like-minded gathering that didn’t fare so well.
“The biggest concern for us? Fyre Festival,” Trey Diller, co-owner with Mike Niam of production outfit Inspire Productions, told Billboard seated stage-side under the bluest of Texas skies. “I’ve talked to 200 people today, and I kid you not—every single person has said something about Fyre Fest. They knew we’d put something together, but they thought maybe it was going to be another Fyre. Today they’ve been saying, ‘You guys killed it.'”
The pilot for what Inspire hopes to parlay into a concept it can repeat multiple times a year was light years from the debacle in the Bahamas. Motor coaches transported guests from Austin to the venue, where a few hundred ticketholders sipped locally sourced libations, snacked on gourmet bites, perused goods from local artisans and mingled in a garden party-like atmosphere. A garden party, that is, whose entertainment was hand-selected by Delta Spirit front man Matthew Logan Vasquez and included an acoustic set by Nathaniel Rateliff and performances by Shakey Graves, Patty Griffin and a reunion of Vasquez’s most recent band, Glorietta, among others.
Delivering on its promise of a free-range fan experience, with boundaries blurred between guests and artists, Revival was bigger and boujee-er than your typical house party and more intimate than, say, Willie Nelson’s beloved Luck Reunion, which draws about 3,000 annually to Nelson’s nearby ranch.
Between sets on the main stage, fans—who paid $497-$547 for a day pass—could wander into an onsite chapel to catch a recording session with one of the featured acts. Those who rented a luxury cottage on the grounds were treated to loose late-night jam sessions that kicked off at midnight with the Texas Gentlemen.
The custom experience, of course, comes at a cost. Key to the Revival business model is having a curator, Diller said, both to help with artist connections and contract negotiations and serve as a good will ambassador. Vasquez—who was brought in by former C3, now Inspire partner Haden Shibley—was in from day one, which was only about five months ago. Revival Experience came together quickly, as Vasquez rounded up an A-list of Texas Hill Country-centric talent.
“Once we decided what it was going to be, they gave me carte blanche to pick whoever I wanted. Of course, my first call was to Nathaniel, because we’ve been friends forever, and then I called Ali [aka Shakey Graves]. And Glorietta made complete sense,” said Vasquez, whose solo album Light’n Up was released on Dine Alone Records in late February.
“[We wanted to create] one hell of a bill and a really relaxed environment where you’re not forced to compete with people to watch it or be in a situation where you have to awkwardly stand in front of the stage if you don’t feel like it, and it’s not a zoo of people,” he said. “It’s a great vibe. I’d love to see it go every year.”
“He’s giving us a very good rate on both sides of the table. He’s super into it and it’s all good,” Diller said of Vasquez. “In this industry, in life, it’s who you know. Going through agencies and talent bookers, sometimes you don’t even get a response. He was a major, major role in this.”
Even so, the inaugural run, with every stop pulled out, operated as a loss leader for Inspire, in large part by design as the company strives to claim a new space in the crowded festival field. Of the 500-max capacity attendees, including guests, talent and staff, only about 200 had purchased tickets, with the rest reserved for invited guests. And of the roughly 80 event staffers on site, 80 percent were volunteers, Diller said.
“We cut off sales at 200, the others were always going to be complementary to industry people. We wanted to get them here. I don’t ever want to do it this way again, and I won’t ever do it again, but this is a baby right now and to be able to have a captive audience… it made a lot of sense,” he said.
The plan is to woo potential partners. “This is a concept we’d like to take potentially anywhere in the world,” Diller said. “We’re already thinking about doing three to five next year.” California, Florida, New York and Washington, DC, are on the short list, he noted, although the next Revival Experience may be close to home again. Inspire is talking with Texas country artist Parker McCollum about a potential next run. “That’s a genre we’d like to tap into,” he added.
But Inspire is thinking bigger in geography, if not size. Diller cited attaching an experience to multiday fests like Lollapalooza. The timing and proximity of Revival’s maiden voyage to Austin’s massive South By Southwest conference and festival was no coincidence.
“Our talent buyer has been in the industry for 15-plus years, Haden’s been at it eight years and I’ve been in it for four—and none of us has seen anything like this produced before. This is not made for every musician, nor is it made for every person. But yes, we’d like to take it to any genre, and maybe merge some genres,” he said.
With that in mind, “We thought, ‘Let’s invite a lot of industry people to come experience it,'” Diller said, citing executives from C3, Live Nation and ScoreMore Shows among the crowd. The conversation he hoped to have with them would go something like this: “‘How about it we don’t compete and instead, let’s collaborate and create?’ This is an analogy we’ve used often as we talk to them: In five years we’d like to be on a private yacht with 75 gusts paying $100,000 a ticket. But on that yacht we have Paul McCartney, Elton John and Neil Young. Super intimate.”
To further help telescope the event, Inspire also hosted a bevy of vendors. Film production company Cinderblock captured the Ian’s Chapel recording sessions. And in what was perhaps a subconscious nod back to Fyre, the team brought in documentary filmmakers Backstory to document the day.
“We’re all mic’d up and doing a documentary type thing all about the concept and the experience, how we’re putting this all together,” Diller said. “We’re going to lay it all out like a Netflix doc.”
Country Outlaw Songwriter Billy Joe Shaver Dies at 81
He became a reliable storyteller, logging songs with Kris Kristofferson (“Good Christian Soldier”), Tom T. Hall (“Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me”), the Allman Brothers (“Sweet Mama”) and Elvis (“You Asked Me To”). When Jennings invited Shaver to Nashville to work on what became his 1973 outlaw country landmark album Honky Tonk Heroes, Shaver burst into national…
He became a reliable storyteller, logging songs with Kris Kristofferson (“Good Christian Soldier”), Tom T. Hall (“Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me”), the Allman Brothers (“Sweet Mama”) and Elvis (“You Asked Me To”). When Jennings invited Shaver to Nashville to work on what became his 1973 outlaw country landmark album Honky Tonk Heroes, Shaver burst into national prominence. He landed credits on 10 out of 11 tracks on the album that is often tagged as the first, and some say best, “outlaw” LP from a back-to-basics 1970s movement that included Willie Nelson, Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and a number of others.In 1973, he also released his Kristofferson-produced solo debut, Old Five and Dimers Like Me, which included his beloved songs “Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me” and “Georgia on a Fast Train.” Cash covered his song “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day),” which he wrote after giving up drugs and alcohol. In all, Shaver released nearly 2 dozen albums on a variety of labels (MGM, Capricorn, Columbia, new West, Sugar Hill), earning a Grammy nomination for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Album for his 2007 effort Everybody’s Brother. His most recent release, 2014’s Long in the Tooth, was his first to chart on Billboard’s Top Country Albums tally and it featured a duet with Nelson on “Hard to Be an Outlaw.”Shaver received the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting from the Americana Music Association in 2002 and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006. His highest praise, however, came from the men who towered in the genre and whom he called friends. Cash once referred to Shaver as “my favorite songwriter,” and good pal Nelson said he was “definitely the best writer in Texas… Everything he writes is just poetry.”His rough-and-tumble songs often emerged from a life that had its share of tragedies and heartache, from his son Eddy’s 2000 death from a heroin overdose to the nearly fatal heart attack he suffered onstage in 2001 and a notorious incident in 2007 when a bar fight ended with Shaver shooting another man in the face; he was acquitted of the charges and turned the scuffle into the song “Wacko From Waco.”Shaver also acted in a number of films, including Secondhand Lions, The Wendell Baker Story and Bait Shop, and his song “Live Forever” was performed by his friend Robert Duvall in the Oscar-winning film Crazy Heart; Duvall cast Shaver in his 1996 movie The Apostle and produced the 2004 documentary A Portrait of Billy Joe.Check out some of Shaver’s songs below.
Janelle Monáe Leads The Revolution In Stirring ‘Turntables’ Video
YouTube “We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.” That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic…
“We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.”
That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic refrain with clear gospel influences. It’s Monáe’s take on a contemporary protest song, a call for a political sea change, in the vein of, say, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” or Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
Courtesy of Atlantic RecordsAnd on Tuesday (September), Monáe released a moving music video — or, as she calls it, an emotion picture — that solidified that message. The visual opens and closes with the singer walking along the beach in a beige trench coat and military cap. At times, she can be seen singing into a retro microphone before an American flag; in others, she moves through staged breakfast scenes, with a family reading through newspaper headlines as they mouth her lyrics. The visual flashes through archival and contemporary footage depicting inspirational figures past and present: Where one scene shows the model and activist Jillian Mercado at a photo shoot, another depicts a conversation with lifelong activist Angela Davis.
What rings true without is a hopeful cry for change and for equality, and a recognition of those who have been leading that fight for decades. Monáe wrote “Turntables” for the new Amazon Studios documentary, All In: The Fight for Democracy, that shines a light on voter suppression, particularly through the lens of Stacey Abrams’s failed bid for the Georgia governorship. “Right now, I am focused on turning the election in our favor,” Monáe told Entertainment Weekly, “and I hope this song can inspire those who are on the ground doing the work.”
Joe Keery’s Reinvention, Mxmtoon’s Carly Rae Jepsen Collab, And More Songs We Love
Getty Images/April Blum The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new? Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by…
Getty Images/April Blum
The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
St. Vincent ft. Yoshiki: “New York”
St. Vincent, the intuitive musical goddess that she is, must have sensed our collective need for another quarantine ballad. Enter “New York [Feat. Yoshiki],” a classical arrangement of the standout single from 2017’s Masseduction. An added string section courtesy of Yoshiki, a Japanese multi-instrumentalist, beautifully complements the song’s original piano instrumentals. What more can I say? “New York isn’t New York / Without you, love” just hits different in the middle of a pandemic. —Sam Manzella
Djo: “Keep Your Head Up”
Last year, Joe Keery (of Stranger Things fame) released a glossy solo album under the moniker Djo. It was titled Twenty Twenty, and its sparkling arrangements ended up being quite far removed from the overall vibe of 2020 the year, but who could fault him for his optimism? Keery has also long been a contributing member of Chicago psych band Post Animal, but Djo is simply Joe — and latest “Keep Your Head Up” feels like several Joes ripping open a vortex in the funk-time continuum. This is a groove, peppered with buzzy synths and icy falsetto and an honest-to-god sax part. It’s akin to Todd Terje doing Tame Impala, a lightheaded cocktail rush that feels both clubby and bedroom ambitious. Positively galactic. —Patrick Hosken
Mxmtoon ft. Carly Rae Jepsen: “OK On Your Own”
When Mxmtoon’s Maia said she recorded “OK On Your Own” for the girls and the gays, she wasn’t kidding. The mellow bedroom-pop bop soundtracks a journey of self-reflection after a breakup, complete with the soft ukulele instrumentals that put the 19-year-old singer-songwriter on the map. Is it revelatory? No, but with pop icon Carly Rae Jepsen lending her sugary-sweet vocals to the second verse, it doesn’t have to be. Now I’m just waiting for “Party for Two.” —Sam Manzella
Video Age: “Aerostar”
Pleasure Line, the third album from emerging indie pop quartet Video Age, delivers perfectly escapist ’80s new wave vibes for when you need to get outta 2020 for just a moment. “Aerostar” is its punchy center, a hip-twisting, shoulder-shuffling groove that delivers quirky robot dance commands (“Slide to the left, now! Shimmy to the right!”) over hoppin’ funk synths and a kickin’ drum machine. It all harkens to a simpler time, one where dance floors were actually a real thing. Oh, the ’80s! —Terron Moore
Ruel: “As Long As You Care”
About a year ago, Australian middle-part heartthrob Ruel told MTV News that for him, “songwriting is exaggerating to an extent.” On his latest, the technicolor, soulful “As Long As You Care,” his exaggeration is so seamless, you’d be forgiven for believing the 17-year-old is actually a time traveler. The neo-soul groove he rides propels everything upward, even as the sound cheekily looks backward. “As Long As You Care” has one amazing hook, coupled with sonic candy that makes his upcoming third EP, Bright Lights, Red Eyes (out October 23) one to watch. —Patrick Hosken
Alycia Bella ft. Boogie: “Cue the Sun”
Something magical happens two-and-a-half minutes into “Cue the Sun,” the exploratory new collab between striking R&B voice Alycia Bella and rapper Boogie. After piping in the aural equivalent of stage smoke via jazzy piano and gorgeous vocalizations — “It feel like being lost in the right direction” — Bella’s song enters a more sparkly realm for Boogie’s recitations. By the end, you’re lighter, like your mind’s been cleared of all the cobwebs. Cue the sun. —Patrick Hosken
Carly Rae Jepsen