Railroad Revival Tour: Marfa
A few weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, I had the incredible opportunity to travel all the way to the other side of Texas, to the tiny town of Marfa, TX. The occasion had nothing to do with the holiday, but rather to be a part of a one of a kind event known as the Railroad Revival Tour. Making six stops from Oakland, CA all the way to New Orleans, a vintage train carried the likes of Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show throughout the American Southwest on a tour that highlighted collaboration amongst the groups above anything else. While the tour also stopped in Austin and New Orleans, much closer destinations than the rest, I opted to put my press request in for Marfa, a good ten hour road trip from Houston. I’d never been to West Texas, so I figured this was as good of a time as any, especially with the stacked list of performers slated to play. We packed our car, and drove off into the afternoon sun, a day before the show to ensure we’d make it on time. After a day gone by, we pulled into Marfa and headed straight towards the one and only bar in town.
Read more about the show after the jump
Words and photos by Jim “Eggs” Bricker
After a day of walking around Marfa, and an afternoon of drinking at that same bar, Padre’s, we walked down the main road in town to the venue, El Cosmico, just south of the train tracks. Earlier in the day, we witnessed the Railroad Revival train pulling through town, but apparently they had to move on to the next town to deboard as Marfa didn’t have a real train station. As we made it to the venue, which housed a nice sized camping area as well as furnished trailers for rent, we walked in through security which included but wasn’t limited to border patrol agents in time to scope the venue before the start of the show. After meeting up with a few friends, and a random run-in with Jake Gyllenhaal, I headed towards the photo pit just in time for the start of Old Crow Medicine Show’s set. An obvious opener to the two other bands just because of recent rises to success for both Edward Sharpe and Mumford, Old Crow were also the perfect choice as they immediately pulled out the undeniable energy that was coursing through the gathering crowd. Playing in front of mostly Austin, Dallas and Houston residents, Old Crow had the audience in their hands in no time. Fast-paced bluegrass plus an early sit in on “Take ‘Em Away” by Marcus Mumford, and we all knew we were in for something incredibly special. Soon enough the stage was being littered by members of all three bands, playing the songs of Old Crow to a t. Closing their set with their biggest hit, “Wagon Wheel,” Old Crow provided the perfect icebreaker for one of the best concerts I’ve ever witnessed.
Old Crow Medicine Show
There was no specific order listed anywhere, so it could’ve been anyone’s guess for who would play next. I was pulling for Mumford & Sons to close the show, with Edward Sharpe pulling up the mid-shift, but after checking out the newly forming stage set-up, I quickly realized we were being treated to Mumford next. I was cool with that. I had seen both of the other bands a few times each, but had yet to catch Mumford & Sons in a live format. I, like many people as of late, have been uber-obsessed with everything they’ve done and are currently doing in the music world – really though, who wouldn’t be?! Finally, as I stood in the pit, they were in front of me spitting out the opening notes to “Sigh No More,” the title track from their 2009 debut LP. While I snapped away with my camera, I couldn’t help but dance and sing while doing so, especially when they started “Roll Away Your Stone,” my current favorite from Sigh No More. The ballad “Winter Winds” fit perfectly, and was a good precursor to one of two new songs performed that night, “Lover’s Eyes.” The last six songs of the set were on point, and the best way to close out their set. “Timshel” started off the segment, followed by a riveting take on “Little Lion Man” featuring a three-piece horn section as well as additional players from each band. The other new song, “Lover Of The Light,” found Marcus Mumford removed from his usual stringed instruments and pushed back to the drum set where he not only didn’t miss a lick on the kit, but also killed the vocal part. This song’s gonna be a hit, mark my words. The highlight of the performance for me was without a doubt “Awake My Soul,” which featured about ten additional players on stage to heighten the sound. It was gorgeous, and a perfect climax point for the set, if not the whole entire show. Since Marfa was nothing but dirt and dust, the obvious next choice was an extremely energetic take on “Dust Bowl Dance” that turned the clean air into exactly what the song title describes. Closing the set with the current single, “The Cave,” was the obvious but perfect choice to finish off their portion of the show – allowing everyone to shout to their hearts desires out into the West Texas sunset.
Mumford & Sons
The final showing of the evening only made perfect sense as soon as it started. While originally I wanted Mumford to close the event, no other band could bring the amount of energy that Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros could. Soon, the stage was cluttered with the many different instrumentalists that make up the Magnetic Zeros, and Edward Sharpe, also known by his birth name of Alex Ebert, made his way into the photo pit to be as close as he could to his fans during the beginning of “Janglia.” The set was off, and soon “Carries On” and “40 Day Dream” were being shouted aloud while Ebert and Co. worked the crowd as much as possible. As soon as I left the pit, the energy of the show completely picked up with songs like “Up From Below” and my current favorite from the album “Come In Please.” Already jumping around like the rest of the audience, “Home” brought the biggest crowd response from the whole day, making the already dusty air a huge cloud of dirty smoke. With people singing along with every lyric, and trying to figure out what to do with themselves during the conversational part of the song, there wasn’t much more that could come that would make the rest of the evening better.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Well, soon every member from every band started to make their way to the stage to the point where you couldn’t distinguish one wary train traveler from another. Being Easter, they decided to bring a bit of church to the day started the obligatory “Amazing Grace” before turning it into a bluegrass and New Orleans jazz influenced burner. With every major player taking turns on the vocals, including Jade and Alex from Edward Sharpe, Marcus Mumford and the two main singers from Old Crow, the song would have been the perfect closing number, but even though we were already about forty-five minutes past curfew already, they still came back for one more. With the theme of the tour based on the rails, a train song was the only appropriate way to close out the night. Bringing “This Train Is Bound For Glory” to the table was fitting with both the tour and the Easter Holiday.
This show was unbelievable in many aspects: the town, the venue, the bands, the collaboration, the fans. Amazing. Other bands should take notes from these three. Even with their rise to success quite evident, they decided to skip the traditional club touring, and playing to the biggest crowd they could, and do something fun instead. I’m sure this wasn’t the most lucrative tour for any of the bands, but money wasn’t even an issue when it came down to it. Marfa was an experience that I’ll never have again, and I was lucky to share it with a choice group of amazing friends. While people can guess what we all had the chance to experience in the small Texas town, even those that attended the bigger shows in Austin, New Orleans or beyond, anyone that wasn’t there couldn’t even imagine the buzz that everyone left with that night. It was one of the best concerts of my lifetime, and I have a feeling it will stay that way for quite some time to come. Thank you Railroad Revival Tour!