The Revivalists & The Box: A Bond That Keeps The Band Coming Back To Nantucket

David Creed •

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The Revivalists playing The Chicken Box in 2022. Photo by Karly Cronin

These days The Revivalists shows at The Chicken Box sell out in a matter of seconds. The annual concerts have become a rite of summer for the band and those lucky enough to score a ticket. As The Revivalists prepare for yet another two-night run at The Box this Tuesday and Wednesday, the Current sat down with a few members of the band to ask what keeps them coming back to the island each year even as they tour North America playing venues 10 times the size of the "internationally infamous" dive bar on Dave Street.

A lot has changed since The Chicken Box co-owner Packy Norton booked a young, up-and-coming band from Louisiana for $1,100 to perform on July 18, 2013, for the first time at The Box.

The Revivalists have since risen to stardom – selling out legendary venues across the country such as the Red Rocks Amphitheater, opening for The Rolling Stones, performing on prominent late-night shows such as Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan, and producing new albums such as Men Amongst Mountains that have garnered millions of streams.

But one thing that has not changed is the relationship between Norton and the members of The Revivalists. The band has never forgotten that first trip to Nantucket and the connection it forged with The Box, and Norton has never stopped being one of their closest friends and advocates. The relationship has only grown stronger over the past decade, and it keeps The Revivalists coming back to play The Box year after year, a venue that they otherwise have outgrown for all intents and purposes.

"The reason we do this (concert) every year is not because it's a 300-person club and it's not because it's Nantucket - as much as we all love to come to Nantucket,” guitarist Zack Feinberg told the Current on the smoking deck of The Box on Sunday. “It's because Packy comes and shows us the time of our damn lives here.”

“Yup. That’s why,” lead singer and guitarist David Shaw added. "He's just such a gracious human being. He is such a good guy and such a soulful dude. He takes care of people. He takes care of his friends. He is a thoughtful guy.”

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Packy Norton, center, and The Revivalists outside The Box in 2022. Photo by Karly Cronin

The relationship began in Boston in 2013 when Norton was taking in a Galactic concert.

Galactic, formed in 1994, was also from New Orleans, and Ben Ellman, the band's saxophone player, did production work for The Revivalists when they formed in 2007 and recorded their albums. Eventually, The Revivalists tapped Shaw to sing with them on the road in 2013 – including a concert in Boston that Norton was attending. Shaw made a strong first impression.

"He sang When The Levee Breaks for Galactic and I go to Ben 'Who the f**k is that,’" Norton said. "Ben Ellman was like ‘This is David Shaw and he has his own band called Revivalists in New Orleans.’ I immediately got them to play and was just like we are doing this.”

“They played on a Sunday night,” Norton added while looking back at their first gig at The Box. “I still have the contracts. It is a collector’s item. It is pretty funny looking at it now. They didn't have a tour manager. Their bass player, George, was the tour manager. They stayed at the band house too which is even funnier.”

Feinberg and Norton reminisced about the first meet-up between The Revivalists and The Box, and how the band was first introduced to the island ahead of their first show.

"Packy picked us up in the red Box van and took us to jump in the ocean and Mike Girardot (the band’s keyboard player) threw up after,” Feinberg said. “He got a little too much salt water in him.”

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The Revivalists August 2022 show at The Box. Photo by Karly Cronin

"Then they are like 'we have to do soundcheck' and I am like no we don’t,” Norton said. "We are going swimming and then we are going to eat oysters.”

“We were like who is this guy?” Feinberg added. “We pretty much became best friends after that.”

Norton continued to vouch for his new friends to anyone who would listen in Boston – actively trying to assist them in landing gigs and growing their name.

“I tried to get them in everywhere when they were starting out but now, they do it on their own obviously,” Norton said. “They have been here every year since 2013 outside of the COVID year but more importantly, we have become best friends while throwing some music in on the side. I have been to almost all of their weddings.”

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Photo by Karly Cronin

Not only has Norton been to many of the band members' weddings, but he even played the role of wedding host. Last year, Feinberg and his wife Anne got married at The Chicken Box. The aisle, as Norton, Feinberg, and Shaw visually pointed out while speaking to the Current, began inside and extended out to the outside seating area adjacent to the outdoor patio.

“We were having the reception here, but it was raining so we did the whole ceremony and everything at the Box,” Feinberg said. “It was awesome.”

The relationship has brought them all over the world including Argentina, across Europe, and specifically to what Norton likes to call a “lovely” Valentine’s Day trip in Morocco with Shaw.

“We spent a lovely Valentine’s Day together in Morocco at the nicest hotel after the European tour together,” Norton said laughing. “David realized it was Valentine’s Day in Morocco so we called his girlfriend (now wife). So now I say Happy Valentine’s Day to David every year with her on the text, and she’s never happy about it. He did just have a baby girl so I may need to stop. He has a new valentine.”

For as much as Shaw, Feinberg, and the rest of the Revivalists value their relationship with Norton, they still can’t get enough of the vibes at The Chicken Box. They feed off the energy emanating from the crowd that fills the venue every summer for their shows, and they say they can feel it while on stage.

“It's always fun playing at a small rock club. When we first started playing it was like 'Hell yeah. We got into a new rock club and play at the Chicken Box,' But now we play at bigger clubs, so it feels special to come back to this environment,” Feinberg said. “What makes The Chicken Box different than any 300-capacity rock club is the people that run it and I think what it means to this island also. This place wears a lot of different hats. Monday night it's MTV spring break, Tuesday and Wednesday it's VH1. It's awesome. They get great touring artists to come here. Then at 3 o’clock in the afternoon it is an amazing neighborhood bar. People just like hanging out, like old fisherman, having a Bud Light or whatever. It's just a super interesting, versatile bar. It's a bar. It's a music club. It's a club-club. It provides a service of like a common house I think to the people of Nantucket from what I can tell.”

"We can name maybe one or two smaller clubs like this that can bring the caliber of artists that (Packy, Rocky Fox, and John Jordan – Box owners) are bringing," Shaw said. “I mean you got Michael Franti coming here. You have Lake Street Dive coming here. These are bands that play amphitheater shows all over the country, and they're coming to The Chicken Box.”

Norton meanwhile has seen his venue become victim to the consequences of bringing such a huge band back to play The Box.

“The whole place was shaking during one of their concerts and I had to redo the floors when the trusses broke,” Norton said. “The floor used to bounce. It doesn’t bounce anymore.”

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Photo by Karly Cronin

Norton added that he hopes to come up with a way to allow more people to take in one of the band’s annual concerts on Nantucket.

"It's a special show," Norton said. "Eventually we're going to maybe do something bigger where we can maybe do something outside here so we can include a lot more people. I want to try to include everybody I can. Again, it is 300 people. We talked about this year maybe doing an outside thing with like a stage out here. It is just really hard to do that stuff here with bringing the stage from off-island and all the logistics. It is tough, but we'll get there. We really want to include more people. That is the next challenge because there's no more hype than this show."

"All the other shows you see me and I'm walking around but this one, I just shut the door behind me and I look at people and they know this is a show I’m watching,” Norton added.

“We feed off that excitement too,” Shaw and Feinberg said. “We see Packy’s eyes light up when we are out there, and it fuels us.”

When they aren’t performing at The Chicken Box during their stays on the island, The Revivalists take some time for swimming in the ocean and eating oysters with Norton, but they also have beach days, boat days, and never turn down a chance to casually enjoy a beverage or two at The Box. Feinberg added he has been on-island all month hanging out with friends.

"We got a lot of friends here,” Shaw said. “The restaurants are incredible here and then we just, you know, get into the normal things people get into here.”

"Now (Shaw) comes here and I go three days without seeing him because he knows everybody,” Norton quipped. “We try to do a lot. It helps me out too because I get caught up with work but when they come, I plan all these things and I enjoy myself with them, which is helpful.”

Norton and The Revivalists told the Current that these are just a few of the many stories and memories they have made together over the years and are excited for what is ahead. Most, they emphasized, will stay off the record.

"We fell in love with the island, but it was through Packy's hospitality and hosting us and showing us the most amazing time, which I count as some of the greatest, most profound, hilarious times of my life," Feinberg said. "Just looking up at stars, laughing our asses off. We’ve become really close "

“The door is always open,” Norton said. “Always.”

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Photo by Karly Cronin
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