“I just want to hang out and have a good time.” The intoxicated, Joy Division t-shirt-wearing (point) guy standing next to me has not only just spoken for himself, but coincidentally for the entire audience, every musician playing on stage tonight, and the whole premise that the Railroad Revival Tour represents. The recent widespread lust for archaic Americana (oh wait, maybe that’s just me?) has undeniably met its match with this 3-act, 6-city, 15-vintage rail car tour covering 2,000 miles in a week, while simultaneously filming a documentary. For seven days, Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes, and Mumford and Sons are modern day Jack Kerouacs and Woody Guthries, rocking out and taking names on this semi-legendary line-up of folk music dreamland meets American Southwest wanderlust.

The second stop of the tour, the Ports ‘O Call shipping yard in San Pedro, CA, on April 22 was entirely ideal for the sold-out, ready-to-have-a-good-time-on-a-Friday-night crowd. On this clear night, the waterfront was all too inviting, and I admittedly may have been a little bit in love with just the outdoor setting in general. Throw in some food trucks, banjoes, and an accordion as the sun goes down and the stars come out? Heaven.

Old Crow Medicine Show hit the ground running with a super tight, very endearing set that effortlessly charmed the crowd for its entirety. By far the most overall comfortable band on stage that night (probably because they’ve been together the longest and are regulars at The Grand Ole Opry and on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion?), they actually had incredible stage presence, which reinforced that they were old pros. “Caroline” had everyone dancing, and “Wagon Wheel” had everyone singing along and meaning it. As a band (and as an audience member, for that matter), what more could you want?

I have two major pet peeves in life. Alex Ebert, better known as Edward Sharpe, managed to hit both of them, repeatedly, for the entire duration of their set. 1) Excessive talking in between (and in Alex’s case, during) songs. At least when Conor Oberst digresses about his theories on the universe I can somewhat follow along, and the man ends up having a point, no matter how ridiculous. It’s two days later and I still don’t know what Alex was mumbling about. He walked on stage talking, he talked during the actual songs, and when their set was over he came back on stage to talk some more. The music was secondary, and the band had to just start playing as if to remind him why he was even there. Also, no one ever knew what song was next. Set list anyone?  2) When the lyrics are sung behind the tempo of the music. You recorded it a certain way, please sing it that way live.  It’s pretentious and seems like you’ve got better things to do when you sloppily attempt to keep up with the band. Up From Below is probably in my personal Top 20 Albums of all time, so they were actually the act I anticipated most out of the three. Bottom line: they could have given an awesome show, but they gave an average show (minus “40 Day Dream,” which still owned). Oh wait, another pet peeve. 3) When people don’t live up to their potential. But I digress.

“The Mumford Boys,” as OCMS kept referring to them, are of course everyone’s new favorite band. They’re British. They’re humble. They sing about love. They’re British. It’s no wonder Liam Gallagher hates them. The vulnerability factor really works in their favor, and they in no way disappointed.  They played three new songs, which I would have switched out at least one for another Sigh No More cut or even the rumored Eleanor Rigby cover. Regardless, they were total English sweethearts who were sincerely stoked on their train (“It’s f**king unbelievable!”) and gushed about how tremendous the other bands were, all while commanding the stage for an hour. The balancing act between haunting melodies and foot-stomping breakdowns can get blurred on stage, but these boys flowed from poignant to intense with ease, just like the album.

But they saved the best for last. All three bands returned to the stage to cover Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Train is Bound for Glory” together, and that performance has made its way into my personal Top 10 Best Concert Moments. Three fiddle players, dueling banjoes, upright bass, a trumpet and more cluttered the stage for the fitting encore. The energy was electric, and the lyrics leave you feeling pretty damn good about your life. Sometimes that’s all we need, right? Ramble on, Revivalists.

SS