This year hasn’t been kind to the Big Damn Band of the Rev. Peyton: They started a Patreon, ditched livestreamed concerts and videos and released a new album, “Dance Songs for Hard Times,” which was written and recorded during the shutdowns last year.
“We try to do everything – I’ll do whatever it takes,” Peyton said in a phone interview last weekend. He and his country-blues band – “big” in sound if not actual numbers; the crew totals three, counting the Reverend – play the last free Thursday night gig of the season on Fanny Hill this week.
It hasn’t been an easy year either; the “difficult times” mentioned in the title of this album are not a figment of the imagination of many who have struggled or suffered loss during the pandemic, nor an exaggeration of the challenges that Peyton and his band have faced during the course of the last year.
“Everything I write is very autobiographical. Everything I do is very ‘right now, right now,’ so it was just to get that out there and let people know how I felt. …I I’m very proud of it, very, very happy to be here on tour with him,” Peyton said. “Because, you know, it’s one thing to go out and record a record, and it’s another to go out and play these songs for people.”
The band typically plays hundreds of shows a year, down to a handful since the live music scene resurfaced this summer with the easing of pandemic restrictions. Getting back on stage, often outdoors, has been a “very positive” experience so far this summer, though the resurgence of live music hasn’t been as explosive as Peyton would have hoped so far.
(A number of venues and festivals — “too many,” Peyton said — still haven’t reopened, some are closing permanently and others are still closed due to the pandemic.)
“It’s our life, our livelihood, our everything, and it’s been completely shut down,” Peyton said. “It’s been a year and a half now and I didn’t really expect it to go like this. … I was very surprised how badly the music industry was hit, while other businesses were almost thriving.
“It’s been tough, but we really tried to stay afloat to stay creative and do the right thing. It’s all you can do, you know?
Peyton and her band have been coming to the Roaring Fork Valley for over a decade.
It’s the kind of place where “everyone is having a good time” and “everyone is on vacation, even the people who live and work there,” Peyton said.
A good time that he also intends to bring, by playing numbers from “Dance Songs for Hard Times” as well as a few songs from previous records and “perhaps a few surprises”. The production of the band’s latest album, even though it took place amid so much uncertainty about the future of live music, captured some of that positive energy, according to Peyton.
“I felt like we were having fun, in the middle of some of the darkest days where we didn’t know when we were going to work again, didn’t know when we were going to play music again, right? I don’t didn’t know when we were going to see people again,” Peyton said. “And we quarantined ourselves, we tested for COVID, we rented a house so we were away from people and we went in and recorded this record, so we can still do something, and I’ll always be proud of that.”
The opportunity to perform this album live reminded Peyton how much he appreciates the performance aspect of music, he said.
“I just forgot how much I love it – it’s a different experience,” Peyton said. “It’s bigger. … It becomes greater than the sum of its parts, it really does. And the music is magic, there’s cosmic math involved.
“It’s this universal language that it doesn’t matter if we speak the same language, we can enjoy music together. You know, people get caught up in the lyrics of the music, but there’s something much deeper than just words.