Dirty Revival: The sweet soul of social harmony

by Frank Giokas

Great art brings us together to revive collective spirit, and there’s no better way to invigorate the soul than to experience Dirty Revival. Portland’s premiere neo-soul band delivers positivity with an awe-inspired blend of eclectic funk. As a unit who value community presence as catalyst for change in the Pacific Northwest, their message is simple – start locally and ripple globally. Featuring some of the best jazz musicians from the city of Portland, Dirty Revival keep fun and inspiration at the core of their groove heavy fusion. Lighting up dance floors across the nation, this powerhouse is here to open hearts and minds with feel-good magic.

The seven-piece ensemble played their first show in 2014. A closely-knit collective of Portland natives and friends since high school, Dirty Revival began the roots of their musical connection in jazz and chorale programs. Their compositions are full scale sonic adventure with virtuoso horns, organ, bass, guitar, drums and jaw dropping vocals. Encapsulating the spirit of funk/soul heavyweights Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Earth, Wind and Fire mixed with elements of hard rock and hip hop, Dirty Revival have developed an eclectic sound all their own.

Stellar musicianship is the core of their presentation, each player a consummate solo performer. Some are music teachers and almost every member graduated from a collegiate music program. Sarah Clarke, lead singer, studied opera as a child. For most, Dirty Revival is their first band. This refreshing spirit informs their unique sound, built on a songwriting process where each member has equal input, offering “enough space for everyone” as Sarah put it. Evan Simko (MC/guitar), Terry Drysdale (drums), Ben Turner (keyboard), Jon Shaw (bass), Chris Hardin (tenor sax), and Thomas Barber (trumpet) round out the band.

Dirty Revival draws from a diverse palette of inspiration and love to blend genres and redefine musical possibility. “We rarely listen to soul music,” Sarah explained.  “Exposing yourself to things that aren’t the sound you’re creating gives way to new and interesting ideas.” Every song Dirty Revival brings to life has its own direction hinged upon a refined, organic, in the moment brilliance to meld a bold and downright extraordinary collection of songs.

The group released a self-titled, full length record in 2015. With engaged tunes and knack for winning over crowds, they opted to leave their Portland hub and spent most of their performance time on the road. This year, the band toured for three months and upcoming winter travel plans are on the horizon. Touring brings a healthy mix of fun and challenge and the band is enjoying the thrill of seeing their hard work pay off with audience sizes increasing. Bellingham is no exception. With a headlining slot at this year’s Downtown Sounds, Dirty Revival was “blown away” at the turnout and energy.  “Bellingham has been so good to us,” Sarah noted.  The frontwoman has such an affinity for the town she even brought her young son to Bellingham to spend Mother’s Day.

As a young performer, Sarah would close her eyes and enter her own world on stage. With Dirty Revival she found herself singing the majority of the set with eyes open, fully engaged with the power that her words had in combination with such a finely-honed group behind her. She was quick to learn that something very special was inherent with Dirty Revival: “People are really paying attention here.” As a traveling group of lifelong friends, they love meeting the people at their shows and put personal connection and community as the paramount intention behind what keeps them in love with all they do as an artistic collective.

The group’s mission promptly revealed itself – Dirty Revival exist to bring people from all walks of life together. This community minded spirit is their message. “With so many things that can pull us apart it’s important to come together in a positive way,” Sarah explained.  “We’re proud to give a moment –  a reason – to come together. That’s important, to share that.”

Dirty Revival is a unifying outfit with lyrics centered on themes of love and change filtered through a sound which fuses the genetics of so many musical backgrounds. They are unity in motion. The crowd participation and involvement in such a package becomes a powerful symbol to people’s growing investment in leading with heart centered existence. Dirty Revival are here to revive our souls.

Growing up in Portland opened each member to the reality of changes in modern society.  Gentrification, rampant homelessness and untreated mental illness and drug addiction are admittedly “difficult to watch” according to Sarah. For the band, these truths not only inform an unspoken connection on and off stage, they also churn conversations and have become the backbone of many lyrical themes. The result is a band focused on expressing the need for social responsibility to effect the changes we wish to see in this world.  Being good to one another, becoming the best person you can be and gathering in inspired ways for the betterment of the collective –  this is the forum by which Dirty Revival wish to present their amazing musical landscapes.

Join Dirty Revival on Friday, Oct. 6 for a headlining show at the Wild Buffalo. For more about the band, follow their Facebook page  or visit www.dirtyrevival.com/music-2.