My connection to Kevin Devine’s music goes back some time now. I lived in New Jersey for a while, but was close enough to NYC and Philly to make regular treks to both for shows that were coming through the region. I won’t call it my “emo” phase, because if I’m being honest, I’ve always been a little bit emo. We all have. Don’t deny it.
Before I talk about his upcoming performance, check out my interview with him from a couple of years ago, just after the birth of his first child, prior to his last performance at Southgate House Revival. It’s a dense, fascinating, and illuminating read, and one of my favorite conversations I’ve been fortunate enough to have with a professional musician.
When I lived on the East Coast, it seemed like every other show Devine would show up in some capacity. He would be opening, he would be playing as a member of the headlining band, heck, I imagine him just hanging out at quite a few others. He was omnipresent, but he was also great every single time. Solo, full band, or a part of a band that wasn’t his, Devine was consistently entertaining, thoughtful, and engaging. As he’s continued his now lengthy career, he’s found a niche that he seems increasingly comfortable occupying, slowly and steadily building a fanbase of passionate and equally engaged people from all over the world. With lyrics both subtle and straightforward, Devine regularly tackles subjects ranging from police brutality to immigration, religion, and other important but often uncomfortably real issues, it’s easy to see, and hear, why he finds himself more regularly paid attention to. His personality on and off the stage is one of earnest and intelligent introspection that bleeds out through his music, challenging long-time fans and first-time listeners in much the same way I imagine he challenges himself when considering the subjects he frequently returns to.
His most recent release, 2017’s We Are Who We’ve Always Been, is a somber and intense acoustic reimagining of his 2016 album, Instigator, and brings into sharp focus his concerns for the world around him. I loathe the term “woke,” but there’s a sense that he’s paying attention, trying to do better, and that he’s using this particular platform to help others do the same. It’s not forceful, but he’s an important force within a rapidly and sometimes painfully expanding collection of people, groups, and ideologies that see the world for what it is, yet can’t help but be hopeful for–and actively working towards–something better.
In a fitting return to the area, Devine performs solo this Sunday, March 4, at the Southgate House Revival, inside the Revival Room.