It’s not a secret that country music has taken the country by storm, including Long Island. Now Long Islanders can enjoy music by current country artists performed by a new band: The Big Revival.
The brainchild of guitarist and lead vocalist Tom Maxwell, Big Revival has played regularly at many venues, including Harbor Crab, Rudi’s Grill, Jamesport Brewery, Davis Park Casino, Schooners, and Fork and Fiddle, to name a few. They also performed at the Long Island Cider Festival in Heckscher Park.
“I had a great run playing with other bands, but I wanted to try a new genre,” Maxwell said. “I love the sounds of the contemporary country artists like Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and Jason Aldean, so I started searching for bandmates for a new country music band.”
At a recent gig at the Blue Goose restaurant in Patchogue, Ralph Pensa, a fan from Lindenhurst, said he took an Uber to Patchogue on a snowy night to come see the band. “I’ve seen them quite a few times, and each time they sound better. I also like that they are always adding new songs to their playlist.”
Barbara Llobell, a retired teacher who lives in Great River, is also a fan of the band. She said she not only enjoyed the music but also appreciated that the band members engaged with the audience during their breaks.
“We talk about their music, but we also discuss topics like our families, sports and vacations,” said Llobell. “I once told Tom [Maxwell] I was curious about how the harmonica worked. I knew he was a retired teacher when he spent his entire break explaining harmonica chords to me. The next day he sent me detailed information on harmonicas. That’s pretty impressive.”
The band is gaining momentum rapidly and enjoying every minute of it. In addition to their combined mega musical talent and enthusiasm, the band has formed a camaraderie and synchronicity that is obvious on and off the stage.
Maxwell added that the band welcomes and encourages everyone to its gigs.
“You don’t need to be a country line dancer; just join us as we play music you can dance to, however you want to,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you love rock and roll, folk, jazz or country music, just put on your dancing shoes or boots and come out for a fun night of music. We think you’ll have a good time!”
The band has already formed a good fan base and is always looking for new gigs. “New gigs equal new friends,” he continued. “And this band is all about friendship.”
For a gig schedule, find Big Revival Band on Facebook or go to http://bigrevivalband.com.
Tom “Tommy Max” Maxwell
Tom Maxwell, known by many as “Tommy Max,” has played with other local musicians before and after he retired from his career as a history teacher at Patchogue-Medford High School several years ago. Maxwell is an avid acoustic and electric guitar player and can also play the harmonica and sing simultaneously. He also knows the lyrics to more than 400 songs that span several genres.
“Music brings me happiness, and I want to share that happiness with everyone. I also want to add that I couldn’t enjoy this adventure as a musician without the support of my wife, family and friends. I’m really living my dream.”
Lead guitarist and backup vocalist Billy Ports, of East Patchogue, was a great addition to the newly formed band. Ports is well known on the Long Island music scene. Maxwell said he crossed his fingers when he approached Ports to join the band. Although Ports was already playing in the rock band White Room, he was looking for a new project. “It was time for me to try something different, so the timing was perfect,” said Ports.
Ports has been strumming, fretting and “rocking out” on a guitar since he first played in a garage band in high school. His quick-moving fingers and guitar riffs are nothing short of amazing, although if you ask him, he will humbly tell you he just plays to satisfy his passion for music. You can see that inner passion the minute he straps on his guitar. Ports is also a vocalist with a long list of songs in his vocal repertoire. “Trying a new genre and meeting new people has been a great experience,” he added. “No doubt that joining this band was a good decision. We all work well together and have become great friends.”
Patron, a retired carpenter from Bellport, is the bass player and also well known on the Long Island music scene. Patron also plays in the classic rock band Klassic Rewind. “I welcomed the challenge to learn new music,” he said. “I have loved every minute of it.” Patron provides vocals on several songs but says it’s playing the bass that gives him the most pleasure. “It’s fun learning new lyrics, but, for me, there’s just something about being a sure and steady bass player that makes me feel good,” he added. “Talk about doing something you love — this is it for me for sure!”
Ken (Rasta) Schaefer
Last, but certainly not least, Maxwell convinced Kenny Schaefer (aka “Rasta”) to be the band’s drummer. Schaefer, who hails from Farmingville, is the quiet type. And, although he may be quiet and unassuming, Rasta is a key component of the band. He’s not only a talented musician, but he can improvise and play any song “on the fly.” His percussion steadiness is the beat that helps Maxwell, Patron and Ports keep cadence. “We’re lucky to have him as our drummer,” said Maxwell.