Elephant Revival 10.21.11

The Aggie Theatre
Fort Collins, CO

Words, Photos & Video By Nicholas Stock

Elephant Revival is a powerful quintet hailing from Nederland, Colorado. They first formed in 2006 and their lineup includes Bonnie Paine (vocals, washboard), Sage Cook (banjo, vocals, guitar, mandolin), Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo, vocals), Daniel Rodriguez (acoustic guitar, electric banjo, vocals), and Bridget Law (fiddle, vocals). It’s obvious that Elephant Revival is made up of incredibly talented multi-instrumentalists that bring a new vibrancy to acoustic music. Combining elements of folk, Celtic, bluegrass, indie, jazz, reggae and much more, they have created an amazing musical tapestry on which to perform. Their ability to play so well together is made all the more beautiful with the vocals of Bonnie Paine and the ability of Bridget Law to go from delicate to rough and tumble on the fiddle with a stroke of her bow. It’s a powerful group that can go from throwing a raging dance party to making the hair stand up on the back of your neck in a matter of seconds.

The members of Elephant Revival hail from both Colorado and Oklahoma where Paine is from. Several of them began playing together in the summer of 2006 with their first performance as Elephant Revival Concept at the Gold Hill Inn in October of that year. They decided to move ahead as a full time group but not before dropping Concept from their moniker. They released their first self-titled album in 2008 and last year released their second album Break in the Clouds. They are known well on the Front Range and are breaking out nationally with several festival performances this year, including the Northwest String Summit and the Hangtown Halloween Ball.

I’ve seen Bonnie Paine with Leftover Salmon and Bridget Law playing around town with various bands, but for some reason I had not caught the full band until I saw their Aggie show last weekend. Opening up was Boulder singer-songwriter Reed Foehl. Reed was performing with Motet guitarist Ryan Jalbert. He has a subtle sensibility to his playing, bringing a mix of tender vocals and sweet picking that made for an overall enjoyable performance. Reed took every song as an opportunity to tell a story. He plays with such emotion that it was literally like he was pouring his heart out onstage for all to see, not to mention how well Jalbert played during the performance. I’m used to seeing Jalbert kicking the wah as he busts into funky guitar solos with The Motet, but this show was a chance to see him in a whole new light. The kids at the show were rowdy which made it hard to hear from time to time, but the power of his lyrics were enough to break through the wall of sound, drawing the crowd in. By the end of the show, he had made a whole slew of new fans including myself. Highlights from the show included “The Kill and Wolves”. It was certainly an eyeopening and powerful live experience, a great way to start the evening.

By the time Elephant Revival came to the stage, the crowd was pretty worked up. I’m not sure if this a hallmark of college towns or The Aggie, but I notice this is a reoccurring theme whenever I head to shows in Fort Collins. Elephant Revival just blew me away. It would be easy for them to be a run-of-the-mill bluegrass band, but their unbelievable talent as musicians pushes them to reach for something so much more. Playing two amazing sets for the crowd, it was just an remarkable night of music all around. Since this was my first time seeing Elephant Revival, I don’t have a complete setlist. But I can tell you they had an enthused level of playing that is rarely seen these days. While watching them, I became upset with myself for not seeing them sooner. Not often do I feel like that when seeing a show live. One element that struck me was how the bandmates were just passing back and forth instruments between songs and showing their wide array of talents. The show was an absolute barnburner that went until almost 2:00 AM. It was just one of those musical experiences that will not be soon forgotten. Their blend of so many genres of music coupled with amazing musicianship equated to one great night at The Aggie. I left with a sense of satisfaction, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on Elephant Revival in the future.


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