All Photos Copyright Greg O’Neil
The scene: Elephant Revival, the acoustic quintet based in Nederland, CO, made their return home fresh off from a sold out appearance at the Boston Garden opening for the recently reunited roots-rock band, Dispatch. Revival is an eclectic mix of traveling musicians who all came together by the good grace of our universe and eventually settled in the majestic Rocky Mountains. Their sound is an unparalleled amalgamation of Eastern European, Celtic, Scottish, and Americana music.
The weather on Sunday was perfect and, aside from a small unexpected detour through the mountain after I missed my turn, the drive up the hill was a wonderful way to put me in the mood for a lovely night of music. The Gold Hill Inn is one of my favorite concert venues and a hidden gem located about 20 minutes west of Boulder in the old mining town Gold Hill. Due to the acoustics of the valley, nearby residents are able to experience the outdoor concerts right from their front porch. If you have never been to The Gold Hill Inn, I highly suggest you make the drive up there.
We made it to town around 8 o’clock and much to my surprise the entire place was packed with folks ready to leave real life behind and get lost in heartwarming music on the side of a mountain. The volunteers, along with the Inn staff, are always very friendly and do a great job of throwing rather classy events.
All age groups were represented on Sunday night. There were dancing toddlers, dreadlocked travelers, and seasoned veterans of life, all mingling and grooving to the one-of-a-kind music. They had already begun by the time I arrived, so I quickly grabbed a Sawtooth from the beer table and made my way to the front of the crowd. A group of 30 or so people around my age were standing in front of the stage while countless others were lounging on blankets and lawn chairs. The atmosphere of the venue could only be described as peaceful and serene. As we communed with nature, the echo of their instruments was sure to bring a smile to the face of every woodland creature for miles.
Elephant Revival: The music had been going for about 10 minutes by the time I had positioned myself up front by one of the speakers. I’ve heard their sound described as “Transcendental Folk” which at first is something I didn’t have any clue how to define. I saw traditional stringed instruments and a one women rhythm section standing on top of a box made for stomping. They wove slow ballads into upbeat knee slappers’ with psychedelic Appalachian-folk undertones.
The inspirational track “Go On,” off of their second album Break in the Clouds, was sung by guitar player Daniel Rodriguez and was reminiscent of something you would have heard at a peace rally in the 60’s. Its lyrics spoke of the high that love can provide if we let it. Their exceptional blend of soft sounds bouncing off the surrounding hills coupled with the still night created a paradise of noise unmatched by any venue I’ve been too.
The electric banjo made an appearance in the hands of Sage T. Cook and we were eased into a more upbeat bluegrass number and everyone began to dance up a literal dust storm. Near the end of the night I even heard someone say “I’ve never swallowed so much dirt in my life.” The bare feet of the gorgeous Bonnie Paine pounded on the wooden box and the deep sound resonated from speaker towers while everyone in the cloud of dust began to get involved. A thunderous display of crowd participation ensued. It was if the band had gained 20 members all clapping and stomping in unison.
Bass player Dango Rose announced around 9 o’clock that the next song was a “French, Romanian, Gypsy number.” Indeed it was! You could feel the earth moving beneath your feet as the group to my right jumped up and danced about. Before they actually ended their set we were blessed with the chance to hear Bonnie step up and begin the solo track “Rogue River.” Her voice is stunning and this song really gave her the opportunity to display her monumental vocal range. Almost haunting at times, you couldn’t help but be completely hypnotized by the way her heartfelt words echoed through the cool mountain air.
Just as the dust from the first set had settled it was time for it to be kicked up once more. After thanking the bear, the coyote, and the mountain lion, they started into the psychedelic-country sounding ballad “Sing to the Mountain.” It was obvious that they were very excited about their recent show at the Boston Garden as it was almost all they could talk about between songs as the night progressed.
“Truth” was next and this was by far one of my favorite moments from the night. All of their songs are soaked in emotion, but this one especially stuck out to me. Bridgett Law has a magical way of squeezing a breathtakingly astonishing scream from her violin while Bonnie runs her fingers gently up and down the metal grooves of the washboard. Each member of the band does just enough to create a vivid landscape of sound. The chemistry between them made it seem as if they had been playing together for many lifetimes; a family of old souls that have been traveling this world together to bring us their interpretation of timeless sounds.
Around 10 o’clock it was clear that the show was slowly coming to an end, but not before they reached back into their bag of tricks and wowed me once again. Drawing from eastern European and Celtic influences they transformed the lawn into a Balkan dance party. Guys raised each other up on their and every so often the mass would throw their arms in the air and let out a resounding “Hey!” along with the band.
The second set ended with “Drop” and they dedicated the track to “Good Intentions.” By this time I completely understood why their music was described as “transcendental-folk” and calm and tranquil, Elephant Revival opened my eyes to a whole new realm of musical exploration. “Transcendental-Folk” doesn’t simply refer to going beyond the traditional boundaries of music; it was much more than that. The band was a vessel of truth overflowing with positivity, raising the bar with each note. Humble and honest when it came time to speak, and not concerned with much more than the hope that Bonnie’s normal stomp box would be found by the airline before they found themselves leaving again. They are artists in every sense of the word and were not in competition with each other or the world. They simply did their best to contribute whatever they could to the growth of our collective consciousness.
As the last song ended a strange silence fell over the small mountain town. One of the most enchanting noises of the night was a sound of peace and utter amazement. Once more from the audience a voice rang out “Take a bow!” followed by applause, laughter and joy. Those five beautiful people on stage bent at the waist are more than deserving of everything they have achieved thus far. The evening was an absolutely brilliant display of humanity. Not only from the band, but from the strangers I mingled with and the car loads of hitchhikers all experiencing life as it happens. Henry David Thorough said; “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” This quote played in my mind on a loop as I followed the raging water down the hill. We are all a part of this river, whether you’re casting a line or floating on your back. Elephant Revival proved to me that it is possible to transcend the plastic bullshit that controls so many of our lives today. I walked away certain in my heart that we can attain peace, feel truly alive and be eternally happy; “All you need is Love.”
Stage Presence: B
Set/Light Show: N/A