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Folk-Bluegrass Phenom Elephant Revival Reunites for Special Show at Mission Ballroom

Colorado-based Bluegrass/folk phenom Elephant Revival reunites to perform a special show at the Mission Ballroom on Saturday, March 25. The Tallest Man on Earth, fronted by Swedish singer and songwriter Kristian Matsson, opens.
Colorado-based Bluegrass/folk phenom Elephant Revival reunites to perform a special show at the Mission Ballroom on Saturday, March 25. The Tallest Man on Earth, fronted by Swedish singer and songwriter Kristian Matsson, opens. Glenn Ross
Elephant Revival has only announced a couple of shows since going on hiatus after headlining Red Rocks in 2018. Last year, the six-piece reunited to play at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, and this year, much to fans' delight, the bluegrass group will perform on Saturday, March 25, at Mission Ballroom, where it will share the stage with a drum troupe and aerial performers.

“We're proud to call Colorado home and to be a small part of the musical history of the region. It means so much to us,” says founding member and bassist Dango Rose. “We're honored for this opportunity to take the stage at the Mission and to carry our contribution forward for future generations.”

The skilled multi-instrumentalists, known for weaving elements of folk, indie rock and Scottish/Celtic fiddling into their lush, stacked-harmony songs, were initially invited to play Mission Ballroom five years ago, but the timing didn't feel right.

“At the time we got the opportunity to play there, there were a lot of different factors internally with the band,” says fellow founder and vocalist Bonnie Paine. “We had a lot of family stuff going on; Bridget [Law] had left the band, but now she’s back. Some wanted to pursue other things. It just became clear that we were not really ready yet to perform. We needed more time to figure things out.”

Founding member/guitarist Daniel Rodriguez left the group in 2019 to pursue a solo career after he and Paine ended their fourteen-year relationship. “When someone leaves a band, it's that very tumultuous, confusing part you go through before the release of, 'Okay, this is how it's supposed to look as we move forward,'" Paine explains. "It's that not knowing of how things should work...and then you realize it feels more healthy for Elephant Revival to move forward in a certain direction."

The current lineup consists of Paine (cello, djembe, washboard, musical saw), Law (fiddle, vocals), Dango Rose (upright bass, mandolin, vocals), Darren Garvey (drums, percussion, vocals), Charlie Rose (banjo, pedal steel, mandolin, vocals) and newest member Daniel Sproul (guitars, vocals).

To date, Elephant Revival has released six albums and played more than 1,000 performances in and outside of the United States since forming in Nederland in 2006. For now, notes Dango Rose, the band is letting things unfold organically and is not in any rush to jump on a tour yet.

“Time does not always move in a linear way. We're taking things one song at a time, one show at a time," he says. "Waking up a pride of hibernating elephants is a slow process, and we're taking a conscientious approach to its re-emergence. After nearly two decades since sharing our first notes together, we've made a choice not to take these opportunities for granted.”

Being with their families, working on other music projects and pursuing their own individual passions are front and center for the bandmates. “Over the past few years, each of us has been taking this necessary time to fulfill aspects of our lives that were put on the back burner during years of touring,” Rose adds.

Law, who has a three-year-old son named Ravi, has been touring with her husband, Tierro Lee, in the Tierro Band - Featuring Bridget Law in support of their new album, Everlasting Dance. And Charlie Rose has been putting energy into his side project, Cactus Pals, while producing records at his studio, the Cactus Palace; he's also started up a boutique coffee roastery called Beanjo. Garvey, meanwhile, recently moved back to the Midwest and is writing music and teaching out of his new studio in Milwaukee, while Sproul, formerly of Boulder band Rose Hill Drive, works at Coupe Studios in Boulder and writes music daily for multiple commercial endeavors.

Dango Rose has been working with other musicians, supporting them with artist development. “I was recently brought on as a professor in the songwriting program at CU Denver, which has been a true joy, to help foster the holistic and creative growth of the city’s finest up-and-coming songwriters and musicians,” he says.

For her part, Paine has enjoyed the time off from touring, which has allowed her to appreciate being home in her house in Lyons, working on solo material and tending to her farm animals — dairy cows, chickens, Icelandic sheep, a majestic horned ram and a couple of dogs, including a Great Pyrenees rescue. 

Some of what Paine has penned during the pandemic is going toward four themed-concept albums titled Currach that she hopes to release in a couple of years. “I've been writing a lot of lyrics and music parts in this giant leather book, and it's starting to come together," she reports. "Sonically, the music is there. There are percussive sections and orchestral parts. ... Some of the songs have singing, and others are done a cappella. Lyrically, I’m not sure how I'm going to depict the entire narrative yet, but each tune will bleed into the next, so it will unravel like a story, with all the songs on the four records tying in together.”

The first album of the four works will introduce a selkie — a creature in Celtic mythology that has the ability to shed its skin and transform into a human. “It’s a very magical tale, a love story,” says Paine, “but I don’t want to give away anything since it’s still a work in progress.”
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The skilled multi-instrumentalists, known for folding elements of folk, indie-rock, and Scottish/Celtic fiddling into their lush, stacked-harmony songs, will feature a drum troupe and aerial performers as part of its show.
Glenn Ross
Paine has an immediate project in the works, as well: Some songs she has crafted will go into a separate solo album, which she hopes to put out before the end of the year. “I started recording, finally, which has been fun," she says. "I have a lot of unrecorded material and a bunch of new tunes that I'm really excited to watch unfold in the studio.”

Paine is tracking the songs in a small former fire station that her fiancé bought and converted into a studio in a town outside of Allenspark. “We’re thinking of naming it ‘The Station,’” she says with a laugh, “but it’s been a joy to work on putting this little recording studio together and making it a music and art retreat. The fire station looks a little like it has castle walls on the inside, so we've been making it cool and cozy with candles. It’s very vibey and inspiring to record there.”

Bandmate Sproul has joined Paine on some of the songs, such as “Vineland,” which is nearly completed and is being co-produced by the two musicians. “It's vocal-heavy, so it's been fun to explore some different vocal tonalities,” says Paine. “There's a lot of percussion on it, and Daniel plays a hollow-body electric guitar, so it's got this Quentin Tarantino kind of desert vibe.”

The new songs, which include some cello parts, will have plenty of organic reverb on them, she adds: “I find the sound in digital recordings falls kind of flat. I like when it's organic and you can almost touch the sounds. When I listen back to ‘Vineland,’ I can hear the sound bounce off the studio walls. I can literally identify in which studio the sound was recorded because of the tones around it, especially with the percussion and djembe, which is this percussive thing that I do to create a rhythmic tapestry.”

Elephant Revival bandmembers have also spent time at the new studio. “The band has been doing little retreats there, where we rehearse new material and can be with one another,” Paine notes.

Brought together by a sense of purpose seventeen years ago, Elephant Revival has united people with its music. “We have an incredible time making music and touring together. I always felt there was an old friendship present when we formed Elephant Revival, like, 'I know you. I've known you before, and I'm going to know you for a while,'” Paine concludes. “And one of the things we love about the music we create — the beautiful part of music, to me — is this feeling between us and the audience, where we are all part of the same thing and experience it together.”

Elephant Revival, with The Tallest Man on Earth, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 15, Mission Ballroom, 4242 Wynkoop Street. Tickets start at $55.
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