Music News

Elephant Revival Is Preparing to Say Goodbye

Elephant Revival headlines Red Rocks Amphitheatre on May 20.
Elephant Revival headlines Red Rocks Amphitheatre on May 20. Lisa Siciliano
Earlier this year, Elephant Revival announced that it would be taking an indefinite hiatus, citing family matters. The Colorado string band canceled a slew of shows but kept its May 20 date at Red Rocks.

The group, which started in Nederland, melds traditional Celtic folk with more recent indie rock and bluegrass sounds, creating a style that nods to the past while blazing into the future.

Central to the band’s distinctive sound is vocalist and washboard and cello player Bonnie Paine, whose croon is at once breathy, powerful, haunting and grounded. The band’s recordings, while strong, don’t do her voice justice. To truly appreciate the dynamism of Paine’s vocals, you have to hear her live, and the upcoming show at Red Rocks may be one of the last opportunities for fans to catch her with Elephant Revival before the group disbands for the foreseeable future.

“I will miss the sense of nomadic family and camaraderie that we had,” says Paine about her bandmates and the upcoming hiatus. “I will miss when everyone would crawl into their bunks at night and the sweet feeling that I was in the magical treehouse from Peter Pan, saying goodnight to all the lost boys and fairies. I will miss the surprises of where we’d wake up, and the amazing local food and communities that we would find. The ocean and the river dips. I’ll miss the music.”

Looking back on Elephant Revival’s long run, Paine cites touring the country in a veggie-powered school bus, performing with aerialists and acrobats, playing with an orchestra and, of course, Red Rocks shows as highlights. That said, she’s also excited for what her future holds.

“I am looking forward to having time to finish my song story,” says Paine. “It became apparent to me a while ago that many of my songs are related to each other and make up some kind of story. I have about 26 songs nearly completed and a few more coming to round it out. My mom has been writing the story portion of it. The hope is to eventually perform it with live-projection stop-motion video, aerialists, acrobats, dancers and a symphony.”

Like other Elephant Revival members, Paine has a miscellaneous array of performances and collaborations with other musicians lined up. She’ll play at summer music festivals including Campout for the Cause, Summer Solstice at the McNichols Building, and the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. She hopes to one day put on her own festival, dubbed The Art of All Forms.

“Other than that, I’m experiencing stillness when I can and traveling to places around the world that inspire my song story,” she says.

Elephant Revival’s impact has extended far beyond music. The group’s members have been ardent advocates for environmental causes and plan to continue with their advocacy during the hiatus. Earlier this month, the band participated in its annual Trail Revival project, cleaning up trails around Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

Above all, Paine and the rest of the band care deeply about their musical community.

“I am so very thankful for the supporters of musical performance,” says Paine. We have been fortunate to be able to explore and share music. Music lovers help that be possible. Change is necessary for growth, and hopefully, through this time away from touring together, we will be able to nurture ourselves in the ways that each of us needs.”

Bluesy Americana band Hiss Golden Messenger will open the May 20 show at Red Rocks, followed by Portland-based folk/indie pop band Blind Pilot and other entertainment yet to be revealed.

“No doubt there will be a broad spectrum of feelings and friends who we’ve connected with throughout the years as a band together,” says Paine. “We will likely have some kind of acrobatic surprise and maybe a surprise guest or two. Overall, it will be a very potent, emotional yet celebratory experience to honor friends, the music we’ve made together and the journey.”

Elephant Revival, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20, $40-$45, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison, 720-865-2494.
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Sage Marshall is a freelance writer and editor covering outdoor recreation, environmental issues, Denver's music scene, the arts, and other Colorado stories. You can check out more of his work and connect with him here.
Contact: Sage Marshall