Elephant Revival’s Beaver Creek show ‘first rate’
Vail, CO Colorado
There is a tradition forming in Colorado. It began with Leftover Salmon in the late ’80s and then returned with String Cheese Incident in the ’90s. Now another group of talented musicians is emerging with a loyal following despite choosing a terrible name for the band.
Elephant Revival played the Vilar Performing Arts Center Sunday night in the third installment of the Underground Sound concert series. The event attracted music enthusiasts of all ages, including a strong teenage contingent. The orchestra pit was filled to capacity with bouncing fans, but even the patrons in the seats were largely engaged and enjoying themselves. The Vilar’s current experiment of allowing drinks in the auditorium may have injected more life into the venue’s often stiff atmosphere. Or perhaps it was just the music.
The five-piece string band from Nederland had a minimal stage setup. They huddled somewhat tightly around their monitors at the front of the stage. An occasional fog machine cue would send a thin haze overhead to give body to the colored lights shining down. The rest of the space was filled only by the textural music that the band describes as transcendental folk. This sound is embodied by elements of bluegrass, jazz, old-timey traditional, Celtic, and blues styles, among others.
Other than masterful fiddler Bridget Law, Elephant Revival is comprised of multi-instrumentalists. An electric banjo, mandolin, standup bass, and acoustic guitars were all swapped in and out of use. Instruments were also passed between band mates as they would change roles for a tune here and there. Percussion was provided almost entirely by Bonnie Paine and her washboard, but there were also djembe sightings and a whole lotta feet stomping on and off stage.
The groups’ three men did fine work on laying down the rhythms and providing the lows to vocal harmonies, but the show was clearly stolen by the two ladies. Both donning flowing dresses that touched the floor, they each had a unique importance. Law’s fiddling drew the greatest reactions from the crowd while Paine’s vocals commanded attention all night. Her voice conjures immediate revelations of Sarah McLachlan, with hints of Norah Jones and Natalie Merchant.
The musicianship was first rate all night long, but the show did not leave me without criticism. The setlist was very disjointed. It seemed like every time things would heat up, the band would shift gears and back off. People were looking to get down and were only granted two to three minute bursts when a lonely Celtic rocker or bluegrass tune would surface. If only for the couple who walked to the stage from the back of the room to dance, don’t make them return to their seats for the next song.
The songwriting is also hit or miss with this band. It’s hard to believe a beautifully dark number like “Currach” is showcased alongside the generic jam band cliche that is “Sing to the Mountain.” Similarly, with all the great voices on stage, bassist Dango Rose taking lead vocals for two songs was two songs too many.
If you missed your chance to catch Elephant Revival this past weekend, you won’t have to worry too much. They appear to have carved out a nice little following for themselves in our down-but-not-out local music scene and will probably draw a repeat performance in the near future.
Bob Bloczynski lives in Eagle-Vail. E-mail questions or comments about this review to email@example.com.