3017 SE Milwaukie Ave.
Portland, OR, 97202
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.” -- John Muir
The five members of Elephant Revival share a deep commitment to certain ideals: community; recognizing one’s place in the flow of the natural world; harmony. Holding on to these ideals in the midst of heady career growth and strong individual creative forces can be difficult, but they weather these storms with aplomb, and in doing so, have produced their best album to date. It is a document about striving for transcendence under “These Changing Skies.”
Elephant Revival formed on the banks of Spring Creek in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and then relocated back to Nederland, Colorado in fall of 2006. They loved one another’s sense of shared values, and the way their disparate musical influences formed a more cohesive tapestry the more they played together. “It really is a natural confluence of our elemental influences,” says bassist/multi-instrumentalist Dango Rose. That elemental tapestry extends beyond music to a worldview that is expressed not only through the music, but in the group's lyrics. That Elephant Revival worldview is connecting with fans: The band is a favorite at festivals such as Telluride Bluegrass, Vancouver Folk Festival and Old Settlers; and is selling out theaters in their native Colorado as well as legendary rooms such as Joe’s Pub in NYC, The Ark in Ann Arbor and The Tractor Tavern in Seattle.
For a band of five individuals, all of whom contribute original songs, there is a consistency in expressing those shared values. In the song from which the album’s title is culled, “Remembering A Beginning,” multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Paine, one of the band’s primary vocalists, sings of the unity of all things: “There's a fire burning, in the middle of this turning/Wild and yearning/For everything, for everything/Remains inside, these changing skies/Through waves in time/Remembering.” The changing skies she refers to remind us that while the very stuff of the universe remains, everything is always unfolding, expanding and contracting, ebbing and flowing; changing. “If we could remember that we are all varying expressions of the same living thing,” says Paine, “maybe we would have less interpersonal and environmental struggle.” Paine also touches on a theme that is ever-present in any discussion with any member of the band -- the idea of "intentionality," as depicted in the song “Willing And Able”: “I am willing and able/In the silence of our loving/All in all is recognized/Clearly knowing our intention.” As she explains, "We all hope to develop our sense of volition with regards to how we effect and are affected." Paine is from Oklahoma and spent many years playing with her sisters under the tutelage of the legendary Randy Crouch, who she considers the earliest important and most lasting influence on her musical sensibilities.
Singer/guitarist Daniel Rodriguez also explores the theme of living on the surface of perception while deep mystery is all about, in the album’s lead track “Birds And Stars.” He recognizes the distance between the state of human awareness and the more transcendental state that the members of Elephant Revival strive for (“The love in you it runs so deep/Upon the surface here I sleep/Walking the dark and light/Walking all the day and night”) and ends with an exhortation for the listener to reject the temporal and embrace the ecstatic: “So...out from your slumber/Into the wonder/Under the starlight and dance, dance.” Rodriguez also penned and sings the band’s first single from the album, “Grace Of A Woman.” In this song, he pays homage the physical sacrifice that women undertake; the sacrifice that allows us all to be here; and to the feminine energy, both loving and creative, that balances out the masculine energy which so dominates the present world -- all wrapped in an infectious tune that is utterly joyous. Rodriguez, as have all members of the band, has sacrificed material comfort for the sake of the dream of playing music. After a stint as a college basketball player, he committed to music. While running live sound at a club, Rodriguez met Paine after a show she played there. They climbed onto the rooftop and played music until the sunrise. After the club closed down he headed west to join Paine and the others, living for a time in a truck and for a time in a teepee.
Singer/banjoist/multi-instrumentalist, Sage Cook, spends a little more time in the real world, lyrically speaking, adding a more direct narrative approach to the band offerings. In “The Obvious,” Cook channels the Occupy movement in a song written after spending time in Zuccotti Park just as the protest was in its formative stages. Cook affirms that the power of the people is being cast asunder by the lure of modern consumer culture (“What’s not bought is what’s not made”) and by the press of national identity (“I heard it through the walls of the station/Steel and stone could not contain us/Beyond the bounds of a nation/Steal and stone could not contain us”). “Over Over And” was penned in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, with Cook struggling to comprehend the incomprehensible. Cook’s consciousness of community started 20 miles down a dirt road in the gyp hills of Kansas, where music, farming and ranching was part of the fabric of his early life; where street dances, wide open country, and even a few metal bands, influenced his sensibilities.
Elephant Revival's use of folk idioms in their music is indicative of both their interests and their upbringings. Fiddle player Bridget Law was born and raised in Colorado. When she was younger, Law competed in Texas-style fiddle competitions. In college, she expanded her studies to include swing, jazz and the skills of improvisation, while applying these skills outside of school in the Colorado bluegrass scene. Her affinity for Celtic music was influenced by multiple visits to Scotland, where she was invited to teach western music at prestigious fiddle camps. “There is so much from these experiences that I bring to the band,” she says. Law was also a ballerina most of her young life; her love for dance has carried over into her style as a musician as she weaves, compliments, and reacts to what the song is seeking.
Dango Rose comes to the band from the city of Chicago, where in his younger days he was influenced by his involvement with The Old Town School of Folk Music. There, Rose broadened his musical perspective from alternative rock and jazz to include the variations of acoustic roots music made available by the famous institution. Upon leaving the city, Rose became part of a tribal music community in Oregon and then traveled across the country in various American roots music ensembles based out of Nederland, Colorado, Woodstock, N.Y., and New Orleans, Louisiana. Throughout, Rose has been a seeker of musical kinship, realizing the inherent gift that is given and received by the sharing of musical experience.
Adding his talents to the natural confluence of “These Changing Skies” is producer Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Johnny Flynn, Gossip), who recorded the band at his Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville, Washington. “It was an amazing space to record in, a big barn with amazing acoustics,” said Rodriguez, adding, “The band is so tight knit that it took a couple of days for everything to gel with Ryan, but once it did, it worked beautifully. He is sonically gifted and really captured things in the right way. The proof is in the music. We’re very proud of this album.”
Elephant Revival took its name from Rose’s experience busking outside the elephant cage at The Lincoln Park Zoo, in Chicago. He was moved to do so after two elephants that had lived there together for 16 years were separated by zookeepers. Within days of the separation, both elephants had died, leaving the elephant cage empty. A seed was planted in the musician to revive the spirit of the lost elephants, the spirit that flows between all things on this Earth and that animates all that the band does. “These Changing Skies” is not only great music, it is a testament to the power of love and community.
Renegade Stringband is one of the hottest bluegrass bands in the Pacific Northwest. Hear them after they return from their fall tour of the Southeastern United States with two homecoming shows in their native region with the great Elephant Revival! They are currently touring to promote the release of their first full-length CD in Spring of 2014.
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