Elephant Revival | Aggie Theater | 12/31/2012 | Review

New Year’s Eve can be celebrated in many different ways. Some people choose to be close with their loved ones, others want to find to wildest party, or for some it’s just another day. Music lovers across the land can undoubtedly agree that New Years Eve means good music with large array of shows to choose from. I particularly like the themes of these nights; reflection, celebration and renewal. I find people are always more positive on New Year’s Eve than other holidays. First, obviously there’s always a party. Second, when the clock hits midnight everyone has a clean slate to start off the year in a manner of their choosing. After some reflection I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the New Year than seeing Elephant Revival in Fort Collins.

Elephant Revival’s first set started around 11 pm, and I’ve never seen the Aggie Theatre more packed before. This comes to no surprise as they have a strong contingency here in Colorado. With roots in Nederland Colorado as well as in Oklahoma, they have no problem filling up venues in this state. Elephant Revival consists of Bonnie Paine, Daniel Rodriquez, Sage Cook, Dango Rose and Bridget Law. Each member sings, writes songs and plays multiple instruments throughout the show. With no traditional drummer, it is appealing to see a folk group rock out on the washboard and conga drum, which both are manned by Bonnie Paine.

To start the night off the band opened with “Forgiveness” from their first album, a beautiful folk tune sung by Daniel Rodriquez. Rodriquez’s warm vocals accompanied by Bridget Law’s sweet fiddle playing started the nice off right. Next up was a new song “What’s That”, which has a gypsy-folk feel and the stunning vocals from Bonnie Paine. The song is off the group’s latest EP, “It’s Alive”. Paine has a truly unique voice that is reminiscent of Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries. It’s unfair to just single out one these members, but Bonnie Paine is a magnificent musician, and with her shy and sweet stage demeanor, she is instantly loved by the crowd.

The production of the show was fantastic, extra lights and decorative banners, the energy at the Aggie Theatre was overwhelmingly positive. It’s really hard not to like the personality band; they are friendly, modest yet great showmen and their positive attitude really shines from the stage. That positive energy on stage gets reflected to the crowd, creating a wonderful atmosphere for everyone. Another focal point of the night is when the group played a new unreleased song “Remembering a Beginning”, and they had an acrobat doing a routine to the song on stage. The first set ended with a solo a cappella tune by Bonnie Paine. Elephant Revival has a unique skill of instantly grabbing the attention of everyone in the crowd, and they did not disappoint.

The second set began shortly before midnight and the Aggie was maybe even more packed then when the show started. I thought about getting a drink but after looking at the overwhelming sea of people surrounding the bar, I decided to hold my ground. Finding good dancing space was not an easy task. Early in the second set as the clock ticked right up to midnight, Elephant Revival performed a Native American prayer a cappella style. The prayer had a primal, mystical feel to it, and it was repeated until the clock struck midnight. I thought it was a very graceful way to pass into the New Year. Next the group played the classic folk tune “Auld Lang Syne” and then kicked the set up a notch with some upbeat instrumentals. Every time I see this group I am impressed by their ability to play a foot-stomping upbeat arrangement and then transition seamlessly to slower heart-felt tune.

As the night went on the group played a lot of new material mixed with some older fan favorites. It is amazing to see how much quality material Elephant Revival has up their sleeve. Some notable songs were “Cosmic Pulse”, by Sage Cook. This certainly seemed appropriate with lyrics such as, “Why we keep on hanging on this way” and “If waking life’s a dream, then wake me up.” It proved to be a great renewal song for the New Year. Another impressive song was the instrumental “Tam Lin Set”, which is a free flowing jam, highlighted by Bridget Law’s fiddle and Bonnie Paine’s relentless washboard playing. They also performed “Ring Around the Moon”, a real beautiful song from their first album. Another gem from their EP is “Quill Pen Feather”, which they also played during their second set. Eventually Dango Rose put down his bass and played a few songs on mandolin. It’s amazing the talent in the band and it seems that there is not one leader. Everybody writes their own songs but all them collaborate together to get the most out of each other, the end result is beautiful. Trying to define their sound can be tough or irrelevant, but they certainly encompass a wide range of folk, americana, bluegrass, celtic, Scottish fiddle,all with a sharp progressive edge. Towards the end of the second set they had their talented acrobat do another impressive routine, I love how they incorporate these types of things into shows, and it really gets the crowd into it (as if they needed extra help with that).

The chemistry between the crowd and band was phenomenal, at one point the crowd was foot stomping and clapping to their own rhythm in between songs and the band followed suit and incorporated the same rhythm into the intro of the next song. The show was certainly a fun time for everyone involved, it appeared the band had a lot of close friends and relatives in the attendance and the crowd was respectful yet fun to be in. As Elephant Revival finished their last song, they quickly returned to do an encore for the hungry crowd.

All in all it was a great night. The band captured the crowd’s attention and never let it go throughout the night. The Aggie Theatre proved to be a wonderful venue, accommodating the large crowd and helped to create the wonderful atmosphere that night. Elephant Revival is heading to Seattle to record new material, and then hit the road for lots of shows this winter; nonetheless the future looks very positive for this quintet. I hope everyone who hasn’t seen this band will make an effort in 2013 to do so. I wish everyone a happy and loving new year.