Elephants revive a dark Indy corner

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Elephant Revival
The Irving Theatre
Indianapolis, IN
May 12, 2011


Nederland, Colorado is no stranger to shining stringed outfits. From within the tiny town consisting of a mere 1,337 people, 610 households and 355 families, bands like Yonder Mountain String Band and Leftover Salmon and the annual NedFest have been born and/or bred and housed. As a relative newcomer from the talent pool, the stellar and eclectic quintet, Elephant Revival, introduced its road show to fans in Indianapolis for a show at the Irving Theater on a quiet Thursday evening.

img_6500.jpgThe Irving is located in an east side village inside of Indianapolis and is surrounded by some of the hardest and darkest corners of Naptown. Without question, walking to the historical theater was neither the safest nor the brightest thing to be doing. But the sounds that were awaiting inside transcended the darkness outside and the hunger to see one of the finest up and coming string bands on the scene surpassed the weary and stomach churning experience that the neighborhood inherently gave.

Elephant Revival is dubbed as “Transcendental Folk” and takes string music far from the prototypical jamgrass sound of the day and in turn, puts a spin on bluegrass that is boundless, mystical and spiritual.

The band consists of Bonnie Paine (vocals, washboard, djembe, musical saw), Sage Cook (electric banjo/guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, viola, vocals), Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo, vocals) and Daniel Rodriguez (acoustic guitar, electric banjo/guitar, vocals) and Bridget Law (fiddle and vocals). The composition of the the neo-acoustic five-piece is set to the multiple lead singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists; each adding a wealth of accolade and diversity to the musicianship.

Bonnie Paine’s and Bridget Law’s vocals compliment each to the finest. Whereas Paine’s vocals wrapped the audience in a sea of warmth with soft, subtle and hushed low pitched tones, Law added a range to the vocal spectrum that provided human tone to match the sound being created by the bowing that she gave her violin. In comparison, there was the male choral combination of Rose, Rodriguez and Cook. Soft and unwavering, Rose’s vocals were rich, deep and strong… pronouncing the depth while Rodriguez delivered a stout and smooth range of tenor and baritone that lent itself perfectly to the husky and rich singing energy of Cook.

img_6851.jpgAs they opened the night with “Raindrops,” Rodriguez’s gentle acoustic guitar ushered in a soft melody from Cook’s banjo and Paine’s vocals. A somewhat haunting tune, “Raindrops” immediately brought out the multi-instrumentation and demonstrated the natural ability that Revival has for accompanying and offsetting one another’s sounds; best evidenced by Paine’s washboard play that was seemingly charged by the lyrics and fiddle play of Law.

Cook’s vocals and banjo took lead for “Barefoot Friend” with Paine keeping rhythm on washboard. The Irving’s doors (which first opened in 1913) provided a haunting atmosphere and perfect counterpart to the repertoire and also provided insight into the possible choice in venue for the ensemble.

The folks attending the show mingled through the theatre’s church-esque pews to the front of the stage as Rodriguez and Paine performed a duet from their debut album, “Sing to the Mountain” and segued through another debut album number, “Ring Around The Moon” and into the upbeat sunny tune, “Sweet Dreams.”

After the set closing offering of “Feathers Rise,” Paine’s vocals supplied the launch of the second set into with “Point Of You” and the pace of tempo was quickly picked up  in “Cosmic Pulse” through Paine’s percussion.

“Drop,” a tune from the Revival’s most recent studio effort (2010’s Break In The Clouds), had Paine back on vocals with Rose’s deep baritone vocals harmonizing perfectly. As they went into “Lexington,” a Celtic folk instrumental, several hula-hoopers took to the front of the stage with lighted hoops that gave an added visual to the evening.

The Revival continued with “Old Rogue River,” a deep rich bluesy number and as the band bantered back and forth in regards to whether it would play “Forgiveness” or “In Love and Rage,” tulips were passed out to the audience as the compromise was reached and “In Love and Rage” was played. This decision yielded a special treat in the form of Paine putting her washboard and drum aside to pick up and play the saw.

As the evening wrapped, the small crowd hustled out of the Irving and into the twilight…revived.

Click the thumbnail to view the photo gallery From The Show by Amber Jennings

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