Elephant Revival makes long awaited return to Planet Bluegrass stage

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Aug. 18—In 2018, Elephant Revival headlined Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the third time and then took a collective hiatus to pursue other projects and take a break from life on the road. On Saturday — much to the excitement of their fans — members will reunite for a long-awaited sold-out concert at Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons.

"The pandemic was a really transformational time," said Dango Rose, founding member and bassist. "It made it more ripe to get together and to be able to share in the music and the experience again."

The band was originally scheduled to perform at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival this past June, but unforeseen circumstances prevented that appearance.

On Tuesday, I met with Bonnie Paine and Rose at Paine's tiny house in Lyons. Framed by string lights and covered in the same bloom-filled wallpaper seen in the band's music video for "Petals," the small wooden structure serves as a place where Paine lives part-time and crafts songs.

A menagerie of animals — from dogs and chickens to sheep, including a majestic horned ram — roam the land.

"This space was definitely my refuge. It was my plan to have a lot of songwriting time. Writing and being with farm animals I think is just so therapeutic," said Paine, who had just completed bottle-feeding a tiny member of her flock.

It's within the cozy space — thoughtfully appointed with peacock feathers, tea cups, books, instruments and crystals — that she has been working on a solo project.

She's written over 30 songs for four storytelling albums that will each have an elemental theme, yet all tie together. It starts with songs about a Selkie — a creature in Celtic and Norse mythology that can shift from a human to a seal — that falls in love with a person.

"Some of them are orchestral type pieces with singing and some will be a cappella with just a voice, so it will be very dynamic in that way," Paine said

She also envisions Cirque Du Soleil-inspired dance as part of the final production that will take shape, a sort of fairytale musical with a healthy amount of female empowerment strewn throughout.

The band, which emerged from Nederland, has released six albums since 2008. Serving up an array of traditional Celtic songs, Americana and lyrically-potent transcendental folk, the talented group remains loved locally and overseas. With ethereal harmonies and tight musicianship, it's easy to see why the group has garnered such a significant fan base.

It's possible that a new Elephant Revival record could be on the horizon, but members are also content with reconnecting and revisiting older classics.

"Just getting together, playing music and revitalizing and reenergizing the songs from our repertoire and interspersing some new ones and spicing it up a little is really exciting," Rose said.

Last weekend, Paine shared the stage with Ani DiFranco at Planet Bluegrass's Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, and she is enthused to return to the venue Saturday.

"She's awesome, it was wonderful," Paine said. "We had so much fun. It's always an honor."

Paine has played with DiFranco previously, and DiFranco's poetry book "Verses" can be found within the grouping of books on a shelf in her tiny home.

"I was lucky to have a lot of influences, and she was one of them," Paine said. "I had played electric guitar when I first heard her. I never heard a girl make an acoustic guitar sound like that before, so percussively, with the tape wrapped around her fingers. She's so rhythmic."

It was at bluegrass event The Walnut Valley Festival, in Winfield, Kan., that Paine purchased a washboard — her father's suggestion — and the unlikely instrument has remained a staple in her arsenal ever since.

In 2021, Rose released the first two volumes of "The Forgotten Years," a trilogy project filled with songs that span his artistic evolution over a dozen years. He anticipates the final volume to be released in the fall.

He is also in the midst of constructing a "back to the earth" compound in Crestone, one with a music studio, that will serve as the locale of creative retreats for musicians and other creatives.

"It's unfolding right now, but it will be focused on lifestyle, how to stay in a grounded embodied space and healthy and be able to approach your art and how that correlates with your connection and relationship with nature," Rose said.

Rose knew at age 15, when he first started going to shows in the Midwest, that his career path would be rooted in music and the camaraderie it brings.

"For me it was always about the band," Rose said. "My underlying truth was this special nature of what a band could be and how that could support community and bring people together, sharing in that musical experience that is of benefit to all involved."

In May, Rose and Paine were joined by Elephant Revival violinist Bridget Law for a concert at Mercury Café in Denver, benefiting Ukrainian refugees.

"Performing with Bonnie (Paine) anywhere, anytime is one of the great joys of my life," Law said. "Yet there is a special feeling that we all hold when we perform as Elephant Revival. I am most looking forward to the mix of sounds and energy that we create when we come together — Bonnie's gorgeous compositions paired with our classic instrumentals and the fun songs written by the other members of the group."

Attendees of the reunion concert can expect a visually stunning performance, sprinkled with appearances by special guests. Covenhoven will open the show. Lee Plenty Wolf and the Plenty Wolf Singers, a Native American Lakota group, will join Elephant Revival in song.

"We also have a history of collaborating with performance art, and I can't wait for what we have planned for this performance," Law said. "The gorgeous aerial performers and fun set design should be a delightful addition to our mix of songs."

With the upcoming official reunion show on the books, fans are wondering if more dates will surface, and members are open to the possibility of thoughtfully curated gigs — perhaps even mini festivals that spotlight art forms of many varieties like food growing, sheep shearing and dance.

"We are hopeful that the show will go wonderfully and that we can open up to the idea of more shows in the future," Law said. "The vision is a few, carefully selected performances a year. We all have very robust lives outside of the band these days, so I don't foresee a tour, but you never know. I am a momma now, so I tend to stay pretty close to the nest."

While Elephant Revival has kept music lovers entranced with breathtaking originals, it's also the group's reinterpretation of covers that are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. Electrifying renditions of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar" and Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" have been a part of the band's catalogue, and Paine promises at least one of those two tunes for Saturday's set.

"Getting together and playing music with everyone has been such a joy," Rose said. "It's been rejuvenating. Stepping on stage together with the (North) Saint Vrain (Creek) right there to a full house at Planet Bluegrass is very exciting."

Saturday's lineup includes Bonnie Paine, Bridget Law, Dango Rose, Charlie Rose, Darren Garvey and guest Daniel Sproul, of Rose Hill Drive, on guitar.

"I love these songs," Paine said. "I love these people."