I was already running behind but the excitement of the night ahead kept me from stressing out as I hit stand still traffic on I-25 toward Denver. As I came to a halt on the interstate I prepared for an evening with Elephant Revival supported by the Colorado Symphony. Madness, I thought about this exciting collaboration and smiled as traffic creeped forward. What was surely days later, at least it seemed, I finally made it into the heart of Downtown Denver; the excitement pouring out of me at this point. I arrived at the parking garage for the Denver Performing Arts Complex and was pleased to find out parking was only $12 for the entire event. Being in Denver I was expecting $20. I parked and quickly partook in an amazing salad bowl of Kong bubble hash and Gorilla Glue #4 Rosin laid on top of the finest Pineapple Kush known to man. As I embarked down the stairs of the garage, now in the proper mindset, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the garage was attached to the venue. For those of you who have never been to or heard of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, climb out from under the rock you’ve been living under and go check out this amazing addition to Denver. The DPAC is a four-block, 12-acre site containing ten performance spaces with over 10,000 seats connected by an 80ft tall glass roof. It is home to a theatre company, Broadway touring productions, contemporary dance and ballet, chorales, a symphony orchestra, opera and more. Truly a paradise for those who appreciate the arts. The concert was to be at the Boettcher Concert hall. When I arrived into the reception area of BCH I was greeted by a staff dressed in their best black and white tuxedos, happy and eager to show me to my seat and help me with a glass of Cabernet. When I entered the concert hall I was immediately in awe of the complete and utter beauty I just stepped into. The energy of the space was enchanting. I was ushered to my seat in Mezzanine 6 Row R Seat 3. I struck up a small conversation with the most darling elderly couple next to me. I asked them if they were Elephant Revival fans or Symphony fans. They told me that they are long time symphony goers and that they had never heard of Elephant Revival. They said that they have been to a lot of these collaborations that the symphony has done with big music artists and bands, and that they have enjoyed all of them. I told them that they were in for a treat tonight, and boasted about Elephant Revival. As the hall started to fill up, confused hippies adapted to having to be shown to their assigned seat where they could not dance or take pictures. Little did they know that they would soon forget these concerns and be captivated by the magic of the music. The lights dimmed and the musicians all were in place. Applause erupts and I see the conductor, followed by the Nederland-quintet themselves walk onto the stage and take their places. Without any hesitation, they jumped right into it with Home in Your Heart followed by the classic Remembering a Beginning. By the end of the first set, which they closed out with the song Petals, I think I can speak for everyone in attendance that we were astounded at what the power of a symphony can do to fill in those spaces between the notes, adding a depth that was beautiful to hear live. After a short intermission, I was back in my seat eager to hear what the second set would bring. After hearing some mind-blowing renditions of some newer songs off of their most recent album Petals, Bonnie Paine gave us a commanding showcase of her vocal talent in “The Raven Song”, appropriately closing out the show with a deafening applause and standing ovation. With gratitude and love being themes of the evening, I was left with a feeling of comfort, and abundan radiant joy, as I made the journey home to Colorado Springs. The next morning I awoke to have my morning coffee and smoke and found myself pondering a few questions I had about last nights performance. I was able to reach out to Elephant Revival and have a few questions answered by singer/songwriter Bonnie Paine.
TMJ: You mentioned casually during the performance something about an “acrobatic ballet” of sorts that you are working on based on songs you’ve written, could you elaborate?
Bonnie: The first song I wrote was called “Currach,” which involves a young boy crawling into a small boat, a Currach, and getting washed out to sea. Since then, I have written 12 or so other songs that clearly became part of the story. Sometimes songs became part of the story as I was writing them. Other times, songs would reveal themselves as part of the story, long after they were completed. Growing up my sister, and I would sometimes imagine we were part of Cirque du Soleil, whether we were some kind of acrobatic dancers or part of the music. My hope is to someday see this story in that kind of acrobatic dance form with a symphony as well as in album form and possibly a book. We have performed with acrobats throughout the years and after the show some friends from the Fractal Tribe acrobatic group came up to me and said, “OK, when can we hear more about this acrobatic ballet?” This excites me! I’ve been pretty patient and was originally somewhat private with letting the story unfold, and I am just now beginning to get the tingles of nearing readiness…
TMJ: From a fans perspective, I would have loved to hear a classic or two like Ring Around the Moon or Sing to the Mountain with the power of the symphony backing you up. What drove the song choices at last night’s performance?
Bonnie: We ended up performing songs from each of our albums, but I think most of the songs that ended up on the Petals album seemed to naturally have a lot of room for orchestral layers to us. Or maybe because it is our most recent album, it was easier for us to imagine the songs stretching into different forms.
TMJ: What was it like for you performing at Boettcher Concert Hall?
Bonnie: Performing at Boettcher Concert Hall was like playing in a beautifully swirling snow globe of sound. I love the way a symphony sounds in that room. Sometimes I like to imagine my childhood self trying to get a glimpse of my future and I delight in the idea of getting a kind of sneak preview of this kind of experience.
TMJ: I know the group worked with several composers in order to prepare for the performance. What was the experience like and how did the process work?
Bonnie: I was amazed by how different each composer’s approach was. Some were very straight forward, but many were very imaginative and transformed the songs into entirely new expressions. Some had high regard for making the space between notes noticeable and punctuated, while others had an art for melding and flowing harmonies together until it felt like the song was originally written with the symphony parts. Enion Pelta-Tiller, Eric Thorin, Jay Clifford, Mike Fitzmaurice, Brett Madsen, Connor Brown, and Max McKee—all were an absolute delight to work with, and I quickly grew to adore each of these people in their own unique approaches to sound and communication.
Gaining continuous momentum and fueled by fans who appreciate the music as much as they do, the group is exploring their music in ways they themselves never thought would be possible. This year has been a stepping stone for Elephant Revival and I am excited to see what’s next for this remarkable quintet from Nederlands, Colorado.
Setlist: Boettcher Concert Hall 11/26/2016
Set 1: Home in Your Heart, Remembering a Beginging The Pasture, Season Song, Drop, Peace Tonight, Currach, Ancient Sea, Petals
Set 2: Birds and Stars, Echo’s Rose, Spinning, Sea Monster, Hello You Who, Flight Patterns Weather, When I Fall, Furthest Shore, Sands of Now, Single Beds, Raven Song
Upcoming Colorado Tour Dates:
12/8/16 – Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
12/9/16 – Fort Collins, CO – Aggie Theater
12/10 – 12/11/16 – Colorado Springs, CO – Stargazers Theater
2/23-2/26/17 – Steamboat Springs, CO – WinterWonderGrass
3/2/17 – Grand Junction, CO – Avalon Theater
3/5/17 – Aspen, CO – Wheeler Opera House
3/7 -3/8/17 – Durango, CO – Animas Theater