Elephant Revival bid farewell to music, and the Elephant family music experience, with a touching performance at Red Rocks in 2018 that saw the very sky open up and weep at the band’s final departure from the stage. At that time, the music just didn’t feel quite right anymore — something was missing and the experience of performing together on stage wasn’t the same. Rather than put on a façade and continue to perform, the Nederland-born bluegrass group set down their instruments and went on to pursue their individual passions wherever they were led. Now, four years after they gracefully said goodbye, those pursuits have led them to Lyons, where the acoustic folk family will perform their first live show as a complete unit since 2018 this upcoming Saturday, August 20.
Since Elephant Revival announced their hiatus, they’ve largely done what they set out to do — they’ve reconnected with their loved ones and explored individual creative projects and passions. Founding member Bonnie Paine, for instance, said she’s been writing a lot of songs. “And then playing them to sheep, which has been a great audience,” she joked, laughing on a call with 303 Magazine. “And a peacock too. Animals are very receptive.” Her mom has also heard the songs — and her feedback is responsible for a few key changes to the songs.
“I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity that we had to watch the seasons change in one place. [It was] the first time in my adult life that I had seen that because I had toured with my sisters up until Elephant Revival. So it was just a really good feeling to get a sense of the land changing with the seasons, have a sense of community, have a sense of groundedness,” Paine said.
Meanwhile, vocalist and fiddler Bridget Law got married and became a mother herself. She’s also continued to perform live alongside Tierro Band. Fellow founder and bassist Dango Rose has also been busy with music, though he’s been far more focused on supporting the creative pursuits of other artists than pursuing his own solo career.
“After the band went on hiatus, I started some artist empowerment coaching, which is kind of like artist development work,” Rose said. Mostly, he’s focused on collaborations that allow him to support other artists in their own songwriting, though he’s still found enough time to record some of his own music. “It was a nice time of grounding and I would say personal transformation and growth,” Rose said. “And certainly good for all of our relationships and family relationships.”
But as good as things are post-Elephant Revival, it’s impossible to deny that there was something that drew the folk family together in the first place. “It was wonderful to tour and see the world the way we did [before going on hiatus]. And I’m so grateful that we got to do it in the ways that we did, we’re so lucky,” Paine said. After a four-year hiatus and a pandemic that caused us all to do deep inner reflection, the band wanted to see if the old magic was still there.
“I just feel really fortunate to be able to have found these musical connections and friendships in our lives and you know, after having taken some time away from it, being able to get together and to play the music, that means so much to us,” Rose said.
It started with an invitation from Telluride Bluegrass Festival, who invited Elephant Revival to perform. So, a collection of former members got together for a casual rehearsal, just to feel things out. And while they weren’t quite ready for Telluride, they are ready for Planet Bluegrass, which will host Elephant Revival for a reunion performance that truly may be the only opportunity for fans to see the band perform live again.
While the current excitement and camaraderie are promising, Elephant Revival currently has no other shows on their calendar. And they don’t plan on adding any. At least not anytime soon. “We just kind of all agreed that we would see how the show went and then take it from there,” Paine said, adding that “it feels really positive.”
Elephant Revival will headline Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons at 7 p.m. this Saturday, August 20, along with support from Covenhoven. Tickets are available via seetickets.us. The event is all ages, children aged 12 and under gain free entry with a ticketed adult.
All photography by Meg O’Neill unless otherwise noted.