Elephant Revival will headline Red Rocks on Sunday, May 22, 2016
Elephant Revival will headline Red Rocks on Sunday, May 22, 2016
Photo courtesy of Lisa Siciliano, used with permission

A mainstay in the Colorado music scene, Nederland folk quintet Elephant Revival has played dozens of Rocky Mountain venues, festivals, and shows. But none has been quite as big as their upcoming headlining concert at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

The show marks the first time that Elephant Revival has headlined the venue, and when you take into account all of the shows on Red Rocks’ 75th anniversary concert calendar, the combination of the Morrison venue and Elephant Revival stick out. With the group’s distinct Colorado-influenced sound and Red Rocks’ position as a symbol of Colorado pride, few shows tie together local music and the state’s unique, breathtaking qualities quite like this one.

AXS caught up with Elephant Revival bassist and mandolin player Dango Rose about headlining Red Rocks as well as Elephant Revival’s alluring and subtle new record, Petals. Read the conversation below.

AXS: What makes Colorado special in terms of music and how would you describe the Colorado music scene, in your own words?

Dango Rose: I think there’s a direct connection between the music in Colorado and the landscape, nature, and lifestyle of Colorado. I think it’s been that way for a long time where Colorado’s been the place to go to create music because of what is available, and what is gifted by the Earth and the atmosphere, and that lends into everything. And then from that, you get this brand of music that just expands in a different way. And you gotta think that music in Colorado definitely represents the culture and the expansiveness of the state’s nature.

AXS: Talk a little bit about Elephant Revival’s place in the Colorado music scene. How does Colorado directly influence Elephant Revival’s sound?

DR: We spend a lot of time gaining our inspiration from being outdoors. And that can be as simple as going down to the river, or just taking a walk in the morning. And also the bands and musicians that have come out of Colorado before us are also great influences.

AXS: How does it feel to headline Red Rocks finally?

DR: It feels amazing, it’s a dream come true.

AXS: What does Red Rocks as a venue and outdoor location mean to you as a Colorado resident? What makes it special?

DR: It’s the pinnacle outdoor venue in Colorado. There’s just something there, something kind of unexplainable, and you feel it when you walk in. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing or you’re just there listening. You know you’re somewhere special. And it’s been an amphitheatre, not just recently, but it’s been that way for thousands of years. People have probably been gathering to play music or hold ceremonies there for thousands of years. So it’s pretty amazing, and it’s an honor to perform there.

AXS: What’s been the best show you’ve seen at Red Rocks as an audience member?

DR: Seeing Dispatch there was pretty cool. I’ve always gone to the Yonder Mountain String Band shows. But--it was a show we performed at--getting to see Gregory Alan Isakov who’s a great friend of ours and Devotchka with the Colorado Symphony. Seeing Gregory with a symphony is an amazing experience.

AXS: What can you tell me about the Lunar Fire Dream Spell and the big dreamcatcher the band posted on Facebook?

DR: Lunar Fire is a great band out of Denver, and they’re an offshoot of Kan’Nal that was an influence of ours in the first formative years of the band. The Dream Spell are our dear friends Ariana Papousek and Lorelei MaQui. They’re part of Lunar Fire and they’re lending their talents, skills, and beautiful performance art on that dreamcatcher. The dreamcatcher is going to be suspended and they’ll be doing aerial acrobatics to a few of our songs. This is the first time we’ve incorporated the Lunar Fire Dream Spell and it’s just a beautiful combination of art forms that we’re enthralled with and inspired by. It’s very meaningful to us as performers. These performers are part of Fractal Tribe and we’re dedicating the show in honor of two members of that group and the Boulder circus performing arts community who were killed in a fatal car accident, a horrible tragedy. It’s had a ripple effect on everyone. One of those performers, Joe Ramas, was supposed to have been with us [at Red Rocks] to help with all of the technical aspects of the show for the aerial performers.

AXS: Elephant Revival has been playing together for about 10 years now. In what ways do you think the band and the band’s sound have evolved over the years? How does that direction figure into the new album, Petals?

DR: It’s definitely gotten much more nuanced and refined. And all of us have grown over time so the music really comes through our experience, and then our experiences change and evolve and so does the sound. We’re not stuck in one way of how things work, we’re always kind of moving into that next step of how things will be. So it’s a natural evolution. And we really follow the guidance of the song, and what the song requires. As we’ve grown, the songs have begun to require different things. All that said, having Charlie Rose come into the fold with the pedal steel guitar [adds] new textures of sound, [it] creates a whole new sonic tapestry. We’ve also incorporated some simple percussion aspects to really accentuate different elements of what we’re trying to get across. A lot of the songs are built in different ways from the ground up.

AXS: Of the band’s new songs, which is your favorite to perform live?

DR: It’s really hard to pinpoint that, to be honest. We’re having a great time performing all of them, seriously.

AXS: Besides Red Rocks, what’s your favorite Colorado venue to play?

DR: All of the festivals. The WinterWonderGrass festival is a great one, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. There are so many.

AXS: Where’s your favorite outdoor place to go in Colorado to get away from it all?

DR: Well if I tell you it won’t be a secret, right? [Laughs] My favorite place to go in Colorado is the Sangre de Cristo Range. I’ll just leave it very broad.

Elephant Revival is headlining Red Rocks Amphitheatre Sunday, May 22. Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band and Rising Appalachia will open in support. For more information on tickets, click here.