Live Club Review –Elephant Revival at The Independent, San Francisco
So I picked up today’s New York Times to read about the sale, at an auction in Paris, of some sacred Hopi artifacts, over the objection of tribes people (and the United States Ambassador to France. The auction house made over $1 million, but the loss of treasured items including a “headdress known as the Crown Mother’’ is irreplaceable – the Hopis believe the treasured Katsinam artifacts, were stolen from tribal lands in Arizona, never to return.
Which made the appearance last week of the eclectic Colorado-based group Elephant Revival at the Independent club on Divisadero in California all the more poignant, and life-affirming. For lack of a better term, the group calls what they play “transcendental folk,’’ but the vibe they create in the aptly named room was one of communitarian good spirit, jazzy improvisation and a feeling that you were part of something that was larger than “just’’ music, though music alone is an important value. (Among other good deeds, they’ve done benefits for impoverished Native American tribes in conjunction with the Boulder-based nonprofit Conscious Alliance.)
The ‘”five souls’’ in the band, as their press literature endearingly calls them, are Sage Cook (banjo, guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo, bass and fiddle); Bridget Law (fiddle, octave fiddle); Bonnie Paine (washboard, djembe, musical saw, stomp box); Daniel Rose (guitar, banjo, bass) and Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin and banjo.) Their vibe took me back in some ways to the olden sounds of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, with Maria and Geoff Muldaur and Fritz Richmond doing their thing, but they feel distinctively contemporary, even as they embrace some of the old-time ways.
Their new album, fittingly named “It’s Alive,’’ and lovingly recorded with an analog console and Sonoma DSD recording technology, deals in part with Native American traditions, which the group has supported , on quiet tunes like “Old Quill Feather.’’ And wackily inventive songs like “Go On’’ capture a spirit of personal and planetary support without ever lapsing into the politically correct. “It’s love, it’s love, it’s love that keeps me high,’’ they sing on the cut. “It’s up to us. “Go on, go on, go and do those things you’ve always wanted to.”
It’s no surprise, I guess, that they’ve even turned up on the Friday night playlist of New York Times pundit Paul Krugman, who took a break recently from inveighing against the excesses of the austerity police to plug an Elephant Revival gig at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, and their beautiful tune, “Remembering a Beginning.”
Some bands blow you away with their musicianship; others with the fierce stance of artistic lonerdom. These guys, who made a point of saying how much they were enjoying their brief stay in San Francisco, having a meal with friends and wondering through Golden Gate Park, made you feel like how great it would be to have them as your friends. Then again, they already are.