Elephant Revival, The Oh Hellos, and Mandolin Orange at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO on 5/21/17

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival didn’t put on your typical concert. The five member transcendental folk band from Nederland, Colorado pulled out all the stops for their Red Rocks Amphitheatre show. A Senator spoke, a drum circle chanted, an orchestra played, aerialists flew, and an intricate light show illuminated.

Before the music started, Senator Michael Bennet addressed the crowd complimenting Elephant Revival’s environmental activism. One of their projects was their participation in Colorado Public Lands Day on May 12th.  The band worked with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers at the Eldorado Canyon State Park. Elephant Revival rewarded fans/volunteers with an intimate acoustic show. I had the privilege to take part of that event.

Bonnie Paine

The Red Rocks appearance began with an Indian drum circle complete with dancers in traditional dress (yes feathers were worn). It set the mood for the evening that was not only influenced by multiple genres of music (Celtic, bluegrass, and alternative rock), but by nature.

The band took the stage while rain poured down on the audience. Singer Bonnie Paine was dressed like a Greek Goddess in a white flowing dress. It was her birthday the day before and the crowd shouted out birthday wishes throughout the evening. The roadies dressed in matching suits and hats handed Paine a saw. She played it while singing the haunting Close As Can Be.

Strings and horns joined the band forming the Mayflower Orchestra. They accompanied the band for a large portion of the night making the sound dynamic and powerful. An amazing light show wowed the crowd during their version of Pink Floyd’s Have a Cigar.

Aerialists – All Photos by the Rock and Roll Princess

Towards the end of the night a troupe of aerialists were hoisted above the stage.  They performed a Cirque du Soleil like air ballet. Bonnie Paine described their movements like butterflies creating storms.

After all the flowing dresses and floating women, vocalist Daniel Rodriguez sang the fitting Grace of a Woman. The show ended with Rodriguez leading the crowd in a howl-a-long to Sing to the Moon. “Go and sing to the mountain/Go and sing to the moon” (the crowd howls here) “Go and sing to just about everything/Cause everything is you.

The Oh Hellos

The Oh Hellos were second on the bill. I was expecting a mellow brother and sister folk duo.  But a large energetic band with two drummers appeared shattering my preconceived notions.  The high-energy fueled set was slowed down by technical problems.  But lead singer Tyler Heath made it humorous by asking the crowd if anybody had a tiny screwdriver to fix his guitar.  His sister Maggie Heath’s beautiful voice blended with his effortlessly for their hit Hello My Old Heart. Regan Smith channeled his inner Pete Townshend while he smashed his banjo at the end of the performance.

Orange Mandolin

Starting the night of music was Mandolin Orange. There was a mandolin, but it wasn’t orange.  Despite the false advertising, the North Carolina duo won over the crowd with their self described lyrical country grassy folk music. Their song Wildfire was a powerful Civil War themed song that addressed how hate never fades away. Andrew Marlin introduced Heart of Gold as a love song performed sadly because they like juxtaposition. Emily Frantz thanked the strong winds for making her hair look good (who needs a wind machine when you have the actual wind).  Marlin thanked the sun for being the world’s biggest spotlight. There are definite advantages of being the opening act.

See you at the next show.  I’ll be the one leading the howl-a-long.

John Paul White and Covenhoven at the Bluebird in Denver, CO on 05-10-17

John Paul White

John Paul White announced to the crowd, “I didn’t come here to cheer you up.” Referring to his melancholy songs such as I’ll Get Even, Hope I Die, and Hate the Way You Love Me. They are somber, but with pleasing melodies and haunting images. I first saw John Paul White back in 2012 as one half of the duo The Civil Wars. A very pregnant Joy Williams was dancing around the stage while singing incredible harmonies with White. Now without Joy (see what I did there), John Paul White is back as a solo artist after an extensive time away from the spotlight.

Making up for a cancelled show in January due to a freak snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest, John Paul White mostly played material from his solo album 2016’s Beulah (biblical word meaning a place of peace and isolation from strife). He explained to the crowd he was perfectly happy not making music and being with his family. But songs started to pour out of him demanding to be heard.

John Paul White
All Photos by the Rock and Roll Princess

The performance started with John Paul White walking on stage when the crowd’s cheering suddenly stopped. Before singing a note, White said, “it got creepy for a second.” His a cappella version of I Remember You (the 1941 Johnny Mercer classic not the 1989 Skid Row power ballad) set the mood for the night of beautifully dark music. Next he picked up an acoustic guitar for Black Leaf where his signature finger picking reminded everyone of The Civil Wars distinct sound. Most of the members of the Florence, Alabama band Belle Adair acted as John Paul White’s backing band for the rest of the night. They added ambient dreamy southern depth while White poured his soul out through his heavyhearted voice.

John Paul White

A few songs not on the current album were performed. Simple Song about the death of his grandfather from his grandmother’s viewpoint declaring, “Done my mourn’ in your arms/I ain’t gonna lose sleep when your safe from harm.” Remember White warned the crowd he wasn’t there to cheer them up. He sang a few songs from his first solo album 1998’s The Long Goodbye that was not released until recently due to brutal record industry politics. This Life had the audience in tears with the lyrics, “‘Cause this life is all that I’ve got/All that I am, all that I’m not/And it’s worth all I go through/’Cause this life came with you.”  He closed the show with The Electric Light Orchestra’s Can’t Get It Out of My Head.  Singing, “Now my whole world is gone for dead/’Cause I can’t get it out of my head.”  Reminding us John Paul White isn’t here to cheer you up, but his music might just fill your heart.


The Denver band Covenhoven was the opener. I dined with them before the show. Okay. I sat near them while they ate pizza at the Denver Biscuit CompanyJoel Van Horne plays music under the moniker Covenhoven named after a cabin his grandfather built in Wyoming. It’s symbolically similar to White’s Beulah album title. The symphonic folk music was aided by four enthusiastic musicians especially the bass player with his intense facial expressions. There were a number of Bear Creek High School students in attendance screaming their love for Van Horne. It had something to due with their recent school river trip with him. It was fitting because the majority of the songs themes seem to be rooted in nature.  

See you at the next show. I’ll be the one that can cheer you up. I know lots of jokes.

Take Note Colorado at 1st Bank Center, Broomfield, CO on 5/4/17

Almost every notable Colorado musician you could think of joined Governor Hickenlooper for a benefit concert on Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you). The goal of the charity is to give any child from kindergarten to 12th grade access to a musical instrument and knowledge how to play it.

Crested Butte’s own Bill Nershi from The String Cheese Incident with his wife Jillian Nershi started the evening of Colorado music. His SCI song Colorado Bluebird Sky was about living … wait for it… mile high.  They introduced Tracksuit Wedding fronted by Libby Anschutz a co-founder of the Take Note Colorado charity. Her father, Phil Anschutz, is Colorado’s best-known entrepreneur (the A in AEG).  Sadly, no tracksuits were worn or weddings were performed, but their mixture of funk and blues fired up the crowd.  

KBCO’s own Bret Saunder’s came out in a Chewbacca Mask (remember it’s Star Wars Day) to introduce Columbine High School‘s own Todd Park Mohr from Big Head Todd and the Monsters. In the early 90’s, I followed his band around so often they started to recognize me in the audience. Luckily no restraining orders were filed. He was joined by Jeremy Lawton BHTM’s keyboardist and slide guitarist. They played blues versions of Rolling and Tumbling (one of the first blues song’s ever recorded), Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your land (their version is actually not cheesy), and a new BHTM song New Word Arisin’ that matched the other material perfectly.

Isacc Slade

Next Boulder’s own Isaac Slade, the front man of The Fray, took the stage. Governor Hickenlooper convinced Slade to co-chair the Take Note charity one drunken night (that’s how it was described by Slade). He performed The Fray’s first hit Over My Head (Cable Car) on the piano. Next was How to Save a Life. The song was fitting because it was inspired by his time working at a camp for troubled teens. Next was his version of Kanye West’s Heartless illuminated by the audience’s cell phones. Boulder’s Fairview High School Choir backed him at end of his set. And that was just the warm up. 

The Fray – Photo by the Rock and Roll Princess

Colorado Springs own OneRepublic took the stage to Loves Runs Out. They really put on a show with their full band and stunning lighting display. Lead singer Ryan Tedder jumped off a multi color light piano and took the band through a hit filled set including Stop and Stare, Secrets, and No Apologies (their biggest hit). Tedder introduced the song by joking, “if you don’t know this next song, welcome back from North Korea.” During Counting Stars, Tedder ran through the audience with the help of three big bodyguards. The audience went crazy and someone threw him their popcorn (not their underwear, it was a family event after all). OneRepublic ended with I Lived with the lyrics, “Hope when the crowd screams out/It’s screaming your name/Hope if everybody runs/You choose to stay.” 

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Denver’s Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats closed the show with their soul inspired powerhouse sound. Rateliff not only sang with incredible power, he danced throughout the night channeling James Brown. He dedicated a duck walk to the late Father of Rock and Roll Chuck Berry to the jubilated crowd.  His horn section transformed his solo song Boil and Fight into a Night Sweats standard. The horn section put down their brass and played shakers for the song …. wait for it …. Shake. Two high school horn players joined The Night Sweats for a couple of songs making their rock and roll dreams come true. The band ended with S.O.B. encouraging the crowd to sing-a-long. The drunken crowd was doing choreographed dance moves to the chorus of My Heart was breaking/Hands were shaking/Bugs crawling all over me.

See you at the next show. I’ll be the one bragging about my tambourine solo featured in my junior high school band concert. 

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