Buffalo Heart Project Benefit | 02.05 | CO

Words by: Sam Libby | Images by: Joshua Elioseff/Dancerproductions.com

Buffalo Heart Project Benefit :: 02.05.10 :: Boulder Theater :: Boulder, CO

Plenty Wolf Singers :: 02.05 :: Boulder, CO

Elephant Revival was the featured band at the Buffalo Heart Project (B.H.P.) Benefit at the Boulder Theater, which raised thousands of dollars for emergency heating assistance for people living on the Pine Ridge and Rose Bud Reservations of the Lakota people during this particularly cold and trying winter. The concert was in all ways a major, defining event for Elephant Revival, which is on the cusp of a major breakout into the greater national music scene. It also defined the band's unique social activism.

All proceeds from the evening directly benefited non-profit organization Conscious Alliance's "Art that Feeds" program in partnership with The Buffalo Heart Project to provide fuel and firewood for emergency heating assistance on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Marquee Magazine, ElephantJournal.com and Lyons Compassionate Care, as well as major Colorado Front Range musicians, contributed to the evening's musical celebration and awareness raising about the continued plight of the Lakota.

Elephant Revival is a leader in the emerging, influential musical genre being called "Transcendental Folk." All the musical artists who joined Elephant Revival for the benefit concert contribute in some way to the defining of this new genre.

Jim Page :: 02.05 :: Boulder, CO
The Plenty Wolf Singers, a traditional Lakota drumming society, initiated the concert with prayer and invocation to the Great Spirit/Creator with sad yet triumphant traditional drumming and singing. The music of the Plenty Wolf Singers is the song of our shared American landscape/topography, a sad, primal lamentation of dispossession and attempted genocide where economically worthless badlands become Indian Reservations forming new frontiers of despair, hopelessness and oppression.

With attendees gathered around the mother drum, the intention of the evening pulsed forth and gained cadence as the drum, the living heartbeat of the American landscape, inaugurated and invoked the evening's magical unfolding.

The Plenty Wolf Singers were joined by surprise special guest Silent Bear, a fellow resident and musician from the Rose Bud Reservation. Silent Bear received permission from Pete Seeger to alter the words to Seeger's famous Vietnam protest song, "Bring Them Home." Silent Bear's adaptation, entitled "Bring Him Home," is reference and homage to Leonard Peltier who has spent 34 years wrongly imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The song became a shared, heartfelt prayer for justice to come to those in need.

The Plenty Wolf Singers were a persistent presence during the concert, providing a focus to the show as the bands were setting up, as well as ending the concert with ceremony and prayer.

Jim Page was another major presence during the show, acting as master of ceremony and providing historical context and demonstrating why he is one of the most notable, worthy American songwriters plying his craft today. Page played his haunting, signature song, "The Wind Did Blow" (accompanied by Elephant Revival), about the wind that blew and froze the corpses of the men, women, children and old folks murdered by the U.S. 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 29, 1890.

Boulder Acoustic Society :: 02.05 :: Boulder, CO
As emcee, Page wove his own songs in between the other band's sets throughout the evening. Page included his own verse of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" and a current protest song penned about the war in Iraq called "Collateral Damage." His song "Heroes & Survivors" referenced the overpowering will of humanity to carry on through oppression and persecution. Page sang of 'Anna Mae' Aquash, a member of the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) who was found murdered on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1976.

As the late great folk legend Utah Phillips stated, "Jim Page is one of the great songwriters of our times. He is a master of the songwriting craft. Jim Page's songs get right to the point. He looks at the world clearly and reports what he sees with compassion, humor and a biting sense of irony."

The Buffalo Heart Project Benefit was a night which invited all participants to breakout their best protest songs, and The Boulder Acoustic Society accepted the invitation. They took the posture of rabble-rousers and ended their set by going into the audience. They sang the timeless protest song "Lift Every Voice" and Steve Earle's "Oxycontin Blues."

Laura Goldhamer :: 02.05 :: Boulder, CO
Reed Foehl stood before the packed theater with nothing but his harmonica and acoustic guitar evoking a young Bob Dylan in his early Greenwich Village days. And like young Dylan, his songs were sad laments of isolation and alienation. He also covered Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" beautifully.

Laura Goldhamer & The Silver Nail also sang songs of isolation and alienation, and the hope of transcending and rising above one's woes. The band's songs were illustrated by an onstage slide show projected on a bed sheet.

Many sad songs were sung. Many angry songs of protest were sung. However, in the end, Elephant Revival's songs of hope and grace transcended all the anger and sadness.

A magic moment occurred when ER took the stage, stood silently posed in the moment and then charged into the savage blood rhythm of their Celtic battle song, with the unlikely title "Single Beds Were Made for One." The quintet's fusion of Scottish/Celtic fiddle tunes, original folk pieces, traditional ballads, psychedelic country, indie rock and powerful reggae grooves has such a beautiful animal/creature vitality that it made the dancers move in new archaic ways.

Elephant Revival :: 02.05 :: Boulder, CO
Some Elephant Revival songs spoke to the delusion of alienation and separation, while others spoke to the power we all have to make the world anew. A great highlight of the night occurred when the entire audience joined the band on the chorus of "Sing to the Mountain": "Go and sing to the mountain/ Go and sing to the moon/ Go and sing to just about everything/ Because everything is you."

Elephant Revival hails from Nederland, Colorado - a place whose precious minerals have been mined out, yet Nederland is amazingly rich in its abundance of musical talent. Bands and talents such as Stephen Stills, Dan Fogelberg, Joe Walsh, Leftover Salmon, The String Cheese Incident, and Yonder Mountain String Band have emerged from this part of the Colorado Front Range to take their place in the greater national musical scene. The unanimous, local folk wisdom is that Elephant Revival is next.

The kind of social activism that was showcased at the Buffalo Heart Project Benefit comes natural to Elephant Revival band members. Bonnie May Paine (vocals, washboard, djembe, musical saw) is tribal Cherokee from the capital of the Oklahoma Cherokee - Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Most of the rest of the band members have some connection to the Indian Territories of Oklahoma. From there springs forth their song of hope, comfort and transcendence.

Continue reading for more pics of the Buffalo Heart Project Benefit...

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