Once upon a time in a land faraway, which I lovingly refer to as the armpit of America, I went to the Mulberry Mountain Music Festival. It was up the pig tail in the Ozarks near Fayetteville, Arkansas. The venue was still under construction, with bulldozers grading roads, electricians wiring campgrounds, and plumbers piping the restrooms. Thunderstorms blasted overhead during the nights, bringing lightning strikes into the trees around us and knocking out the main line to the stage once. It was a rip-roaring time, in the summer of 2006.
My tickets came in return for a donation to KABF, "the voice of the people, 100,000 watts strong, out of Little Rock, Arkansas," and I went mainly to see Big Smith, the only name I recognized on the schedule. I had seen them in The Revolution Room in LR and loved their funky sound. Check them out here.
One day, I'm sitting out in left field, chatting with a new friend, when a sound reached out and pulled me to the stage, where I found My-Tea Kind in mid-song. Up front was a beautiful, young woman who launched into French, as I arrived. She was producing amazing rhythms from a washboard, and playing it faster than anyone I had ever seen, except maybe Washboard Jackson, but that's another story.
Her name was Bonnie Paine, and two other members of the group were her sisters, Anna on the bass and Sarah on the drums. They and their cohort, James Townsend, were creating a sound like nothing I had ever heard. The key seemed to be right up front on the washboard and djembe. I was captivated. A few weeks later, I would drive two hours to reach George's Lounge, in Fayetteville, to see them again. Next, it was to Hot Springs to Maxine's, an intimate venue, where we fans outnumbered the band almost four to one, part of the time. They would play a few songs, and we would drink and chat some, before they played some more. I had photos for each of them from the Mulberry Mountain event.
At that point, Bonnie and Anna were moving from home in Tahlequah, OK, to somewhere in Colorado. I ordered their CD from CD Baby, and I also ordered a CD from Wakarusa, which contained their performance there.
I hadn't forgotten My-Tea Kind, but I hadn't played the CDs in a while, and I hadn't checked their website, either.
The last time Elephant Revival played the Top Hat, I took some pictures of their bus broken down in the alley, but I had a previous commitment, when the music started and only met the band, as they worked on the bus. When I saw them listed for a return to the Top Hat, I vowed to be there, and be there I was. I strolled in to check out these guys, whom some friends called their favorite band, and what did I see...?
No doubt about it--that's Bonnie Paine up front. She's still a spark plug, a ball of energy. Her sisters aren't here, but this band has a ton of ability and live to play for the love and fun of it. Holy shit, what a good time, and now Elephant Revival is one of my favorite bands. I await their next visit to zootown.
I love those magical times, when the energy begins to build with band and audience feeding each other, and the music begins to fly lifting folks off the floor. Let the record show one of those times occurred at the Top Hat on Friday, August 21, 2009.