Ellie Goulding, The Joy Formidable and Elephant Revival were just some of the fledgling recording artists who turned ears at South By Southwest in 2011.
The massive Austin music festival can help change a band’s course.
“It was amazing,” multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Sage Cook said while calling from Santa Fe. “It’s funny talking about it since we’re on the way to Austin before we play Wichita. It was a madhouse, but it was a madhouse of music. We got some serious exposure, and we benefitted from it. Some might look at that as a starting point.”
But the actual genesis of Elephant Revival was at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield in 2006, when Cook met fiddler Bridget Law, bassist-mandolinist Dango Rose and vocalist-washboard player/saw player Bonnie Paine.
“Winfield changed my life,” Cook said. “I played rock and was plugged in until I watched people play acoustic, and I discovered there was more to music than just playing electric.”
Cook added banjo, mandolin and viola to his repertoire.
“It freed me up,” Cook said. “I ended up where I needed to be.”
The band recorded an eponymous album in 2008 and followed it up with “Break in the Clouds” two years later. Its latest release is “It’s Alive.”
Elephant Revival, which also includes guitarist Daniel Rodriguez, renders a sonic potpourri of folk, Celtic, bluegrass, country and reggae.
“We all have very different influences, and it’s fun to mix it all up,” Cook said.
The live show is wild and unpredictable, since the band rearranges songs and jams.
“We just try to have fun,” Cook said. “There’s a good amount of improv. The solos go in many different directions, but it keeps us and the audience on their toes. We want to keep it as interesting for everyone as possible.”
When the band formed in 2006, one of the first Elephant Revival shows was in Wichita.
“I can’t remember which club it was at, but I do remember the audience in Wichita,” Cook said. “They were so great, but that’s Wichita for you. They appreciate music maybe more than any city.”
Cook grew up in Coldwater. “So to me, Wichita was always the big city,” Cook said. “It takes about two hours to get to Wichita, and we would come in when I was a kid. I miss Kansas. We’re based in Colorado, and it’s great, but it’s not the same. That’s why it’s cool to come back to a place like the Abode. It’s time to give Wichita some love, since they get so into music.”