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Phoebe Hunt and Elephant Revival to perform at Folk ’N Bluegrass Festival

Back in 2006, FolkWest decided to add a second event to its lineup, one that would take place in early June. For the first two years the fledgling festival was known as Indiefest, short for the FolkWest Independent Music Festival. The moniker proved to be too nebulous for the Four Corners audience, so a more tangible name was decided upon and in 2008 Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass was born.  Depending on how you look at it, this is either the seventh annual or fifth annual Folk ‘N Bluegrass festival — either way, a big deal.

 Folk ‘N Bluegrass will get underway on Friday, June 8 as the campground opens at 11 a.m., workshops start at noon and music on the main stage kicks off at 5 p.m. The 14 bands on the lineup represent a broad spectrum of musical styles including newgrass, bluegrass, folk, folk rock, Americana and combinations of all of the above. This year’s bands are Mountain Heart, Jimmy LaFave, David Wilcox, Sierra Hull and Highway 111, Bearfoot, SHEL, The Deadly Gentlement, Larkin Poe, Cahalen Morrison and Eli West, Lake Street Dive, Jayme Stone’s Room of Wonders, Finnders and Youngberg and this weeks’ featured bands: Elephant Revival and the Phoebe Hunt Project.

 Young in age and conception, Elephant Revival carries a fresh sense of creativity and inspiration that is felt by people of every generation. The neo-acoustic quintet is on the cutting edge of an emerging new genre that is known as transcendental folk. The band consists of Bonnie Paine (vocals, washboard, djembe, musical saw), Sage Cook (electric banjo/guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, viola, vocals), Dango Rose (double-bass, mandolin, banjo, vocals), Daniel Rodriguez (acoustic guitar, electric banjo/guitar vocals) and Bridget Law (fiddle and vocals).

 Individually and collectively the band members have performed with some of the most prolific performers of our time like Bela Fleck, John Paul Jones, Michael Franti, Little Feat, Yonder Mountain String Band, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic and Leftover Salmon. In performance, Elephant Revival reveals hidden treasures deep within a vast repertoire of original material and a few carefully selected traditionals. In one show, the quintet can be seen delving into Scottish/Celtic fiddle tunes, original folk pieces, traditional ballads, psychedelic country, indie rock, powerful reggae grooves, ’40s/’50s jazz standards and an occasional hip-hop beat amongst other styles.

 Elaborating on Elephant Revival’s live shows, independent film director Mike Eberle explains, “When I hear Elephant Revival I am struck by my inability to define it. I am forced to confront the music as it is, connecting to it with a virgin spirit of mind. Consequently it feels like I am experiencing music and all its joys for the very first time.” In January 2009, “Elephant Revival” appeared in Colorado Music Buzz as the No. 1 played local artist on Colorado public radio stations. A steady climb of radio airplay is being seen across the nation on NPR, satellite and online radio stations.

As Boulder Weekly entertainment writer Dave Kirby enthuses, “The album brims with poised folk ballads, modern Celtic fiddle dirges, hints of blues and Appalachia… coaxing the spirit but slyly avoiding climbing fully into each form’s body.”

Marquee Magazine journalist Jefferey Keith further elaborates, “Following the lead, but not the footsteps, of groups like Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band, the five-piece Elephant Revival has created a unique and appealing modern acoustic sound simultaneously soaked in all manner of tradition.”

Elephant Revival’s set is at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 10.

 “I love meeting people who are inspired and motivated to dream, people who are willing to give their passion their time, people who risk failure but shine from their heart.  With artists, those who care about their work the most are those who inspire the most,” says musician Phoebe Hunt.

 It’s hard to describe Phoebe better than she does in her own words. Phoebe lives her life trying to make a difference in the world through her music. Hailing from Austin, Texas, after graduating from the University of Texas, she has spent the majority of her “adult” years sitting in big white vans, exploring the country and the American Culture through the eyes of an inspired musician. As a student of the subtle differences between the East and the West, the North and the South, and hearing the nuances that shape American music as it is heard today, Phoebe’s music is a pure reflection of her life’s experiences.

 Phoebe grew up studying the Suzuki Violin method, playing in string quartets, orchestras and symphonies, including the Texas All State Orchestra and The University of Texas Symphony Orchestra.  Her Austin roots led her to explore alternate styles of music during her teens and early 20s, playing folk styles where the fiddle supports a songwriter, as she learned from her experience in the Austin folk band, The Hudsons, to exploring the voice of the fiddle through master’s eyes, at such humbling venues as Johnny Gimble’s Texas Swing Camp, and the Mark O’ Connor Strings Camp. Phoebe is always hungry to learn more. She loves gypsy jazz, Texas contest fiddling, American old time, Norwegian tunes, and any style of music she can wrap her head around. In playing music, Phoebe looks less at the genre and more for the essence of the song. 

 As a member of the Austin-based, multi-talented band, The Belleville Outfit, Phoebe has played festivals and clubs across the country, from The Strawberry Music Festival in Yosemite National Park and Bonnaroo, in Manchester, Tenn., to Austin City Limits.  Reviews from prestigious jazz clubs such as Yoshi’s in San Francisco to The Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, N.C., are a testament to her charm.

Charlotte’s Creative Loafing noted, “Hunt sang like a woman from another time, and played her instrument, regardless of which style the band was conquering at the moment, with a sleek grace that was years beyond her young age. She had on a black and white striped dress and matching shoes, and would have easily been as comfortable entertaining a crowd at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, as performing at a party thrown by the Great Gatsby.”

 Everywhere Phoebe goes, she seems to sprinkle a bit of fairy dust on a crowd and take them out of their heads, connecting to their hearts, inspiring people to believe that they, too, have the power to create their own destiny, to choose their life, to lead rather than to follow. Her music is inspired by all that she does, and all that she sees. If you see her, she is probably engaged in what she is doing, and buzzing around, getting all those around her excited about it too. New people, new ideas, new ways of living and new ways of learning stimulate her; Phoebe is always interested in exploring new directions on her violin, the ukulele and the guitar. On stage, she may sing a Billie Holiday ballad, and follow it with an original country song, reminiscent of Patsy Cline.  She is a gifted songwriter, crossing genres from songs that could have been written in the 1940s, into more gut-wrenching blues, reminiscent of an early Bonnie Raitt, or more intimate modern sounds, similar to Regina Spektor or Feist.  Regardless of the style of music, her soul is transmitted into the lyric, the violin, and the story she happens to be delivering.

 As a testament to Phoebe Hunt’s unyielding passion for learning, while participating in her first Mark O’Connor Strings Camp in San Diego in 2006, she was awarded the Torch Violin, honoring the memory of slain journalist Daniel Pearl.

The violin is a symbol of Pearl’s pursuit of truth and understanding. O’Connor told the Texas Observer, “We present the violin to a player who’s deserving and engages people during the week, and who would play the violin during the year and talk about the message behind it: of bringing people together to fight hatred in the world.” 

Phoebe says of the violin, “For me, the fiddle is a symbol of peace. Like Daniel Pearl, I believe that music is the one pure force that can bridge the differences between people. Without saying a word, two people who speak different languages can find a deep connection through a single note.”

 Phoebe sees life as a gift, and music is an expression of that gift. “Music of every culture serves the same purpose: It is a universal language that touches the soul more deeply than any other form of expression.” Phoebe is an old soul well beyond her years.  It is a joy to hear her sing and play, which festival-goers can do on Sunday, June 10, at noon.

 Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is currently seeking a few more volunteers to work a six-hour shift during the 3-day weekend. Volunteers will be able to attend the festival free of charge for all three days. If you are interested in volunteering please email Dan at dan@folkwest.com or call 731-5582.

 Pagosa Folk ‘N Bluegrass is a kid-friendly event with free admission for kids 12 and under who are accompanied by an adult. In addition to the music on the main and late night stages, craft and food vendors and lively pickin’ circles in the campgrounds, the festival hosts a children’s program that offers free arts and crafts and kids entertainment all weekend long.

 For complete festival information or to purchase tickets, visit www.folkwest.com. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at (877) 472-4672.

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