As if the universe was shedding one collective tear, it rained all day and snowed heavily in Elephant Revival’s hometown of Nederland, Colorado, the night before the band’s final show. Despite the cold, wet, dreary May weather, it almost seemed a fitting goodbye for a band that always seems to summon the natural forces of their environment. Following a tight and ferocious set by the up-and-coming Hiss Golden Messenger and a poignant, shoegaze-y set from Blind Pilot, Elephant Revival took the stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to a break in the clouds and a tremendous applause. Though the crowd was sparse during the first two acts, longtime fans shuffled out of their cars to bid farewell to their favorite band.

Elephant Revival started the show with a handful of songs off of 2013’s These Changing Skies, an album that in many ways felt like the last true Elephant Revival album. A lively take on “The Pasture”, an instrumental with Celtic flair, quickly warmed up the crowd, bringing them up off their soggy feet. Bassist Dango Rose and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Rose switched instruments for the song, with Dango playing mandolin and Charlie laying down the foundation.

“Birds and Stars” followed, before Charlie, one of the more recent additions to the band, had a chance to show off one of his beautiful compositions, “Sea Monster.” With a gently whistled intro and slowly building percussion, the song off 2016’s Petals is the perfect hybrid of Elephant Revival both old and new. After a glimpse of how far this band has come, the audience was treated to a flawless take on guitarist Daniel Rodriguez’s “Spinning”, another fan favorite from These Changing Skies. Like many songs throughout the night, the tune’s lyrics seemed to take on new meaning in lieu of Elephant Revival’s last show. The mentioned “saints” and “angels” and “hearts” and “time” seemed to all coalesce into some kind of long-feared but perhaps long-overdue procession of our favorite mystic musicians.

Following “Spinning,” original fiddler Bridget Law took a moment to point out that all is not lost; she, along with most other band members, will be playing at next month’s Campout for the Cause in Buena Vista, Colorado. Bridget then welcomed fiddler Enion Pelta-Tiller (of Taarka) onto the stage for one of the band’s newer songs, “Hello Who You”. Since Bridget’s departure last fall, Enion has graciously and wonderfully filled the missing link in the band, while also contributing some incredible compositions of her own to the band’s catalog. “Hello Who You” was followed with another fairly new song, the heavy, bass-led “When I Fall.” Still quite early in the night, the band set aside the theatrics seen at their Boulder Theater show last November, instead opting for a clean, tight, and concise rendition.

Finally, after “When I Fall”, the band reached deep into their discography with Bridget hammering out the heavy fiddle intro to “Single Beds Are Made for One” off of their self-titled debut album. On its heels was another classic, Bonnie Paine’s anthem to water, “Drop”, from 2010’s Break in the Clouds. An appropriate song considering the absolute deluge during the opening acts, Bonnie gave the song her all, pounding away on the djembe and truly singing her heart out. Yet, never wasting too much time in the past, Bonnie turned the stage back over to Charlie Rose for “Goin’ Home”, one the band’s newest songs that features Charlie on trumpet leading a jazzy, almost New Orleans-esque groove.

Charlie continued to take the reigns as the band dropped into Pink Floyd’s “Have A Cigar.” Now a staple in the band’s small selection of covers, the song provided ample space for Charlie to wail away on the banjo, electrified to psychedelic, near-David Gilmour proportions. After bringing “Have A Cigar” way out to the edge of the stratosphere, the band brought things back to solid ground, summoning a rather familiar fellow to the stage, Mr. Sage Cook. Both the band’s original banjo player and also the first to depart, Sage had been dearly missed and joined his old band on stage to a raucous applause.

“Have A Cigar”

[Video: Kyle Isaac]

Hardly to anyone’s surprise, the group slipped right into Sage’s “Go On”, yet another song that took on entirely new meaning as the band members prepare to go their separate ways. Bonnie then graced the audience with one of her heart-rending acapella numbers, “The Raven Song”, before pulling out the musical saw for “Season Song”. As the eerie, haunting tone of the saw began to fill the amphitheater, Bonnie began to wipe tears from her eyes as Dan began the opening verse. The impending, inevitable winter and lost love described in the song was too much for anyone to bear; the band was visibly emotive on stage, and few dry eyes remained in the crowd.

After another number off of Petals, the Wild Heart Dancers joined the band on stage for a wild, boot-stomping take on their latest single (and Enion’s arrangement), the tribal “Flight Patterns Weather”. As the night waned on, it seemed a few fans gradually feared that some of the early Elephant classics would be left in the dust. Nevertheless, as the crescent moon slowly came through the evening mist, the band returned to some of their most revered songs. Playing “Sing to the Mountain” and “Ring Around the Moon” back to back, it truly felt as though the Elephant Revival of yesteryear had returned one last time. Darren Garvey’s percussion added a refreshing, modern element to the songs, while not stepping on the toes of their original forms.

“Flight Patterns Weather”

[Video: Kyle Isaac]

“Sing To The Mountain”

[Video: Kyle Isaac]

Rounding out their set, the band welcomed a literal family of surprise guests on stage, including Jay Cobb Anderson and Mimi Naja from Fruition, as well as Bonnie’s sister, Annie Paine. Somewhat timidly, someone on stage pointed out that not only was it their last show, but it was also Bonnie’s birthday. Not allowing the sad juxtaposition to get the best if anyone, Bonnie quickly noted that it was also National Honeybee Day, and… Joe Cocker’s birthday. Without any further delay, the band charged into a perfect take on Joe’s reinterpretation of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Jay belted out a pair of incredible verses in true Cocker fashion, with the band right behind him and pulling out all the musical stops.

“With A Little Help From My Friends”

[Video: Kyle Isaac]

Then, rather quiet and unassuming, they closed the set out by kind of channeling how it all began 11 years ago, huddled around a single mic in traditional bluegrass fashion, singing “Good Graces”. Fighting back more tears, the band took a well-deserved bow and walked slowly off the stage. Nevertheless, the group was not bound to leave their fans all wallowing in a puddle of their own tears, and they expectedly returned to the stage for an encore. The three-song encore featuring “Grace of A Woman” and “Rogue River” proved to be the icing on the cake, sending the fans off with two beautiful, upbeat songs to remember an even more beautiful band.

“Good Graces”

[Video: Kyle Isaac]

“Grace Of A Woman”

[Video: Kyle Isaac]

Ultimately, there are a number of themes that resonate throughout every single Elephant Revival album: falling, spinning, water, rain, rivers, heart, home, love, angels, and so much more. It’s a veritable list of some of the most important aspects of our short existence, always backed up against unavoidable confusion, defeat, and loss. While the true lesson is left to each listener, the music hints at the struggle of the human experience. It reminds us of the precious, fleeting moments (and people) in life, the importance of letting go of the past, and the always awe-inducing beauty of the present and the future. It reminds us that no matter how much has changed or how much time has passed, things will continue to change, and we will still be left here trying to figure it all out. In the meantime, music and our loved ones will get us by.

Check out the full gallery below, courtesy of photographer Conrad Meyers.