Spiritual folk queens Rising Appalachia enlightened a crowd of 1,300 Sunday night at Denver’s Ogden Theatre with support from a pair of decorated lyricists, Ayla Nereo and Raye Zaragoza. On what felt like the first true winter evening in Colorado, love and warmth swirled throughout the Ogden for over four hours worth of spiritual, uplifting music to warm our souls for the chilly nights to come.
Taking the stage at 7:30 p.m. sharp, award-winning songwriter Raye Zaragoza graced the stage for a 30-minute set. Zaragoza talked with the crowd as if she was friends with everyone, telling her backstory and history of her family through her acoustic, lyrical songs like “Fight Like A Girl”, “Warrior”, “American Dream”, “Change Your Name”, and Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. Zaragoza finished her set with Dispatch’s Brad Corrigan sitting in for some vocal accompaniment, ending on an uplifting note and preparing the crowd for a full night’s worth of cosmic, feminine beats.
Vocal enchanter Ayla Nereo took the stage at 8:30 p.m., swirling her looping vocals and fairy-like red dress around the stage. From the moment she stepped onstage, Nereo had the crowd under her spell. Together, the whole room resonated with worldly positive energy through her songs and chanting.
Nereo started off her set with her opening chant “Eastern Sun”, accompanied by drummer Grandfather Gold. She went into “Wheel Of Time” off her recent album, By The Light Of The Dark Moon, and was joined by cellist Joy Adams and violinist Andy Reiner, offering extra dimensions for the crowd to slip into. Mackenzie Page joined her onstage to add some banjo to a rendition of “Tightrope Walker” before Nereo invited Adams, Reiner and Bonnie Paine on the washboard to join in for a live debut of “Flicker”. She continued her set with “Waterfall”, and brought singer Amber Lily onstage to pay gratitude to the forests of the planet with their mystical take of “Whispers”. Nereo showed off her impressive solo vocal looping skills in her “Show Yourself”, and quieted the room down with her uplifting repeating affirmation of “All Of This”.
Ayla Nereo – “Show Yourself” – 10/20/19
[Video: Live For Live Music]
Nereo finished her set with “O Come Ye” and “Stars”, before realizing that time was almost up for her set. After sneaking in a brief, 20-second acapella chorus of “Twirl Me”, Nereo inspired the crowd to “do what scares you” and led everyone into a harmony of singing and cheering. The room lit up with incredible energy, reminding us that we’re all on this Earth together as fellow earth-bound spirits and to spread love and joy.
Sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia then took the stage for some traditional Appalachian folk music in their touring six-piece configuration comprised of Arouna Diarra, David Brown, Biko Casini, and Duncan Wickel. For the last show on their fall tour, the girls strode onstage looking more fabulous than ever, telling the crowd that they hit up a thrift store and obtained their sparkly, sequined, and leopard-printed outfits for the occasion.
The girls started the night with a jazzy take of “Refugee” and proceeded to announce that drummer Arouna Diarra had passed his U.S. citizenship test, sending the crowd into a huge congratulatory cheer. With the hardships of the world tightening around us more and more each day, the girls went into “Wider Circles”, their gentle voices soothing any excess tension in every member of the audience.
Kicking it up a notch, Leah and Chloe went into “Love Her in the Mornin’” for a traditional Appalachia melody. The global jam jump-started with a violin duet by Chloe and Wickel, prompting Leah to join in with some fast banjo picking. The swirling energy in the room was carried down in the deep bass grooves of “Make Magic” before they honored some traditional New Orleans roots with jazz/blues standard “St. James Infirmary” with all of the band members in play.
Rising Appalachia – “Wider Circles” – 10/20/19
[Video: Live For Live Music]
Noting that big government has never really done service to the people, the group went into “Resilient”, the girls’ uplifting vocals serving as a mountainous force of empowerment to all those listening. After a take on “Speak Out”, Ayla Nereo joined the girls onstage for an acapella rendition of Nereo’s “Winds Of The West” which transitioned into Rising Appalachia’s “Sunny Days”, sending out immense emotions via the lyrics, “you make it easy to see the gold”.
Feminine healing energy heightened as all the night’s performers came out onstage for elemental gospel cut, “Shed Your Grace”. Brown laid down a funky backing bassline for all the evening’s talented performers picking, playing, and singing together onstage, with Raye Zaragoza taking lead vocals for the second chorus. Rising Appalachia’s original six piece returned to the stage for the last song of the set, a rendition of “Cuckoo” that led the bunch into rotating drum, guitar, violin, and fiddle solos.
As the crowd stomped in sync, Brown came back onstage for a bass solo to start up the encore before inviting the rest of the Rising crew on the stage for sultry take on “Downtown”. Chloe took to the drums and provided accompanying vocals for this rendition as sister Leah laid down some rapped vocals.
The amount of love and empowering energy created at Sunday night’s show will stay with each person in attendance for many months to come. If you missed Sunday’s show, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a spiritual experience of your own. Raye Zaragoza will join Rising Appalachia on some upcoming winter tour dates in November, while Ayla Nereo continues her fall tour with The Polish Ambassador and Nahko and the Medicine For The People the rest of this month and November. For a full list of upcoming Rising Appalachia dates, head to their website.
Below, you can check out a full gallery’s worth of photos courtesy of photographer Colin McKinley (Alpine Music Photo).