If one day, for reasons unknown, a genie, leprechaun or magic fish, were to offer me the chance to see Great Elk anywhere in the world, I would be debating intensely over the choice of one of two places. First and foremost the scene would be this:
I’m in Fairbanks, Alaska. Actually, I’m just outside the town, sat in the foot of a valley, looming with dramatic ridges and draped in tall spruce. About 30 feet away, there’s a river running through. The river’s not large; in fact it’s more of a stream – enough to be pleasant but not overly intimidating. I’m lying back, wrapped in my warmest attire, watching the incredible light show unfold in the sky. I’m wondering if the Aurora Borealis has, for this one night only, been commissioned by the band that are playing directly in front of me, because, believe me, the music they are playing feels like it’s being dictated by this incredible conductor that stands strong and majestically in the cold night sky.
Throw a cute girl into my arms for good measure and that, for me, is wish number one.
Wish number two is as follows:
I’m in a venue as elegant as the music itself. The lights are low and the surrounding company is as equally engaged with the sound and vision taking place on a stage that automatically draws eyes, bodies, minds and souls toward it. The candles are dancing, like that of the Aurora Borealis, to the harmonic, encapsulating music, and beer, wine, and spirits are being served and sipped in a fashion where by they are treasured every time they reach the lips of their keeper. Nearer the stage, various ladies are sat back, eyes closed, nodding their heads and wearing a shy smile upon their face as they, obviously, escape into a world of their own that Great Elk are providing, free of charge for the entirety of their set, to all those passionate enough to do so. A view of the scene is available from two levels and everyone within it is happy…
Shit, hang on a minute.
Wish number two already has come true. Yeah, I’m sure about that. In fact I’m positive. Rockwood Music Hall last Thursday night, I believe?! Fuck me. In that case, round trip to Fairbanks, please!
So, I know now that that was no fairytale wish. But that’s the extent of how Great Elk managed to move me and so man others that night.
This was the first time I had encountered Great Elk and I was blown away immediately by the professionalism and the seriousness of the musicians under that collective mammoth of a name. Led by Paul Basile and Patrick Hay, Great Elk managed something that I have seen few times in a live performance. They, and their band, produced a certain equilibrium between a harmony that engulfs and then, effortlessly, fulfils your want for pace and passion, at precisely the right time. With rousing drums and crescendo of voice, you can personally feel the extent of meaning behind both Basile and Hay. These guys are passionate about everything they are doing and everything that they are trying to accomplish, and that comes across in how they perform.
Great Elk reminisced me with a familiar London sound, in a band called Cherbourg. A folk induced sound but that which also builds like something I would associate more from Explosions in the Sky, or even Fuck Buttons. I’m not suggesting Great Elk are giving us ten minutes of electronic beat but the way the songs are weaved and concocted can be viewed under the same light.
Great Elk offered me something I was looking for and I sensed the same in every other being in the beautiful Rockwood Music Hall.
In Latin, it should be highlighted, that Aurora Borealis directly translates as ‘the dawn of the north’ and this is how, decipher it how you will, I would describe the sound of Great Elk.