Talking about a revolution

Elementree Livity Project stole the show at Reggae Fest featuring The Original Wailers at the Thompson House in Newport, Ky. Elementree Livity Project stole the show at Reggae Fest featuring The Original Wailers at the Thompson House in Newport, Ky.

Elementree Livity Project performs at Eaton’s new Eatonic Music Festival

By Rusty Pate

Photo: Brandon “Bean” Bastin, Elementree Livity Project lead guitarist. ELP will perform at the Eatonic Music Festival, Sept. 4-6; photo: Brian Glass

Musical groups can be contentious unions. Clashing egos and personalities can sometimes make keeping a project’s head above water a daunting task. While it’s true that kind of friction can make for creative magic, the key to finding lasting success remains creating an atmosphere of mutual respect—both in personal and musical terms.

For Elementree Livity Project, those roots run deep.

“We’ve all got relationships that go back to either high school or college,” bass player Michael Walker says. “I’ve known Stephen [Buttree] for probably 20 years.”

The powerhouse five-piece consists of David “Elementree” Danforth on guitar/vocals, Brandon “Bean” Bastin on guitar/vocals, Buttree on sax/flute/keys/vocals, Walker on bass and Cisco Hughes on drums.

The concept for the band initially sprang from Danforth. While still with his previous band The Ohms, he would sometimes play solo shows under the moniker Elementree. When he decided to flesh those songs out in a more fully formed project, Walker and Buttree quickly came into the fold. Bean and Elementree had gone to high school together, and a core four solidified.

“When The Ohms disbanded, I knew I wanted to start a project,” Elementree says. “I wanted it to be reggae based, but really open to whatever genre we wanted.”

A couple drummers came and went. Hughes had been a guy everyone always knew about. The former Mr. Brown’s Mysterious Sounds member was brought in for what he thought was a one-off jam.

“We got him in here and kind of conned him,” Walker says. “‘Hey, won’t you come out and lay some tracks on an EP?’ That pretty quickly became ‘You know you’re our drummer now.’”

When Cincinnati-area venue owners and promoters got wind of the group, they quickly became in demand—almost before they even had a full set hammered down.

Their individual backgrounds have at least a toe in a myriad of different genres—from jam band and southern rock to metal and electronic. That kind of diversity allows for a wide sonic palette from which they can pull any number of different styles.

“One of the things that I think is neat about our sound is even though we might be rooted in reggae, we might be playing for an hour and all of a sudden just switch gears and go into some Grateful Dead or something,” Buttree says. “That’s one of our strengths. We can turn on a dime and imitate those different styles. The spirit behind that is trying to give everybody a little something.”

That flexibility allows them to adapt to any venue, crowd or festival setting. By not being married to one genre, the influences coalesce to a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Yes, the reggae influence is strong, but it’s also danceable. Elementree serves as the main songwriter, but all the members add their unique flavors to the stew. Ultimately, it’s probably most accurate to just call them a rock band.

And fans have quickly taken notice.

In less than three years, they’ve developed a loyal following that has embraced the group’s culture. Dubbed the ELPeeps, fans of the band serve as a de facto street team. They have helped the group win online voting contests, land spots on prime gigs and foster a community atmosphere that any band would love to be surrounded by.

It is the kind of love that can only really spring from great songwriting.

“We definitely are a song band,” Elementree says. “We like to deliver content and meaningful songs to the audience, and in those songs, catch them with some really sick jams.”

It is a process rooted in respect. Elementree might be the main writer, but he trusts his compatriots to fill out the surrounding tonal space. In turn, the band throws their collective force behind a songwriter that’s trying to put more out than just party jams or love songs.

“If people are listening to us, we are trying to tell you something,” Hughes says. “If you’re listening, maybe you’ll hear it. We’re really trying to say something with our music and make a statement. We hope people embrace it, feel it and carry it with them.”

Livity is a Rastafarian term and while a quick Google search doesn’t return an exact definition, Elementree calls it “the energy that resides in all of us.” It also can be an ethos—all people have a right to happiness and harmony.

The world is littered with bands. Somewhere in the world right now a band is forming and somewhere else, one is breaking up. ELP hopes to be more than a band. Their template has more to do with making a community rather than making it big.

That said, the group is excited to perform at this weekend’s Eatonic Music Festival, headlined by blues great Buddy Guy.

“It’s truly an honor to be playing the Eatonic Festival along side artists like Buddy Guy, and Cincinnati’s own Rumpke Mountain Boys,” Walker says. “To say that Buddy Guy is an influence on us all is an incredible understatement. We are also huge fans of The Almighty Get Down, Kelly Richey, Scotty Bratcher and many other artists on the bill. Many of whom, and their band mates, we are fortunate enough to call friends.”

The Eatonic Music Festival will take place from Friday, Sept. 4 to Sunday, Sept. 6 at Preble County Fairgrounds, 722 S. Franklin St. in Eaton. Presale tickets for all three days (parking and camping included) are $80 for general admission or $150 for VIP. VIP includes a front row section, VIP tent with artist meet and greets and much more. Daily general admission and VIP packages are also available. For more information about the festival, visit For more information about Elementree Livity Project, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at

Tags: , ,

Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at

2 Responses to “Talking about a revolution” Subscribe