Last Sunday, The Ark was filled for the indie-folk-rock styling of The Accidentals and, opening act, Abigail Stauffer. And these girls can seriously rock.
Abigail Stauffer, an Ann Arbor icon most well-known for her dreadlocks, opened the show with the title track of her new album, Where I’m Going. She explained that the last time she and The Accidentals had played together at The Ark was for the debut of her album —The Accidentals opened for her, and she said she was excited to return the favor. Despite some feedback issues and the jocular threat of a naked cellist, Stauffer and her accompanying cellist, Dave Haughey, set the mood right. Stauffer brings rich, dark, ringing vocals to her folksy acoustic sound. Her songs explore identity and inner power. Her music complements The Accidentals well and got the crowd excited for the epic folk-rock to come.
The Accidentals are fronted by singers and multi-instrumentalists Katie Larson and Savannah Bruist, along with drummer, bassist and backup vocalist Michael Dause. Katie’s jazzy alto twang and Savannah’s ethereal soprano combine together in some complex and stunning harmonies. They bring an impressive variety in their instrumental work. Within one show, be prepared to hear, the violin, the cello, the bass and acoustic and electric guitars masterfully played, while Michael adds a subtle beat preferring drum bushes to sticks. They also brought with them a variety of friends. They invited The Appleseed Collective, a local favorite, on stage to sing with them. In a flurry of stringed instruments, they brought the kind of old-fashioned folk that makes you long for a sunset on the front porch of farmhouse.
Finally taking the stage, the trio began with “Epitaphs.” Despite speaking on the subject of capitalism, “Epitaphs” calls forth a sort of carefree and upbeat emotion. It is a summer song, reminding the listener of fresh grass. The group played a number of new songs, such as “Parking Lot,” which was written to highlight their string work, and “Common Crisis.” They also pulled out some old classics, such as “Tangled Red and Blue” from their first album, “The Sound a Watch Makes When Enveloped in Cotton,” the title of which came from a short story, and “Requiem for a Lark” whose melody is borrowed from Bartók’s “Romanian Folk Dances.”
They also brought surprises. One such surprise was a folk song which included rap sections by Rick Chyme. Others came in the form of the source of the music. They utilized, for one, a homemade cello made out of a large barrel, which they have titled the Cauldron Cello, and integrated a knuckle crack in the song “Trouble.” Additionally, they performed a cover of “All About that Bass” by Meghan Trainor entirely on bass guitar, with Dause taking lead, which was met with great approval. Everyone joined in to sing along at the end with the unusual cover.
The Accidentals were not afraid to take risks, often leaving the comfort of the stage to drag their instruments down into the audience for a more intimate music experience. A notable example of this was during the song “Nightlife,” during which they placed themselves back to back in the center of an aisle and slowly rotated to expose different sections of the audience to different harmonies as they played. It was an interesting idea and something I had personally never seen before; however, it made it rather difficult to see from the other side of the room.
A real standout was a song they had written barely a week ago titled “Michigan and Again and Again and Again and Again” — a rather repetitive title. This song was a love letter to the state of Michigan, referencing state staples such as the fir trees and the chilly temperature of the lake water. This song somehow managed to make me homesick for a state I was currently in.
The final song, a swing song, brought the entire cast of musicians back on stage. This finale impressed upon the audience the talent of the men and women on stage, featuring jazz-style solos from each member and multiple instruments, including a standup bass, a washboard and even what appeared to be a bike bell.
These are the kind of musicians whose songs will be stuck in your head for the next month, whose shows you will frequent avidly for years to come and whose merch you will rep proudly — lest we forget to mention the cat socks.
When looking for your new musical obsession, look no further.