Music

The Accidentals

Everything to see here

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When I was a teenager, I probably had big plans of some kind. But in reality, I spent most of my time making and then consuming microwave fudge in my friend’s basement, watching Grease and Dirty Dancing over and over, and gossiping deep into the night about people whose names I can no longer remember.

Normal enough teenage behavior, but certainly not impressive.

Katie Larson and Savannah Buist have spent their teenage years a little more productively than I wasted mine. The two first met in a high-school orchestra class—Larson was freshman and Buist was a sophomore—when an instructor asked for volunteers to play at an event and they were the only ones to raise their hands.

Serendipitous, that.

From that exercise, the duo quickly realized that they were stronger together than they were as individuals and formed a band. After that, things happened at a bit of a breakneck pace.

They auditioned for and won a spot in the first-ever singer/songwriter major offered at the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts, named their band the Accidentals, recorded two full-length albums and an EP, played on 15 other albums, contributed music to two film scores and saw their music featured on the big and small screens. When they weren’t busy with all that, they found the time to play some 700-plus shows in less than three years. Oh, and they still studied, went to class, took tests and participated in the other activities that go along with still being in high school.

Evidently, youth is not always wasted on the young.

But the Accidentals were just getting started. Even though Larson and Buist are both multi-instrumentalists who effortlessly transition from guitar to cello to violin to mandolin to ukulele to accordion to glockenspiel to musical saw and more during their live shows, they needed a percussive element to round out their sound. So, in 2014, they added drummer Michael Dause, and, more recently, Josh Allen on keyboards and auxiliary guitar.

But the heart, soul and sound of the Accidentals resides in Larson and Buist, who trade off vocals just as easily as they do instruments, crafting delicate, airy harmonies to go with their lively, strings-heavy sound. As well, their lyrics are clever and often witty, dealing with issues both specific to their particular experiences and place in the world as well as broader, more general themes. One minute, they’re singing a song about what it’s like to be teenagers on the tour circuit, forced by their underage status to spend too many hours hanging out in endless, nameless, featureless parking lots, and the next they’re taking on sexism and the perniciousness of female stereotypes. But no matter what the theme of the song, they play and sing with remarkable self-possession and jaw-dropping skill.

The music of the Accidentals is most often described as “genre-defying” or “genre-bending,” frustrating characterizations that could mean everything and nothing at the same time. Although they dabble in whatever form and type of music that suits their fancy or a particular song or sentiment they’re trying to express, most of their music fits into boxes labeled “folk” and “pop,” but the fit is not an exact one. Owing to their orchestral training and ability to play so many instruments and thus command a different kind of sound than your standard guitar/bass/drums configuration, they are fearless musical explorers, limited only by their creativity and imaginations.

That fearlessness and proficiency carries through to their live shows, which have been honed by touring stints with Andrew Bird, Brandi Carlile, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and more.

In short, they’re exactly what you’d want a band of confident, skilled teenage girls who have never subscribed to any of the reductive and sexist belief systems that infect and inform every aspect of the music industry to sound like.

Which brings me to my next point.

The Accidentals are coming our way for a 7pm Fri., Oct. 13 show at the Green Frog. All shows that happen before 9pm, such as this one, are all-ages and family-friendly. Opportunities for young people, especially girls and those who identify as such, to see bands comprised of people who look like them—who could be them—are pretty thin on the ground. Representation is important, and the Accidentals represent.

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