The Accidentals/Mercury Lounge/August 9, 2017
Savannah Buist and Katie Larson met in 2011 at high school in Traverse City, Michigan. The orchestra leader asked for volunteers to play an event and Larson, a 15-year-old freshman cellist, and Buist, a 16-year-old sophomore violinist, were the only students who raised their hands. Larson visited Buist’s house to discuss their impending project, and Larson played a song on Buist’s guitar that she had not played for anyone prior to their meeting. They formed the Accidentals in 2012, naming the band after the accidental note in music that is outside the most recently applied key signature. Between 2012 and 2013, the Accidentals performed more than 500 live shows while Larson and Buist maintained a 3.9+ GPA. From 2012-2014, the Accidentals recorded two original albums and an EP, were guest artists on 15 others, scored two films, and landed song placements in commercials, documentaries, and music compilations while playing over 700 live shows. Then they graduated high school. In 2015, Buist and Larson scored original pieces for a 72-piece orchestra, an opera-dance project with Son Lux, and a smaller 30-piece string ensemble while touring the US extensively. The Accidentals’ third album, Odyssey, will be released on August 18, 2017.
Headlining at Mercury Lounge, the Accidentals performed as a quartet, with the addition of guitarist/keyboardist Jake Allen and drummer Michael Dause, and the foursome interchanged a van-load of stringed and percussive instruments. The lyrics were rooted in stories, and the melodies inclined towards pop to folk, but also borrowed elements from country, jazz and classical. The effect was light and bouncy, but with arrangements far more complex and mature than one would expect from such youthful musicians. Intriguing compositions and spry personalities made the Accidentals performance supremely charming and engaging.
Donavon Frankenreiter/The Bowery Ballroom/August 9, 2017
Donavon Frankenreiter was born in Downey, California, and by age 14 became a professional surfer and relocated to Hawaii. Signed to a sponsorship as a free surfer, he was paid to ride the waves but not required to surf in competitions. In Hawaii, he rented a home from the parents of Jack Johnson, a fellow surfer. The two became surf buddies and learned to play guitar together. At age 18, Frankenreiter played guitar in Peanut Butter and Jam, and in his early 20s formed a rock quintet called Sunchild. Sunchild recorded three albums and disbanded in 2001. Frankenreiter launched a solo career as an acoustic singer/songwriter in 2002, later forming the Donavon Frankenreiter Band. His sixth and most recent solo album is 2015’s The Heart.
Donavon Frankenreiter has been headlining a concert at the Bowery Ballroom annually since at least 2011, and with no new album available, his returning fans clung to the familiar. Backed by multi-instrumentalist Matt Grundy and a drummer, Frankenreiter’s mellow, breezy and upbeat song structures were weaved with soulful, whispery croons, stinging guitar leads and funky rhythms that latched onto gentle and almost hypnotic grooves. Some of these songs led into gruff and gritty guitar solos that were almost jarring but maintained the pulse of the composition. Frankenreiter brought up a New York City firefighter friend to join him for a song, but otherwise there were no surprises; the show was yet another signature performance with a formula that may remain unchanged if he returns to the venue next year.
The Revivalists/Rumsey Playfield/August 10, 2017
One day in 2007, guitarist Zack Feinberg was riding his bicycle when he heard David Shaw singing on his front porch in New Orleans, Louisiana. They started a conversation and jammed later that day. Feinberg recruited drummer Andrew Campanelli, and within a week they formed a band and played live. The Revivalists is now a seven-piece band, with the addition of Ed Williams (pedal steel guitar, guitar), Michael Girardot (keyboards, trumpet), Rob Ingraham (saxophone), and George Gekas (bass). The Revivalists’ third and most recent album is 2015’s Men Amongst Mountains.
The Revivalists drew a large crowd to SummerStage’s Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, but how many people were really listening to the live music? Throughout the venue, conversations drowned out the band’s performance. For the many who were present but not really present at all, they missed a slick concert by a funky, jammy, good-time rock and roll band. Shaw crooned soulfully, Feinberg picked, tapped and slid bluesy guitar licks, and Ingraham and Girardot punctuated the songs with brass. The arrangements were bright and sunny, and frequently the pedal steelwork or country-blues guitar work reminded the audience that indeed this was a southern band with deep roots. Buzz-worthy guitarist Eric Krasno joined the opening act, White Denim, for one song earlier in the evening and returned to jam on the Revivalists’ best-known song, “Wish I Knew You.” More than half the set drew from the band’s most recent album, but the band concluded with a sparkling cover of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” The Revivalists put on a solid concert, even if many in the audience missed it.
Bonnie Raitt/Damrosch Park/August 13 2017
Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, California, the daughter of Broadway singer John Raitt (Carousel, Oklahoma!, The Pajama Game) and pianist/singer Marge Haydock. She was raised in Los Angeles with Quaker traditions, a commitment to social activism, and a respect for the arts. Her musical journey began at age eight with a Christmas present of a Stella guitar, which she began playing while at a Quaker summer camp in upstate New York. She became fascinated with blues and slide guitar at age 14. In 1967, she entered college and joined the local folk and blues music scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she gained recognition for her bottleneck-style guitar playing. Raitt’s commercial breakthrough began 20 years after she started playing clubs, with a string of multi-million-selling records and 10 Grammy awards. Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002. Raitt’s 17th and most recent studio album, Dig in Deep, was released on February 26, 2016.
Closing the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors summer series at Damrosch Park, Raitt was backed by guitarist George Marinelli, keyboardist Mike Finnigan, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, and drummer Ricky Fataar. She told the audience she had long heard of the AmericanaFest and always wanted to perform in it. While her albums have transitioned her path from blues to pop to Americana, the thread is that her powerful, soulful vocals and her stirring guitar work, especially on slide, links the copious work to Americana. The set hopped from newer songs to hits from her most successful 1989-1991 period and to five songs from the early 1970s when she was first finding her road. The repertoire consisted of 10 original songs, plus covers of songs spanning from Mose Allison, Chris Smither, and John Prine to INXS and Talking Heads. Her stylistic changes from soft and sensitive to loud and rocking showed an uncanny ability to marry the modern with the traditional. Raitt may be undercelebrated these days, because she is a musical treasure.