REVIEW: Frances Luke Accord and The Western Den

As I entered the building on Main Street after a long day of academic obligations, I rushed in to escape the wintry air, feeling hesitant to enter completely as I was surrounded by scaffolding. After learning that the Ark was having construction done on its box office, I understood why I was greeted upstairs by a polite woman who was a designated volunteer for the event. Despite the initial impression of it being run-down and unprofessional, I was quickly reassured that this was a venue for legends as I walked down the long hallway that was at the top of the stairs, gazing at the professional photos taken of every musician that had performed there. After buying concessions, I took my seat in the dark performance room; the room housed a small stage that was glowing in violet lights and seats for the public at tables near the stage and in rows throughout the room. This was the Ark, and I couldn’t wait for the intimate performance to begin.

The night began with an opening by The Western Den, a contemporary folk group based in Massachusetts whose first collaborative performance with the main musical act had been that night, I would come to learn. She was a singer and keyboardist, he was a singer and guitarist, she was a violinist and bassist, he was a trumpeter, and he was a drummer. I failed to remember their names, but I remembered their images, their personas. All five members of the group suited the instruments they played strikingly well, and I was emotionally intact with the way they had orchestrated themselves even before they started playing. The music they shared was eccentric and refreshing; they played unpopular chords almost in a melancholic way, but with a rich tone and heavy bearing that came off as passionate rather than temperamental. I was completely relaxed during their performance, taken aback by the impressive compositions that this small, relatively unknown group had to offer.

This performance was followed by a short intermission, during which I acquired more tea from the concessions, and then the main musical act. Unlike how the name suggests, Frances Luke Accord is a group of two men; however, they were able to convey a solitary essence as they merely used their voices and a few of their instruments to create their music. Both of the men transitioned between their several acoustic guitars between their songs, all while using their sole two voices to successfully create vocal layerings that are more often achieved by groups with several members. Since we were able to focus only on their voices and their guitars, I was able to follow the mood that they wanted to convey for each of their songs. I noticed when they would play more percussively to portray a chorus or other musical release, when they would take long strums of their guitars to fill up the room, and when they would quietly pluck the guitar strings to create a soft, mellow mood as the end. I was on edge throughout most of the performance, eager to see what new direction they would take us in with each second that passed.

Overall, I left this event very pleased and I felt like I wanted to stay in the Ark forever. While I was unsure what the outcome of my experience at this event would be, I am happy to say that I can trust my curiosity in new experiences to lead me towards the things in life that bring me true joy.

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