REVIEW: Haley Heynderickx

On March 29, 2019, two magnificent women from Portland took over The Ark, capturing the night with their unique sounds and instrumentation for a night of pure and magical music.

Lily Breshears, who usually tours with Haley Heynderickx in her band as the bassist and keyboardist, took the stage first with her synth, a harp (a rental, in replacement of her harp back home named Spreadsheet), and a mic. She opened with a song about the dysfunctional long distance relationship, but later countered it with her hymn about relationships that are so good, it makes you forget all the pain, or be thankful for it because it led to the present. Her song, “Pick Up Game,” combined basketball references and pick-up lines, and she ended with “Wet Plastic,” which should honestly be the anthem for the #MeToo movement. Breshears’s voice and her harp weaved together harmoniously, setting the stage with her stunning musical aura for her good friend to follow.

After a short break, the most charismatic and comedic musician came out to mesmerize her fans with her Portland accent. After some tuning, Haley Heynderickx first performed a song with Breshears to ease into her own solo show, though she summoned Breshears back to the harp for two more songs later in the set. Heynderickx captivated us with her songs from her “I Need To Start a Garden” album. From priest-like praying mantises and successful exes to the wonderful mantra “Oom Sha La La,” Heynderickx’s music combines the emotionally poignant with the humorously absurd, creating music that is both thought-provoking and meaningful. Her guitar techniques were truly mindblowing, and the strumming, plucking, and melodies complemented her voice perfectly. Heynderickx also performed some covers and even threw some impersonations in there. For her encore, she treated us to some new songs in the works, giving us a little teaser to be excited about for the future.

Heynderickx’s music features some of the most underrated, beautiful, and meditative singing and lyrics, and seeing her perform live, with her nerves and all, made for one of the best concerts I’ve been to. The two musicians’ personalities and styles fitted together perfectly, their gentle and soft-spoken manner drawing us in to listen carefully to the stories they are telling, making their musical styles even more compelling.

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.

PREVIEW: Frances Luke Accord and The Western Den

On Wednesday, February 6, 2019, The Ark in Ann Arbor will be hosting Frances Luke Accord and The Western Den, two duo groups whose legacies have been established and are continuing to flourish in the indie folk genre. These duos will be performing music from their newest and older releases, all the while combining unique, progressive sounds in a timeless and precedent art form.

Hailing from South Bend, IN, Frances Luke Accord members Nicholas Gunty and Brian Powers have known each other since attending the University of Notre Dame and have collaborated on nonprofit projects, full-length albums, and exploratory compositions. Hailing from Virginia and the island of Bermuda, Deni Hlavinka and Chris West met over experimental music compositions and have collaborated on several EPs in addition to establishing an inseparable relationship between themselves.

As these duos take the stage this week, I am ecstatic to experience the music and the emotion that they have to offer. As a note, this event is available to all students for no cost through the Passport to the Arts offered by the Arts at Michigan program from the University of Michigan.