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The Accidentals return to midtown with a new twist on old favorites

The Accidentals celebrated "Cover Art" at Midtown, blending classic hits with fresh twists. The album isn't just homage but a dive into the future of indie music. Danni Nicholls warmed up the crowd with indie folk and country vibes.

/The Accidentals

Michigan natives, The Accidentals, played a sold-out show at Midtown on Wednesday to celebrate the release of their latest project, "Cover Art."

While most musicians use covers as a point of entry into the music industry, The Accidentals have six full-length studio albums to their name. They’ve shared stages with Joan Baez and Brandi Carlile, garnering press from the likes of NPR and The Huffington Post. These are all markers of what one would consider mainstream success, which raises the question: what is the impetus of a cover album in an already established career?

Midtown is a beautiful venue, situated above Studio Park in downtown Grand Rapids. The venue feels both intimate and lush, with the stage barely a foot off the ground and velvet chairs dispersed throughout the space, situated beside exposed brick walls.

While lead singer Sav Buist and bassist Katie Larson are originally from Traverse City, their Grand Rapids show had a giddy and familiar atmosphere, reminiscent of a hometown gig.

Singer-songwriter Danni Nicholls opened the show. The emcee described her as “the hardest working sweetheart of the rodeo.” While Nicholls is originally from Bedford, England, she grew to love country music through her grandmother. Her sound is a captivating combination of indie folk and country influences, with astounding vocal control. Nicholls wielded her voice like a lasso throughout her set, reeling the audience in with her expressive sound.

Nicholls is the sort of guitarist who proves that the guitar can be a multi-use instrument, simultaneously percussive and grounding. Onstage, Nicholls was the definition of a one-woman show, providing a full-band sound all by herself. In the spirit of the "Cover Art" tour, Nicholls told the audience about her own experience recording a cover album of Country Western classics for her grandmother, covering Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”

Then, The Accidentals burst onstage, playing a rousing cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” With Buist on an electric violin and Larson on an electric cello, the Blondie classic was experienced in an entirely new light, with the added strings section giving the song a newfound depth and texture. Buist beamed as she stepped up to the mic, “What a homecoming!”

It was then that the impetus of the project became clear to me. "Cover Art" is a space for play and experimentation, proof that loving music is a continual act. It’s also an invitation for the audience to reimagine old favorites and discover some new ones.

Buist told the crowd that the band “wanted to pay tribute to the incredible female musicians who inspired us to become musicians in the first place.”

Larson and Buist are high school friends, so it was endearing to see them cover some of their favorite songs from when they were teenagers together, including a breathtaking cover of Ani DiFranco’s “Manhole.” Both musicians are multi-instrumentalists, and it was impressive to see them switch between instruments, trading guitars for electric cellos and violins. Up until that night, I’d never seen anyone shred on a mandolin like Buist did.

It would be too simplistic to call this album a reset for the band. The band's original drummer, Michael Dause, left in 2023. Katelynn Corll stepped in following Dause’s departure, and she hasn’t missed a beat. During their set, The Accidentals covered Corll’s original song, “Hey!”, giving Corll a moment to shine as the lead vocalist while drumming. Corll's addition to the lineup is seamless.

Instead, "Cover Art" feels like a reimagining not only of the band’s dynamic but their relationship to music as a whole. Touring is a grueling and often depersonalizing experience. Add the metrics of streams and endless merch cuts, and it’s easy to become both disembodied and disillusioned with music as a whole. "Cover Art" proves that even though they’ve been on the road for years, The Accidentals are still finding ways to push themselves as artists.

Larson explained to the crowd that "Cover Art" was recorded to supplement their spring tour after their forthcoming album was picked up for a fall release date. Larson and Buist recorded "Cover Art" in three days at Buist’s home studio, affectionately nicknamed Crooked Moon Studios.

“We’re so excited to have more than one album in the bag,” Larson told the crowd. Larson and Buist also talked at length about their experiences co-writing with other artists like Mary Bragg.

A handful of original songs were interspersed throughout the set. The unreleased “Someday We Won’t Live Here” was a touching indie-folk tribute to apartments with good bones.

Buist told the crowd that they were also inspired to "not just pay homage, but introduce” the crowd to new artists. They covered “Green and Gold” by Lianne La Havas, who Buist described as “Prince’s protégé.” Their set also included covers of songs by contemporary indie musicians like Courtney Barnett and Caroline Rose.

Larson told the audience that with "Cover Art" they also wanted to “look to the future and see all of the great art being made right now.”

They closed their set with a cover of “Not Strong Enough” by indie rock iconoclast Boygenius. The trio’s voices blended with the soft lights of the venue, perhaps the most pointed nod to the state of indie music throughout the night, situating "Cover Art" as a conversation about indie music at-large.

But, of course, the night wasn’t complete without The Accidentals performing their hometown hit, “Michigan and Again.” When the song finished, the crowd leaped to their feet. Buist was right: it felt like a homecoming.


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