Frances Luke Accord Mesmerizes Schubas with Sweet Folk Sounds

“Save me your laughter and your religion…” sang Nick Gunty of Chicago-based folk duo Frances Luke Accord. Gunty and bandmate Brian Powers played their sonically meticulous, poetry-infused folk-rock to an adoring crowd at Schuba’s last week. The intonation on “religion” is one of the trademark delicate brush strokes that I’ve come to expect from this band.

Frances Luke Accord aren’t new to Chicago, but they aren’t terribly well known yet. But they ought to be! Their Saturday night concert lived up to the standard they’ve set: near perfect performance (minor issues with the sound that were out of their control), careful musicianship, switching between multiple instruments to create this specific orchestrated sound, and poppy poetry-like lyrics. They harmonize in almost every song so they have this one voice and one sound which is a little more Brian than it is Nick. I think he might be the more likable of the two, evidenced by his leading most of the onstage banter. But they use Nick’s voice singularly at certain moments, like “religion.” They know themselves well.

The Frances Luke Accord show at Schubas was FUN, and they’re this Simon and Garfunkel-like duo so they aren’t necessarily a splashy dance fest. Their concert was downright intimate (which is not to say it wasn’t quite full of people). It’s a testament to their musicianship, their songwriting, and performance skills that their Schubas show had a vulnerability and a confidence to it that’s magnetic and warm.  

Frances Luke Accord joined by Katie Van Dusen and Sedgwick.

Frances Luke Accord joined by Katie Van Dusen and Sedgwick.

The first time I saw Frances Luke Accord I was really impressed, and I’ve been a little more impressed each time since. Largely, they’re still becoming the musicians they’ll be. They are folk guys– multi-instrumentalists, seemingly influenced by a variety of types of music, and incorporating non-traditional instruments and ways to make noise. BUT there are some aspects of their performance that go against what I’d consider the folk norm. They have the typical folk camaraderie with other musicians, and they invited violinist Katie Van Dusen come on stage and play with them at their Schubas show. She fit well with their twosome, and she strummed her violin like it was a ukulele or mandolin or another finger-strummable instrument. It was great! They asked their opener Sedgewick to come on stage with them and play a song and the crowd loved it. At folk concerts more instruments = more fun, though that principle doesn’t fit the delicate sound of Frances Luke Accord. I enjoyed the song they played with Sedgwick but I’m glad it was just one song and I almost felt it was an obligatory rule for folk musician-dom. These are not loud guys. They wear suits and they harmonize because more than one voice would be too much and they are precise. When they toured with Darlingside, a traditional folk americana band, they would join Darlingside on stage for several songs and it was great. For Darlingside, more instruments meant more power, and a bigger and better sound. For Frances Luke Accord bigger isn’t better. But they probably already know that.

Sedgwick played a lovely opening set. They’re a local band that bills themselves as slow motion folk, but their current sound seems to be at odds with that assessment. Their folk forward approach is readily apparent thanks to the band’s warm vocals and lush instrumentation of Oliver Horton’s upright bass Oliver Horton and Sam Brownson gentle electric guitar, but the addition of Jake Hawrylak’s percussion ramps things up. All the slow motion from their debut E.P. Garden has been transformed into something a little quicker and fuller. Aside from a few transitional audio issues in a song or two, Sedgewick’s continual growth as a band is going incredibly well. The trio work well together as they craft some intricate songs that definitely warmed the crowd up. Their creative huddle around the drums during their final song sent their sound through the rough and was a rousing highlight of their set.
All photos by Julian Ramirez. Written by Emma Terhaar with contributions from Julian Ramirez

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