Generally, a band will feature the usual ho-hum instruments: guitar, bass, drums. Why settle for a bland lineup, when the Boulder Acoustic Society can wow and amaze, if not confuse, with the odd grouping of guitar, upright bass, ukulele, xylophone and violin?
The Boulder Acoustic Society (B.A.S.) can satisfy that eclectic need. They also have the distinction of having recently won the Emerging Artist Series competition in Winter Park, Colo. The diverse quartet will play swing, ragtime, jazz and more at the Ritz Grill on Sept. 1 at 9:30 p.m.
The unorthodox lineup features Aaron Keim on upright bass and ukulele; Brad Jones on guitar, shred ukulele and vocals; Scott Higgins on xylophone, snare drum and percussion; and Kailin Yong on violin, ukulele and vocals. Keim acknowledges both the positive and negative potential that having such a lineup can bring.
"It's freeing, actually. Because we've got all of these weird styles and instruments, we don't have to sound like anyone else," he said.
The band members are all accomplished performers and educators in the Boulder/Denver areas, each with a different background.
"The basis of our sound is acoustic swing music, but what's added is our own diverse musical backgrounds and experiences," said Keim. "No one came from the same musical past, so we can't settle down to any one style."
Some members are experienced in bluegrass; others are based in classical. The band's Web site even names Yong as having invented "Chinesegrass." What they can agree on are a collective interest in the Americana genre and a piecemeal collection of sounds with roots in country, bluegrass, folk and blues, among other genres.
Their musical influences reflect that wide interest and have helped to flesh out the B.A.S. repertoire. Swing and gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt is a notable influence, but the band also cites fellow Americana musicians, American string bands and jug bands.
"[Our music] is hard to describe because every piece sounds different," said Keim. "On one hand, we're sort of a marketing nightmare because it's so diverse. On the other hand, audiences really like it for that same reason."
With their recent win at the Emerging Artist Series competition, the B.A.S. is eagerly looking to the future. Their goal is to tour and get their music out, starting with their first CD, tentatively titled So Many Stars in the Sky. The band is in the process of mixing the tracks and plans to make it available by Oct. 13.
One would imagine that there wouldn't be a huge market for ukulele and xylophone swing and jazz, but Keim maintains that their music is smack dab in the right arena and cites the Yonder Mountain String Band as inspiration and as a successful fellow acoustic group.
"In the acoustic music world, there're ways to get your music out and support oneself that aren't really available in other music genres. If we were to play rock, we'd feel more pressure to be Top 40 and have hits," he said. "The acoustic music world is really supportive."
That support has increased the Boulder Acoustic Society's focus and determination as a group.
"Eventually, we'll be looking at the possibility of [playing music] as our main gig," said Keim. "Right now we're doing a lot of little things to pay the bills -- we're all full-time educators and musicians -- but we want to be able to travel and play, and get our music heard by as many people as possible."
-- Kara Luger
Boulder Acoustic Society
Wednesday, Sept. 1, 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Ritz Grill, 15 S. Tejon St.