Sixteen-year-old Aislin Kavaldjian, Head Dot of The Polka Dots, said her band is the youngest in the crowd at area bluegrass jams.
But they keep up.
The group, which formed earlier this year and is based in Lovettsville, Va., are regulars at Beans in the Belfry, where theyll play tonight. They pick up accordion, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, ukulele and upright bass for an Old Time, jazzy, gypsy, swing show.
Aislin and her sister Nora Kavaldjian (Bitty Dot), 14, have been performing together for the past few months (they chose the name The Polka Dots because it was cute.)
She and I are very much into bluegrass and Old Time and jazz, Aislin said.
They grabbed two friends to complete the band: Olivia Zook (Fimbledot) for upright bass and Tyler Chilton (Mr. Dot) to play guitar, ukulele and accordion, both 17 years old.
Theyve written three songs together to date and have begun recording one track at a time to put online (until their website is complete, fans can find them on Facebook). They expect many more songs and an album is forthcoming.
Aislin started musical training at age 5 (her mother wouldnt let her start piano, though she begged, at 4). She ventured into the accordion after watching Amelie and then, about a year ago, picked up the fiddle after Nora put it down to study mandolin. French accordion and cafe songs are the roots of The Polka Dots repertoire, but they are expanding to include other genres.
Since Ive been getting into this kind of music, Ive been writing more and more, Aislin said. When you get something good, its extremely satisfying.
Aislin arranges all the pieces, but all members write songs and what we play for an audience is the product of everyones opinion, Aislin said.
They see Beans in the Belfry as their home base, though theyve performed at the Heritage Farm Museum in Sterling, Va., the Lovettsville Library and the Watermelon Park Fest in Berryville, Va.
At the Fest, they opened for Furnace Mountain, a roots band based in Berryville that serves as one of The Polka Dots biggest influences. Its fiddler, Dave VanDeventer, is a mentor of sorts for the young musicians.
He teaches us a lot of stuff they play, Aislin said, really cool, old stuff.
The Polka Dots are inspired by the music of the 20s to 50s, mainly, and musicians such as Django Reinhardt.
We decided the band needed to be a (mixture) of all these things that we like, Aislin said.
The Polka Dots are one of only two bands in the area with members so young playing this sort of music, the other being Jake and the Burtones. The bluegrass and Old Time musician crowd is mostly above 40 at the monthly bluegrass jam at Round Hill Arts Center in Round Hill, Va. (The Polka Dots hosted the Strawberry Jam earlier this year at the Kavaldjian house, and have participated in the Beans in the Belfry jams, too.)
I thought it (bluegrass) was old and gross, Olivia admitted, but Aislin turned her on to the genre and now shes hooked and considering taking up banjo.
Its energetic and fun, Nora added. We can play a big, fast song and get people clapping.