Accordions: Best of Coachella

In their roundup of the best and worst from last weekend’s Coachella Festival, the Press-Enterprise declares the accordion the festival’s “best offbeat instrument,” noting that it’s “not just for polka bands anymore.” They cite accordion-fueled performances by some of our favorite artists, including Julieta Venegas, Gogol Bordello, and the Decemberists. (Though no mention of Arcade Fire, another Coachella band with a penchant for accordions.)

[Found via TDA's Wall of Wheeze]

This Week in Accordion: They Might Be Giants

After a couple weeks of vacation/neglect, I spent the weekend adding a bunch of concerts and festivals to our accordion event calendar. On tap for this week:

  • They Might Be Giants (various dates)
    The venerable alt-rockers hit the road for a “secret warm-up tour” before the release of their latest album, The Else. Can you believe they’ve been together for 25 years?
  • Brett Gibson (Saturday in Overland Park, KS)
    Accordionist Brett Gibson will be the featured soloist with the Kansas City Civic Orchestra and will perform Astor Piazzolla’s Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra.
  • Geoff Berner (Thur-Sat in Western Canada)
    The sharp-witted Vancouver accordionist/songwriter brings his rough-edged take on klezmer to Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I hope they’re ready.

I still have a ton of shows to add, so if there’s anything squeeze-worthy happening in your neighborhood, be sure to let me know!

Something Special for Me

Something Special for Me (book cover)One of my favorite accordion-related books is the children’s book, Something Special for Me by Vera B. Williams. It’s about a girl named Rosa who has to make a very important decision: what special thing will she buy with the money her family gave her?

She goes shopping with her mother and finds many things she likes, but nothing is exactly perfect. Crestfallen after many attempts to find the perfect item, her spirits are lifted by the sound of accordion music. A man playing accordion inspires her and she realizes what she special thing she wants! (Can you guess?)

This is a great book for kids, and should be required reading for aspiring accordionists of all ages.

Vallenato Legend Festival Video

Vallenato is a popular accordion-based folk music from the Caribbean region of Colombia, influenced by African, European, and Colombian rhythms and sounds. Right now in Valledupar, the annual Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata is taking place, and it includes a contest where vallenato musicians compete in categories for best professional accordionist, amateur accordionist, and more.

Juan, a reader from Colombia, forwarded me this excellent video from a previous festival, featuring the fast fingers of Sammy Ariza Ramos. Don’t skip the caja (drum) and guacharaca (percussion stick) solos — they’re incredible, too.

eBay Find: Accordion Figurines Galore

Hummel fanatics, look no further. We’ve found the auction for you — plus a couple for those who don’t have $40k to throw around on accordion figurines:

  • World’s Largest Lot of Accordion Figurines
    I’ve never been big on accordion figurines; to me, if you’ve seen one accordion-playing angel/Santa/hobo, you’ve seen them all. But for the serious collector, this is the mother lode: over 1,000 pieces claiming to be “potentially the world’s largest accordion Figurine and Collectible collection.” Before you start clearing space in your curio cabinet, though, the asking price is $39,500. (For the merely curious, $15 will get you a one hour VHS/DVD describing the collection.)
  • Disneyland for Accordion
    This vintage book of accordion sheet music dates from Disneyland’s 1955 opening and includes accordion arrangements of eight Disney classics, including “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and “He’s a Tramp.” Sorry, no “Hakuna Matata.”
  • Learn to Play the Accordion… Subliminally
    I’ve heard of using hypnosis to stop smoking or lose weight, but… playing the accordion? “Use your subsconscious mind to learn how to play like an experienced professional accordionist!” On the first three tracks, all you can hear is “the soothing sounds of ocean surf,” while the fourth (and last) track contains nothing but “ultrasonic silent subliminal programming.” Seriously. I wish I was making this up.

Happy bidding!

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Polka: The Last Real Indie Scene

Diesel Sweeties comic

Diesel Sweeties confirms what we already knew: polka is the new rock and roll.

Jamming With The Yankovics

They shared a last name and a love of the accordion but, contrary to popular belief, polka king Frankie Yankovic and parody king Weird Al Yankovic weren’t actually related. In 1986, though, the two joined forces for this hilarious segment during the half-hour special Weird Al’s Guide to the Grammys. In it, Weird Al conducts a brief interview with Frankie (who was up for the first-ever Best Polka Album award that year) and then the two perform a polka medley of Record of the Year nominees including “Born in the USA” and “We Are The World”.

Flickr Find: Accordion From Hell

DisccordionDisccordion, uploaded by creaturetheatre

Check out this fantastically decorated accordion, which belongs to a member of the Shadow Circus Creature Theatre in San Francisco. I’d like to think this is the accordion that the devil would have used in Those Darn Accordions’ rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Recommend an Accordion Lesson Book?

Joseph wrote in to ask:

“I am an old man who loves music… I have a student accordion I fool around with but I would like to know a book that you would recommend. There are a thousand on the net but I can’t afford to buy 3 or 4 ’til I find one I’m happy with. I don’t want to be a professional, I just want to ENJOY.”

My experience with accordion lesson books is fairly limited; I started with the first couple books in the Palmer-Hughes series, but I was bored by the repertoire and eventually abandoned the books in favor of playing by ear (learning tunes that Anna taught me).

What about you? What accordion lesson books would you recommend to Joseph? Leave a comment and tell us what books have worked for you (or your students, if you’re a teacher).

This Week in Accordion: Festival Louisiane

We’re back from vacation and ready to squeeze! Let’s start by checking out this week’s accordion calendar:

  • Festival International de Louisiane (Wed-Sun in Lafayette, LA)
    This huge, free festival celebrates the French cultural heritage of southern Louisiana with food, arts and crafts, and LOTS of music. This year’s lineup includes Beausoleil, Los Texmaniacs, Rob Curto’s Forro for All, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, and many more.
  • Walter Ostanek (Monday in Franklin, WI)
    Canada’s Polka King brings his legendary Cleveland-style polka stylings to the Milwaukee Accordion Club.
  • Muenster Germanfest (Fri-Sun in Muenster, TX)
    Every year thousands flock to Muenster for sausage, strudel, and the sound of polka. Performers include Brave Combo, Alpenfest, and the Polka Kings.

And there’s a lot more — including Geno Delafose and Chris Ardoin in New Orleans, the “American Irish” band Solas in Texas, and One Ring Zero in New York City. As usual, let us know if there we’ve missed any accordion happenings in your neighborhood.

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