This Week in Accordion: Pulaski Polka Days

This may be the busiest week ever on our accordion calendar, with over 60 events from coast to coast. Some highlights:

  • Pulaski Polka Days (Thu-Sun in Pulaski, WI)
    One of the biggest polka festivals of the year, Pulaski Polka Days draws thousands of visitors from across the country for four days of nonstop polka music and dancing to the biggest names in polka. Performers include Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones, Polka Family, Dynabrass, and more.
  • They Might Be Giants (Wednesday in New York, NY)
    TMBG kicks off a 60-city tour in support of their new album, The Else (review coming soon!), with a show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. I can’t even keep track of how many times I’ve seen them anymore.
  • Baguette Quartette (Thursday in Palo Alto, CA)
    Once again, Anna and I will be spending our lunch hour at the Palo Alto Brown Bag Concert series — this time with ham and cheese baguettes for a show by Odile Lavault’s Baguette Quartette. Come say ‘hi’ and grab some Let’s Polka stickers from us.

And that’s not all… there’s Glenn Hartman’s Klezmer Playboys in Berkeley, Ladies Day Concerts at the Accordion Connection in New Hampshire, and plenty of artists on tour, including Terrance Simien, Julz A, and Marie-Josée Houle.

As usual, if you have an accordion event for our calendar, just let us know.

Quick Links: July 14, 2007

Quick Links: July 13, 2007

  • Bowerbirds
    SPIN puts the spotlight on Bowerbirds, a trio of North Carolina “indie rock folkies.” Listen to “In Our Talons”, which SPIN describes as a “standout track, with its accordion-rich choruses and not-so-subtle message.”
  • Madonna uses Roland V-Accordion for Live Earth Concert
    Roland issues a press release on the use of their FR3 V-Accordion during the Madonna/Gogol Bordello duet at Live Earth. “Not only is this fantastic exposure for Roland, it is also a great advert for the accordion as an instrument in its own right.”

Preserving Online Polka Radio

If you listen to a local radio station streaming online, a service like Pandora, or an online polka station like 247PolkaHeaven or Polka Jammer, you’ve probably heard the uproar over the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to substantially raise performance royalty rates paid by online radio operators (webcasters). Starting July 15, royalty rates will be changed from a percentage of revenue to a per-song, per-listener fee, with a minimum fee of $500 per month. The rates are also retroactive to January 2006.

These new royalty rates (which are collected by a record industry-backed organization called SoundExchange) threaten to put many webcasters out of business entirely. SoundExchange counters that most of these increased royalties go to artists, who deserve to be fairly compensated for their work. The issue is coming to a head in Congress where the recently-proposed Internet Radio Equality Act intends to reduce rates and bring them in line with what satellite radio operators pay. It appears unlikely, though, that Congress will act on the bill before the new rates take effect on Sunday.

(Note: This is a mile-high view of a relatively complicated issue; if you want to learn more, David Byrne has one of the clearer explanations I’ve read.)

So, where do online polka radio stations fit into all this?

Return of the Gypsy Punks

Gogol Bordello: Super Taranta!The best description I’ve read of Gogol Bordello is that they’re “a bit like The Clash having a fight with The Pogues in Eastern Europe.” Their new album, Super Taranta!, is out today and features an even wilder mix of accordion-driven gypsy, punk, reggae, ska, flamenco, and dub than their previous efforts. Frontman Eugene Hutz explains the inspiration behind the new album:

Super Taranta! is our interpretation of tarantella, a ritual music from Italy… I saw a painting in Tuscany of a woman in convulsions and guy playing a violin. He’s leaning over her, playing music to cure her hysteria, put her into a trance and exorcize her demons. It was sexual, mystical and cultural, almost obscene — all the qualities of Gogol Bordello.”

Of course, Gogol Bordello’s reputation isn’t built on their recordings, but on their frenzied, sweaty live shows (which usually involve Eugene crowd-surfing on a bass drum). The band hits the East Coast later this week (check our calendar for dates) after making an impromptu appearance at last weekend’s Live Earth concert in London, adding some much-needed gypsy flair to Madonna’s set.

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Elly Kelly’s Acadian Dance Party

Elly Kelly: Yesterday’s DreamBorn into an Acadian family in St. Charles, New Brunswick, Elly Kelly started playing accordion at the age of 13 and was soon joining her mother, father, and brother onstage at square dances, jamborees and talent shows. After taking time off to raise three children, Elly has returned to music with a lively album of reels and waltzes called Yesterday’s Dream.

The album opens with a nod to her musical roots — a high-spirited clip recorded by her parents at her childhood home more than 25 years ago. From there, it’s nothing but foot-stompin’, feel-good music buoyed by Elly’s passionate accordion playing and complemented by June Eikhard’s fiddle work. This is a perfect summer evening party-on-the-porch record; the kind of down-home, old-time party music you enjoy while laughing and relaxing with friends.

Elly doesn’t currently have a website, but if you want to learn more or order her CD, you can email her at ellykellymusic at

This Week in Accordion: Kimberley Accordion Championships

Let’s see what’s on the accordion calendar this week:

  • Kimberley International Old Time Accordion Championships (Mon-Sat in Kimberley, BC, Canada)
    A week-long festival full of concerts and competitions, right in the heart of beautiful British Columbia. Guest artists include Sammy Thomas, the Al Meixner Trio, and many more.
  • Pistolera (Wednesday in San Francisco, CA)
    Indie rock meets Mexican folk music in Pistolera, a NYC quartet led by Sandra Lilia Velasquez and the driving accordion melodies of Maria Elena.
  • Motordude Zydeco (Thursday in Palo Alto, CA)
    The Palo Alto Brown Bag concert series kicks off with a lunchtime zydeco dance party. I’ll be there (probably wearing this shirt), so stop by, say ‘hi’, and I’ll give you some Let’s Polka stickers.

There’s plenty more, too — including Brave Combo on tour and the return of the Conjunto Accordion Jam in San Jose. If you have an accordion event (concert, festival, etc.) to add to our calendar, let us know!

Quick Links: July 6, 2007

  • An Ode to the Squeezebox – The New York Sun
    “Forget the iPhone, China, and independents running for president. The next big thing is something else entirely: accordions.” In advance of this weekend’s Main Squeeze Accordion Festival, the New York Sun pays tribute to our favorite instrument.
  • Local musician dies, leaves legacy – The Monitor
    Pedro Ayala Jr. — son of conjunto pioneer Pedro Ayala and accordionist in Los Hermanos Ayala — died unexpectedly of a heart attack last weekend. He was 62.

Mmm… Songs for Ice Cream Trucks

Songs for Ice Cream TrucksAs the dog days of summer take hold, who can resist the siren call of the ice cream truck? I sure can’t; the stacks of Choco Tacos in my freezer are proof.

Gothamist today has a fun interview with Michael Hearst, who loves ice cream but grew tired of hearing trucks play the same old songs summer after summer. So he sat down and created an entire album of new music for ice cream trucks, appropriately titled Songs for Ice Cream Trucks, with song titles like “The Popsicle Parade”, “Tones for Cones”, and my favorite, “Chocolate, Vanilla or Swirl?”

As with his work in One Ring Zero, Hearst uses a variety of eclectic instruments — including accordion, melodica, claviola, glockenspiel, and theremin — to evoke memories of childhood summers, but without the tinny, repetitive renditions of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” The album was featured on a Today Show segment and more than fifty trucks nationwide are now playing his music. The track linked below is one of the album’s more melancholy tunes: a rumination on where ice cream trucks go during the winter.

Let’s Polka on MySpace

That’s right — we’ve finally given in to the peer pressure and created a Let’s Polka profile over on MySpace. So if MySpace is your thing, add us as a friend and let the world know that you’ve sided with truth, justice, and the accordion way. If you’re a squeezebox-totin’ band or artist, adding us as a friend means that we’ll keep an extra-close eye on your gigs when we’re updating our accordion calendar (hint: free promotion!).

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