Big Squeeze Tonight in Portland

If you’re in the Portland (Oregon) area tonight, check out the Big Squeeze, an all-accordion event at P.P.A.A. with international flavor. The lineup includes Johnny B. Connolly (Ireland), Leonid Nosov (Ukraine), Gheorghe Borcea (Romania), and Milen Slavov (Bulgaria). After they perform, Too Loose Cajun Band will provide the soundtrack for a cajun dance party. The cost is on a sliding scale, anyone under 15 gets in free, and here’s a map if you get lost. Have a great time!

Help ‘Weird Al’ Get His Hollywood Star!

Al StarLegendary accordionist ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic doesn’t have a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and his fans and supporters want to change that! They have started a fund to raise $15,000 to cover the application fee and sponsorship. With your help they can raise enough to help Al get his own star (and then walk all over it!). They’re halfway there. Can you help? Visit to find out more.

Vienna Accordion Festival Wrapup

The 7th annual Vienna Accordion Festival wrapped up last weekend and, judging from this post on, there were some stellar performances. The month-long festival brought together performers from all over the world — over 160 artists from 28 countries — and also included films, workshops, and plenty of squeezebox networking. A handful of Americans made the trip and performed this year, including Frank Marocco, Jason Webley, and CJ Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band. Check out some photos from this year’s festival, and then start making your plans for 2007.

Buckwheat Zydeco On Tour

Zydeco legend Buckwheat Zydeco is on the road again, with his white accordion in hand, starting instant zydeco parties from coast to coast. Recently, he’s been garnering rave reviews in such exotic locales as Harrisburg, Grand Rapids, and Morgantown. Check the tour dates to see when he’s coming to your town; we may try to catch him at the Monterey Bay Blues Festival in June.

In the meantime, here are a couple Buckwheat tracks to get you ready:

Flickr Find: Mr. Accordion Tombstone

Roy Bertelli
Roy Bertelli
uploaded by Jenny
Eagle-eyed readers have probably noticed the stream of Flickr photos (tagged with the keyword “accordion”) that appear on our home page. What I love about the stream is you never know what you’ll see when you visit; for instance, take this photo of Roy Bertelli’s elaborate “Mr. Accordion” tombstone at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, IL. Apparently he paid $30,000 for this 2,000 lb. granite slab, which is now a “must-see” on the cemetery tour (Abraham Lincoln is also buried at Oak Ridge). A small price to pay considering his “Lifetime Dedication to the Accordion.”

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Squeezebox: New Zydeco TV Show

Following in the footsteps of his father and uncle, who hosted “Zydeco Extravaganza” on Lafayette, LA, television in the late 80’s, Dustin Cravins is launching a new weekly zydeco show called “Squeezebox” next month. It will air at 10 a.m. Sundays on KLAF-UPN 17 (in Lafayette) and the first episode will feature performances by Geno Delafose and Leon Chavis.

Cravins is hoping the show will help spark a zydeco revival and, in addition to live music and dancing, every episode will include a “cultural corner” focusing on elements of Creole culture, including history lessons, French phrases and cooking:

“What we didn?t want was a bon temp… Not to take anything away from that, but if we’re going to call ourselves revolutionaries, let’s come at it from a different approach. A lot of our culture and tradition is an oral one. Something needs to be done where we can actually show some of those things, maybe they had heard of, but never really knew much about.”

Sounds like it’ll be a fun show — now if I only I could figure out some way to get it on TV out here in California…

Accordion Rappers, Unite!

When it comes to musical subgenres, are there any more neglected than accordion hip-hop? Lewis of the TDA Squeeze Blog linked to this week’s top entertainment picks from the Boston Globe, which highlights a show Friday in Cambridge featuring not one, but TWO acts with accordion-playing rappers. Seriously, what are the odds?

Called “polka’s antithesis” by the New York Times, Julz A (aka Julian Hintz) bills himself as “somewhere between Beck and The Beastie Boys with an accordion,” and the tracks from his solo EP, “Squeeze Rock”, definitely fit the comparison (see links below). While Julz A goes it alone, Ghorar Deem Express (which translates literally to “the horse?s egg” in Bengali, used to mean “nonsense”) is a ten-person combo whose music runs the gamut from rock to klezmer to funk to balkan folk, with plenty of stops in-between. Rachel Koppelman is their accordionist.

Check out some samples:

SXSW Accordion Wrapup

SXSW logoThe annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival just wrapped up in Austin and there were plenty of performances by talented, independent bands featuring accordions. Here are a few bands to check out (with MP3 samples):

  • Madagascar
    This Baltimore band incorporates the accordion, ukulele, and musical saw into hauntingly beautiful, mostly instrumental tunes. Their first album, “Forced March”, was released this last June.
    All That Spring You Could See Halley’s Comet
  • Very Be Careful
    VBC brings rollicking, make-you-dance Colombian vallenato rhythms to the masses, via Los Angeles. If you like cumbia, you’ll like these guys.
    El Camionero
  • The Theater Fire
    They tell stories about “drifters, hangmen, brothers, and lovers grappling with their own honor, trust, guilt and loss,” over music that combines country with mariachi, folk, and blues influences.
  • Noahlewis’ Mahlon Taits
    A unique, jazzy instrumental group from Tokyo, featuring some great musical saw playing. (The musical saw must be making a comeback… or maybe it never left.) Very mellow and ethereal.
    Street of Dreams

Gary Sredzienski’s Polka Party

“Who Needs the DJ?” is a great feature from today’s Pitchfork on the decline of community radio, and DJs in particular. It focuses on Gary Sredzienski, host of the popular Polka Party radio show on WUNH-FM 91.3 in New Hampshire. Gary’s been doing the show for nearly 20 years, in addition to performing solo and with his “Ethnic/Instrumental Rock & Xtreme Polka” band, The Serfs (definitely worth checking out!).

The piece covers the history of the show and Gary’s ongoing struggle to keep fans happy — whether they’re into traditional Polish music, Polish-American polkas, or something else entirely. And he’s no fan of current polka music:

“When he gets new polka albums in the mail, he throws them straight into the trash. ‘Today the accordion is just used to bellow-shake in a polka band, and it’s mostly two or three trumpets playing now. It’s turned into a brass form. And to me it sounds like a freakin’ invasion of a country.'”

Even if you’re beyond the reach of WUNH-FM’s antenna, you can still listen to The Polka Party on Saturday mornings from 9-11am EST via the WUNH website.

St. Patrick’s Day Irish Accordion Links

Leprechaun w/accordionTop o’ the morning to ya! While you’re busy drinking green beer and making naughty leprechaun jokes, don’t forget that the accordion has an important role to play today, too. It’s a key element of traditional Irish music (and I’m not just talking about U2). In that spirit, here are a few links to explore on this St. Patrick’s Day:

  • Han’s Irish Squeezebox Page and RamblingHouse are good places for an overview of Irish button box playing, including history and biographies of its most famous performers. Han’s site even includes fingerings and charts for a handful of tunes.
  • Will Zarwell’s’s Irish Accordion Discography is a fantastic resource, with links to audio samples, reviews, and even videos of numerous performers, including Joe Derrane, Andrew MacNamara, and Billy McComiskey.
  • Joe Cooley only recorded one album, but his unique style of melodeon playing has been hugely influential. You can buy a CD of his album or listen to clips online at Amazon (just try to ignore that they’ve mislabeled his album as being by Clannad!).

Obviously this is just a starting point — share your own favorite Irish accordion links in the comments.

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