Kimberley International Old Time Accordion Championships

Right now, one of the largest accordion festivals in the world is in full swing up in beautiful British Columbia — the 32nd annual Kimberley International Old Time Accordion Championships (or KIOTAC, as it’s known). All this week, accordionists are squaring off in such categories as old time, diatonic, light classical, popular music, and jazz. In case you’re wondering what qualifies as “old time” accordion, here’s the rule book definition:

“For the purpose of these competitions, ‘old-time’ shall refer to the manner and style in which the selection was written or is being played, not to the selection’s age or ethnic origin. Old-time music is fittingly described as the style and tempo that has been predominantly and successfully used for dancing the polka, waltz and schottische throughout a broad cross-section of Western Canadian communities during the past century.”

But it’s not all cutthroat competition — there are also featured performances from Bernadette Conlon, Murl Allen Sanders, the Ulster Accordion Band, and more. And just to give you an idea of how big this festival is: last year, they broke the Guinness Record for the largest accordion ensemble, with 644 accordionists playing together. 644! (Kinda puts the old Accordion Invasion to shame.)

Smitten at the Accordion Festival

Judging from the handful of photos I’ve found, it looks like the 1st annual Main Squeeze Accordion Festival last Saturday was a success. And this post on the “missed connections” board at Craigslist NYC suggests that the enchanting squeezebox melodies may have helped sweep at least one attendee off his feet:

“You were the cute, short-haired brunette photographer taking pictures of the colorful characters dancing to the merengue group at the accordion festival on Saturday… I’m the redhead with whom you exchanged smiles. Maybe we were just reacting to the hilarious dancers, but I enjoyed your smile nonetheless and would love a chance to meet you when you’re not busy capturing Kodak moments.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely rooting for this crazy kid.

Video Game Themes on Accordion

Playing New Super Mario Bros. when you should be practicing your accordion? (Okay, maybe that’s only me.) What if you could somehow combine your love of video games with some squeezebox practice? That’s what this guy has done — check out his solo accordion rendition of the theme from Super Mario Bros.:

Not bad for someone who, according to his Youtube profile, only started playing a month ago. Check out his other videos, including his versions of the Zelda and Tetris themes.

eBay Find: R. Crumb Accordion Cards

I’ve heard that Saturday morning is the most active time of the week on eBay, so it’s the perfect time for another roundup of unique, accordion-related items. This time around, we’re focusing on printed materials we’ve uncovered:

  • R. Crumb Accordion Trading Cards
    Artist/illustrator R. Crumb has always been a music lover, collecting thousands of records and even playing banjo in his own band. Over the years, he’s drawn portraits of numerous musicians, including his “Heroes of the Blues” and “Pioneers of Country Music” trading card sets. This set, though, is a collection of 36 cards depicting French accordion players (including Gus Viseur, Charley Bazin, and more) titled “Les As Du Musette.” Replace your son’s baseball cards with these and watch his appreciation for musette music grow… “I’ll trade you a Joss Baselli for your Jo Privat!”
  • 1936 Hohner Piano Accordion Catalog
    Take a trip down memory lane with Hohner’s 1936 collection, including a top-of-the-line, custom-built accordion (“The Monarch of All Piano Accordions”) with 196 bass buttons and curved buttons for the low, low price of $1000 (or approximately $14,000 in today’s money).
  • The Mastery of the Bellows Shake
    Written in 1952 by Bill Palmer (of Palmer-Hughes fame), this book promises to help you master “brilliant and exciting bellows shake.” It even comes “approved and recommended by the creator of the bellows shake, Pietro Frosini.” Shake that, Contino!

That’s all for now — happy bidding!

Those Darn Accordions Summer Tour

Those Darn Accordions is hitting the road this summer, bringing their unique brand of squeezebox-fueled rock to the masses (or, at least, the Midwest and West Coast). The tour kicks off tonight in Chicago and includes dates in such accordion hotspots as Cleveland, Milwaukee, Madison, and the Seaside (Oregon) Elks Club. And if seeing TDA alone isn’t enough to knock your socks off, tonight they’re sharing the bill with Chicago’s Polkaholics and tomorrow night in Oshkosh, they’re opening for David Lee Roth AND Starship. Here’s hoping that they’ve got covers of “Hot for Teacher” and “We Built this City” ready…

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Accordion-Playing Reindeer T-Shirt

Ever wonder how Santa’s reindeer pass the time between Christmases? Apparently, they’re playing their accordions, or at least, that’s what this shirt from Ferdinand Home Store would have you believe. This design is also available as a “onesie” for babies, which is perfect if your child is too small to carry an accordion but still wants to wear one proudly on his/her chest.

Joss Baselli’s Accordeon 2000

Jo Basile (also known as Joss Baselli) was one of France’s most popular accordionists in the 1950s and 60s. Rising to fame as the principal accompanist to French chanteuse Patachou, Basile later put out his own records as well. Some were formulaic (Rome with Love, Rio with Love… I think you’re getting the picture), but others (like his album with Brazilian jazz legends Bossa Tres) show what a virtuoso he really was.

Accordeon 2000 was a departure for Basile — an album full of futuristic originals with bizarre titles like “Pas de Camembert sur la Lune” and “Galaxie Valse.” Recorded with an electronic Cavagnolo Majorvox accordion, the resulting sound is far more like an organ than accordion, and helps creates a groovy, spaced-out vibe. Picture yourself in a flying car while listening to this track from Accordeon 2000:

[Found via Whoops]

NYC Main Squeeze Accordion Festival

Get ready for some big squeezin’ in the Big Apple — the 1st annual NYC Main Squeeze Accordion Festival will be held at Riverside Park South next Saturday (July 8th) from 2pm to 9pm. There’ll be music, dancing, food, and even an accordion flea market. Sponsored by Walter Kuhr’s Main Squeeze accordion shop, the all-female Main Squeeze Orchestra (mentioned here previously) will kick off the day, followed by performances from Guy Klucevsek, Proyeccion Norte?a, the John Nolan Trio, the Phoebe Legere Experience, the Balkan Brothers, Ernestilio y Su Conjunto, Jesse Lege & Bayou Brew, and more.

If you’re in the New York City area and can file a festival report for us, let us know. Our East Coast news bureau is woefully understaffed.

Martin White vs. Alice Cooper

Ever wondered how Britney Spears’ “Toxic” or Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” would sound if they were played on solo accordion? Well, thanks to accordionist Martin White, you no longer have to wonder. Martin’s made a name for himself playing whimsical covers of popular songs on accordion, and has appeared in a number of segments for The Culture Show on BBC 2. Here’s an unaired clip of Martin doing Alice Cooper’s “Poison”:

Lest you think Martin’s just a novelty act, check out his website and his albums of original music (usually instrumental, but there are a couple Edgar Allen Poe poems put to music as well). This tune from his Mystery Fax Machine Girl album shows there’s a definitely a serious musician in there… somewhere.

No Star for Weird Al… This Year

A few months ago, we wrote about a grassroots campaign to get Weird Al Yankovic a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Well, the campaign was a partial success: they raised enough money to submit an application, but unfortunately, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce passed Al over this year in favor of a list that included Matt Damon, Mariah Carey, and Erik Estrada. (Really. Erik Estrada!) So don’t worry, Al-coholics — if Erik can get his own star, Al’s can’t be far off.

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