The Wedding Dance of Geoff Berner

Geoff BernerCanada’s answer to Jason Webley, Geoff Berner is another mad genius songwriter on the solo accordion circuit. Biting and hilarious, dark and depressing — often all at the same time — Berner’s been delving deeper into klezmer with each successive album. He’s also the author of the international bestseller, How to Be an Accordion Player.

With his latest album, The Wedding Dance of the Widow Bride, Berner continues his mission to “drag klezmer music into the bars kicking and screaming.” His raunchy, edgy take on klezmer may be blasphemous to some, but Berner insists that he’s simply getting in touch with the music’s emotional roots:

“In many ways [klezmer] was the punk rock of its time and place. These were the knockaround, hard-drinking, traveling people that you didn’t want your daughters to meet. These were not the classically trained musicians, and they were not always technical masters. They had something else to offer — they had guts in their playing.”

The album brings together the past and present, combining punk attitude with traditional Jewish wedding music. Aside from one Leonard Cohen cover, the songs are all original and inspired by traditional wedding song forms; for instance, “Weep Bride Weep” updates the traditional “Song to Make the Bride Weep” and “Song to Reconcile” is a dance to bring the in-laws together. It’s definitely an album worth slipping to the DJ at the next wedding you attend.

This Week in Accordion: Smythe’s Anniversary

What’s happening this week in accordion land?

  • Smythe’s 9th Anniversary Accordion Party (Saturday in Oakland, CA)
    Smythe’s Accordion Center, one of the Bay Area’s finest accordion shops, celebrates its 9th anniversary in style. Performers include The Lemon Lime Lights, Vermillion Lies, and Charity Chan.
  • AAMS Festival (Friday-Sunday in Valley Forge, PA)
    The American Accordion Musicological Society (say that three times fast) is having its 20th annual Festival and Symposium with a full lineup of concerts and workshops, including performances by Tony Lovello, Vitaliy Pirog, and Lidia Kaminska.
  • Sturrfest 2007 (Friday in West Palm Beach, FL)
    16-time Grammy winner Jimmy Sturr brings his polka party to West Palm Beach for a show that includes Boots Randolph, Michael Rose and The Calhoun Twins.

As usual, this is a just a small sample of the accordion events listed on our calendar this week. If you have an accordion event to promote, let us know!

Accordions at 9 Chickweed Lane

Today's 9 Chickweed Lane offers a definition of accordion

A light chuckle from this morning’s funnies, courtesy of 9 Chickweed Lane. Though I think accordions are something all our visitors can agree on. (Thanks David!)

Mad Maggies vs Black Donnellys

If you’ve been watching prime-time TV on NBC lately, you’ve seen their barrage of commercials for a new show called The Black Donnellys. The show follows four Irish-American brothers living in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and depicts their transformation from boys to mobsters. Now a show about rowdy Irish-American guys has to have some accordion in it, right?

As it turns out… it does! The pilot episode, airing next Monday at 10pm (after Heroes), features a tune by eclectic Bay Area band The Mad Maggies. Keep your ears open about seven minutes into the show as “Sleepy Maggie”, a Mad Maggiefied version of a traditional reel, plays over a slow-motion fight scene. You can hear more on their excellent new album, Magdalena’s Revenge. And don’t forget to set your Tivo!

Flickr Find: Accordion Ice Sculpture

Accordion Ice Sculpture from the Festival du Voyageur in Winnipegacordian man [sic], uploaded by nerdvin

Ice sculptures are the hallmark of any good winter festival and the annual Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg, Canada, is no exception. Each year, the festival hosts an “International Snow Sculpting Symposium” where artists from around the world express themselves through snow. This shot depicts a larger-than-life accordion player sitting in the back of a canoe. Must be hard to move those bellows when they’re made of ice…

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Daccorduett: It Takes Two

Enjoy jazz or showtunes? Check out Daccorduett — a new project from singer Konni Deppe and accordionist Andreas Hermeyer. Together, they give warm treatments to classic melodies like Henry Mancini’s “Crazy World” and “You and Me” (both from Victor/Victoria). They’ve played a handful of shows in Germany so far and are hoping to release a full album sometime this summer.

Los Tigres Still Have Bite

Like a norteño version of the Rolling Stones, Los Tigres del Norte show no signs of slowing down. Even after forty years and selling over 30 million records, the Hernández brothers (and cousin Oscar Lara) still play to packed houses night after night. In the late 60s and early 70s they revolutionized norteño music with electric instruments, pop/rock beats, and corridos about life on the border. Even today, Los Tigres don’t just sing to their audience, they sing about them — telling stories of the joys and heartaches of Mexican immigrants struggling to make it in America.

Last weekend, Los Tigres received glowing write-ups from both the Washington Post and the New York Times. The Washington Post article frames their story in the context of today’s immigration debate — showing how, despite their fame, they manage to stay close to their fans and stand up for them in their music. As bassist Hernán Hernández says, “People don’t just go [to our concerts] to party, they go for a purpose.” Don’t miss the excellent slideshow accompanying the article.

Meanwhile, the New York Times review of their concert at Brooklyn’s Bedford Armory depicts the bouncy, electric atmosphere of a show that lasted until 3am. Sounds like lead singer and accordionist Jorge Hernández had no trouble keeping the crowd going:

“… Adding stabs of accordion chords, he kept working through his battery of gestures of respect or supplication or triumph: doffing his cowboy hat and holding it out with arm fully extended, then putting it back in place, raising his fingers to his lips or his heart, putting forth a fist and shaking it once to signify firmness. He moved entirely in slow motion as the beat pumped behind him, and he was mesmerizing.”

Los Tigres del Norte have a new album due out on March 27 called Detalles y Emociones. The track below is from their most recent album, Historias Que Contar, which won “Best Norteño Album” at last weekend’s Grammys.

This Week in Accordion: Mardi Gras!

Lots of accordion happenings on the calendar this week — especially if you’re a fan of Cajun/zydeco music:

  • Mardi Gras (Tuesday in various locations)
    Tomorrow is Mardi Gras (aka “Fat Tuesday”) and the zydeco bands are out in full force across the country. Buckwheat Zydeco, Rosie Ledet, and CJ Chenier are just a few of the folks playing tomorrow. Check our Cajun/zydeco events page for more.
  • Beale Street Zydeco Festival (Saturday/Sunday in Memphis, TN)
    Didn’t get enough zydeco on Tuesday? This weekend, Beale Street turns into Bourbon Street as zydeco heavyweights like Keith Frank, Terrance Simien, and Roy Carrier invade Memphis.
  • Withrow Winter Wonderland Polka Dance (Sunday in Hugo, MN)
    It’s never too cold to polka! This once-in-a-lifetime event features Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones and the long-awaited reunion of the Dobosenski Brothers and the Cavaliers. The Dobosenski Brothers and the Cavaliers were one of the hot Minnesota polka bands of the 70s and 80s and haven’t played together in 25 years!

I’ve also added some often-requested features to the calendar itself. You can now search for events in your area — just type in your city and state and we’ll show you what we have listed. Also, when you’re looking at an event listing, we’ll show you other upcoming events in the same area. Check it out.

Of course, if you don’t find any events in your area or, worse, you know about an event but don’t see it on our calendar… tell us about it!

Guyland’s a Weiner… er, Winner

The ad wizards at Oscar Meyer recently held a nationwide contest to find a new voice for their “I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener…” jingle. After sifting through thousands of entries and public voting on twenty finalists, they finally have five winners — one of whom is eight-year-old zydeco accordion prodigy, Guyland Leday. We should see a TV commercial with Guyland and his accordion sometime later this year. In the meantime, you can watch Guyland’s winning performance on the Oscar Meyer website.

Polka Side of the Moon

“We don’t need no education… we don’t need no thought control…” But what we do need are more bands like Polka Floyd, which plays — you guessed it — polka-style covers of Pink Floyd songs. There’s a rough clip of “Another Brick in the Wall” up on their MySpace page and it’s actually not half-bad. Polka fans might recognize two of the band’s members (accordionist Eric Hite and drummer Frank Dramczyk) from Eddie Biegaj’s Crusade.

If you’re in the Toledo area and have always wanted to hear Dark Side of the Moon with a 2/4 beat, you can catch Polka Floyd tonight at Mickey Finn’s Pub.

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