Flickr Find: Webley-o-Lantern

Jason Webley jack-o-lanternJack-o-Lantern, originally uploaded by RJL20

There’s still an hour of Halloween left, which is plenty of time to share this photo of a beautifully spooky jack-o-lantern based on a Jason Webley t-shirt design. Jason has a new album out, The Cost of Living, which is his first solo album in three years. He’s backed by his excellent touring band and the result is more rock ‘n’ roll than his previous stuff. If you missed it, be sure to check out our recent interview with Jason, conducted before the Monsters of Accordion tour.

Squeeze Play at Red Sox Parade

Jonathan Papelbon dances with Dropkick Murphys

Some of you already know that Anna and I are huge Red Sox fans; we even flew out to Boston for the World Series parade when the Sox won in 2004. We didn’t make the trip this year, but I almost wish we had after seeing these photos of Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon dancing a jig with Boston’s own accordion-toting Dropkick Murphys during today’s celebration. The Dropkick Murphys have become the unofficial house band of the Red Sox lately, re-recording the 100-year-old bleacher anthem “Tessie” in 2004 and performing on the field before Game 7 of the ALCS two weeks ago.

This Week in Accordion: Blackpot Festival

After spending the weekend adding a bunch of new events, it’s time to check what’s happening on our accordion calendar this week:

  • Blackpot Festival and Cookoff (Fri-Sat in Lafayette, LA)
    A blackpot cookoff, an accordion contest, and nonstop Cajun/Zydeco music highlight this Acadiana festival. Lots of hot young bands on tap, including Pine Leaf Boys, Red Stick Ramblers, Lafayette Rhythm Devils, and more.
  • Wurstfest (Fri-next Sun in New Braunfels, TX)
    What could be better than a ten-day salute to sausage? This tribute to German culture (Texas style) features numerous German bands, as well as performances by Jimmy Sturr and Brave Combo.
  • Fall Polka Festival (Fri-Sun in Champion, PA)
    The Seven Springs Resort hosts eleven top polka bands in a weekend festival. Performers include Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones, Polka Family, Phocus, and more.

Have an accordion event to share? Let us know and we’ll add it to the calendar.

Those Darn Accordions: Squeeze Machine

Those Darn Accordions: Squeeze MachineWhat started as a lark — an accordion gang raiding San Francisco restaurants to play “Lady of Spain” — has turned into a very productive career for Those Darn Accordions. Their latest album, Squeeze Machine, continues the tradition of accordion rock and oddball humor that has made the band “America’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll accordion band” for more than 15 years.

The band has clearly evolved since the early days when they’d cram eight accordions on stage. Their older records leaned heavily on squeezebox-specific kitsch: songs about Lawrence Welk and all-accordion renditions of rock classics (often with octogenarian Clyde Forsman on vocals). But while the old TDA was an accordion band that played rock songs, the modern-day TDA is really a rock band that just happens to sport a few accordions. They’ve pared down the accordion lineup to four, turned the focus from covers to originals, and tightened up their sound.

One thing hasn’t changed, though: they’re still having a hell of a lot of fun. Lead singer/songwriter Paul Rogers populates the album with a cast of colorful characters, ranging from a disgruntled member of a Beatles tribute band (“This Song”), to a squabbling bicycling couple (“Tandem Bike”), and a Willy Loman-esque traveling salesman (“Wrinkle Suit”). Cleveland native (and new “Price is Right” host) Drew Carey even shows up to help renovate a house on “Glass of Beer Polka.”

Meanwhile, the band doesn’t stick to any one genre for long, trading rock ‘n’ roll for country hoedowns (“Heads and Horns”) and swing (“Cocktails in Tehran”) when the mood strikes. On some tracks, heavy wah-wah-like effects make you wonder if you’re actually listening to accordions at all. (You are.) And, of course, there are still a couple covers — AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and “It’s Now or Never” both get the TDA treatment. (Longtime fans may remember that a version of the latter appeared on the band’s first album, Vongole Fisarmonica, too.)

Squeeze Machine does an excellent job showcasing TDA‘s strengths: catchy, offbeat, high-energy, accordion-driven tunes. It’s tough to keep things fresh after 15 years, but Those Darn Accordions are clearly up to the challenge.

How It’s Made: Diatonic Accordions

If you’ve ever wondered how a diatonic accordion is built, this five-minute video from the Science Channel show “How It’s Made” is the perfect introduction. It follows Raynald Ouellet as he builds a one-row diatonic accordion at his workshop, Accordéon Mélodie in Quebec. (In addition to making beautiful accordions, Ouellet is a fantastic player and founder of the annual festival Carrefour mondial de l’accordéon.) From sealing reeds to fashioning bellows, it’s an excellent overview of building a diatonic accordion.

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Story Time With The Great Morgani

The Great MorganiIf you’re in Santa Cruz tonight, head on down to Bookshop Santa Cruz for a one-of-a-kind book signing with colorful accordionist, The Great Morgani. He’ll be signing his new autobiography, The Great Morgani: The Creative Madness of a Middle-Aged Stockbroker Turned Street Musician, which depicts many of the outrageous costumes he’s created throughout the years. Of course, he’ll be performing, too.

For those who aren’t familiar with The Great Morgani (aka Frank Lima), he’s become a fixture in the Santa Cruz area, performing downtown and at various festivals while covered head-to-toe in mind-blowing, homemade costumes. Most people would never guess that Lima was originally a stock broker who retired at 35 and didn’t start performing as The Great Morgani until after he was 50. Today, he’s 65 and still spends hours with his sewing machine and glue gun putting together new costumes.

“It all depends on the body… I’m doing more now than ever. As long as it’s fun and creative, I’ll keep going. But if you see me at age 85 on a 3-foot stool wearing gold lycra, please intervene.”

Quick Links: October 22, 2007

Squeezin’ Cool Jazz: Cory Pesaturo

Cory PesaturoDo you dig jazz accordion? Yesterday’s Boston Globe has a glowing review of a recent performance by Cory Pesaturo, a 21-year-old jazz accordionist from Boston. Pesaturo is the only accordion player at the New England Conservatory of Music and, according to the Globe, “makes the instrument sound as natural and native to jazz as the saxophone or trumpet.”

Pesaturo switches between acoustic and digital accordions, using the latter to play solos as different “instruments” simultaneously. In an interview with the Providence Journal, he mentions how people are often surprised by the accordion’s versatility:

“It catches people’s eyes, and you can do anything with it. Most people think it’s only the polka box, but you can do totally everything.”

He’s just released a new album, Change in the Weather, with saxophonist George Garzone, who’s a teacher at the Conservatory where Pesaturo is a student. Here’s their rendition of a Cole Porter classic from that album:

International Accordion Festival Wrapup

This year’s International Accordion Festival in San Antonio has come and gone, but thanks to the magic of the interweb, we can live vicariously through reports and photos from folks who were actually there. Some highlights:

  • On his blog, Joe Nick Patoski has an excellent writeup on the festival, along with photos of the opening night concert that featured Santiago Jimenez, Jr. and Chango Spasiuk.
  • The festival’s hometown paper, the San Antonio Express-News, has a recap of the first two days. Their Night Lights Now blog includes a bunch of photos and hands out festival awards that include “Most radically altered accordion” and “Best dressed band.”
  • Those Darn Accordions have a couple posts about the festival on their blog, including some photos of their workshop, “Calling All Accordion Grrrrls!”
  • Mister Anchovy has a ton of great photos from his trip to the festival, including some from a side-trip to Louisiana.
  • Kay Douglas has some fantastic photos of the festival, with descriptions of many of the bands.

Were you there, too? Drop us a line if you have any photos or videos of the festival and we’ll add the links here.

Accordion Conquers European Dancefloors

The accordion has always been the ultimate dance/party instrument and this video for “Heater” by Samim confirms it. This minimal techno track was one of the summer’s biggest club hits, tearing up dance floors from Ibiza to Berlin. Bruce over at Accordion Noir sent us the video, which features a prominent accordion sample from the classic Colombian cumbia, “La Cumbia Cienaguera.”

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