The Weekend That Was

If you missed the Monsters of Accordion tour, which wrapped up this past weekend in Seattle, you can download a podcast with highlights from Spokane7. The podcast has clips from the Monsters’ Spokane show, including performances by Karli Fairbanks’ new band Power Und Beauty, Amy Denio, Duckmandu, Mark Growden, and Jason Webley. The Spokane7 website also features a great video of Webley performing “Dance While The Sky Crashes Down.”

Kimric Smythe, owner of Smythe’s Accordion Center, also posted an excellent video of the Monsters of Accordion Master Class that took place before their Oakland show. Watch as Duckmandu and Jason Webley lead an eager class of accordion students through a spirited rendition of “California Ãœber Alles.”

Meanwhile, we’ve posted a handful of photos from last weekend’s Cotati Accordion Festival. We didn’t get to stay as long as we usually do — having a six-month-old will do that — but we still heard some great music and enjoyed chatting with our squeezebox buddies, old and new. If you have any photos or videos to share from either of these events, leave a comment and link ’em up!

Flickr Find: Psychedelic Accordionist

Jon Hammond, “World’s First Psychedelic Accordionist” (1971), uploaded by laterent2000

Some of you may know organist/accordionist Jon Hammond from his long-running, Manhattan jazz show, “The Jon Hammond Show,” or from his work as one of the world’s premier Hammond B3 organ players. In the early ’70s, though, Jon lived the true rock and roll accordion life — pumping his bellows (a Giulietti Classic electric accordion) and wearing fantastically loud, rainbow-striped pants. Those were the days, indeed.

Let’s Polka in the Palo Alto Weekly

The Saccheri FamilyWe often link to profiles of accordionists in newspapers around the globe, but today we’re linking to something a bit closer to home. In our own house, actually. This weekend’s issue of the Palo Alto Weekly has a very flattering cover story on our family and how accordion music brought Anna and I together (and inspired this site):

“Fast forward to 2003… A girl named Anna messaged Saccheri on Friendster. She said she liked accordions too, that she’d been playing since high school. After exchanging a few e-mails, the couple started dating. The end of the story is the stuff of fairy tales: They’re now living happily ever after in accordion-playing bliss with their 6-month-old daughter Sarah in a little house near the Stanford campus.”

Thanks to Jill Kimball, Marjan Sadoughi, Karla Kane, and everyone else at the Weekly for the excellent article!

Cotati Calling

Every August, accordionists from around the country converge on a small Northern California town for two days of nonstop squeezebox madness. It’s the 18th annual Cotati Accordion Festival, taking place this Saturday and Sunday, and featuring a diverse lineup that includes Dick Contino, Vagabond Opera, Polka Freakout, Limpopo, Brian Jack and the Zydeco Gamblers, and many more. There’s also a polka tent, accordion-related vendors, and the annual “Lady of Spain” ring and the releasing of the doves. (Really!)

If you’ve never been to the festival, here’s a great set of video clips from Sonoma Uncorked to give you a taste:

Are you headed to Cotati? Leave a comment on this post and let us know. We’ll be there on Sunday, so if you see us — I’ll be wearing a red Let’s Polka shirt — so say “hi” and I’ll give you some stickers.

Future Accordionists of America

Forget the Olympics or the election — it’s the humble accordion that’s grabbing headlines in major newspapers from coast to coast this week. Last weekend’s American Accordionists’ Association festival gave both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times an excuse to hop on the “accordion revival” bandwagon. Best of all, both papers focused on the festival’s young attendees — the next generation of accordionists.

In “A Celebration of the Squeezebox”, the New York Times talks to 15-year-old John Moceo and 18-year-old Anthony Falco, who notes “it’s up to our generation to bring in rock songs.” Meanwhile, New York accordionist Benjamin Ickies nicely sums up the accordion’s ability to bridge the gap between old and young:

“The accordion’s in our cultural past, so it sounds somewhat familiar… But for 30 years it’s also been a complete outsider, so it also sounds new and fresh. No other instrument has that dichotomy.”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times article, “Accordions are Not Just a Punch Line Anymore”, covers the well-worn story of the accordion’s rise and fall in American popular culture, but looks with optimism at its future — talking to 22-year-old Cory Pesaturo and John Moceo. Don’t miss the excellent video of several teenage accordionists playing and talking about their favorite instrument.

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Top 5 Accordion Rock Songs?

In honor of the American Accordionists Association’s annual festival — going on this weekend in Arlington, Virginia — the Washington Times published a list of its top five accordion rock songs. (We’ll try to ignore the fact that they misspelled “accordion.”) Their list:

  • “Squeeze Box” by The Who
  • “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” by Bruce Springsteen
  • “Jenny’s Got a Pony” by Los Lobos
  • “Back Street Girl” by The Rolling Stones
  • “If I Should Fall from Grace With God” by The Pogues

For some reason, they ruled out crossover acts like BeauSoleil and Buckwheat Zydeco, but even then, I still think they’re missing some winners. What would make your list of top accordion rock songs? Leave a comment and let us know.

Quick Links: El Parche, Amoriental, and Revolution

  • Live Review: Steve Jordan Tribute
    Austin360 reviews Sunday’s Steve Jordan tribute concert in Austin. Despite recently undergoing treatment for liver cancer, Jordan played a rockin’ 45-minute set; check out a clip of him performing with Little Joe.
  • Amoriental Accordion
    My French is rusty — Sylvie, can you help? — but the Amoriental appears to be a brand new accordion created by Thierry Bénétoux, who’s trying to bring the best of Eastern and Western music together in one instrument (note the unique button alignment). The site is short on details, but promises an unveiling next month at the Festival Des Nuits De Nacre.
  • Accordion Revolution
    This fun video slideshow, put together by Abbie Stillie and Katey Gries, includes interviews with members of Accordions Anonymous and the Bad Mitten Orchestre about the accordion’s resurgent popularity.

Return of the Monsters of Accordion

Monsters of AccordionLock up your kids! The Monsters of Accordion all-accordion road show is back and ready to take the West Coast by storm. This year’s tour — which starts Thursday in Santa Rosa — is bigger than ever, with stops in ten cities including San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle. Tour organizer Jason Webley is headlining once again; Mark Growden, Amy Denio, and Duckmandu will join him for every stop. Meanwhile, each show will include special local guests, including Eric Stern of Vagabond Opera, Dan Cantrell, Mrs. Hobbs, and many more.

As an added bonus this time out, the Monsters will be holding “Accordion Monster Master Classes” in Oakland (August 17) and Seattle (August 24). Class topics will include “choosing an accordion, left-hand technique, DIY instrument repair, audience participation, accordion for punks, repairing your van with a handgun, and the role of the accordionist in the digital era.”

Anna and I went to the show in San Francisco last year and it was easily one of the best (and most fun!) accordion events we’ve ever attended. Check out our photos and a video of the incomparable Corn Mo performing “We Are the Champions,” then make your plans to catch this year’s tour.

An Ode to Food Poisoning

Anna had a nasty bout with food poisoning earlier this week, so to speed her recovery, here’s a video from Slim’s Cyder Co. called “Is it Love or Food Poisoning?” We’ve mentioned Slim and his gang before; they’ve been playing fun-loving, accordion-fueled country/rockabilly around the UK for more than fifteen years. Here’s hoping the next time Anna’s tummy feels queasy, it really is love and not food poisoning…

Steve Jordan Tribute in Austin

Steve JordanHe goes by many names: Esteban, Steve, “El Parche,” “accordion wizard,” or even “the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion.” No matter what you call him, though, there’s no denying that Esteban “Steve” Jordan is one of the most innovative and influential accordion players ever to pick up the instrument.

Born in Texas in 1939 as one of 15 children, Jordan was partially blinded as an infant and has worn his trademark eye patch (“el parche”) ever since. He made numerous conjunto records during the early 1960s, but by the end of the decade he started exploring and incorporating other musical styles into his work. He fused Latin jazz, salsa, rock, and blues with traditional rancheras and polkas, bringing new rhythms into the conjunto fold. Jordan also forged ahead with new technology, using electronic devices like phase shifters and fuzzboxes to shape his sound, and collaborating with Hohner on his custom Tex-Mex Rockordeon. In 1982, he was one of the first musicians inducted into the Tejano Conjunto Hall of Fame.

This Sunday afternoon, there’ll be a concert in Steve’s honor at the H&H Ballroom in Austin. The list of performers is like a “Who’s Who” of Conjunto/Tejano music — Little Joe, Max Baca and the Texmaniacs, Conjunto Los Pinkys, and a special performance by Steve Jordan himself. For those of us who can’t make it to the show, here’s a classic Steve Jordan track that was included on the Legends of the Accordion compilation:

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