Polka Haunt Us Makes Every Day Halloween

Polka Haunt UsLet’s face it: there’s a frightful shortage of good Halloween music. (I swear, if I hear “Monster Mash” one more time…) Veronique Chevalier agrees, which is why she’s put together Polka Haunt Us, a “spook-tacular” compilation of 13 songs based on famous ghostly legends from around the world. The album combines various polka styles with world music genres and then layers spooky/goofy lyrics on top to create what Veronique dubs “World Gothic Polka.”

The album’s opener, “The Beer Hall in Hell,” parodies the classic beer-glorification polkas, but “there’s no last call in Hell and this polka never stops.” “After Wife Polka Tango” recalls the ghost of Eva Peron, while “White Witch of Jamaica” is based on the tale of 18th century serial killer Annie Palmer. Accordionists Alex Meixner (a Grammy nominee last year), Mike Surratt, and Gee Rabe all contribute to the bubbling musical brew.

If you’re in Southern California, there’s a Polka Haunt Us release party tonight at Club Good Hurt in Santa Monica. In addition to performances by Veronique, Count Smokula, The Rhythm Coffin, and others, the first 100 paid guests will receive a free copy of the CD. Trick or treat!

Flickr Find: Mysterious Monster Accordion

Mysterious Monster Accordionmysterious monster accordion, uploaded by tinyprayers

Our friend Dave came across this gigantic accordion on display in Virginia City, Montana. As noted in the caption, it is “Unfinished, with at least an extra octave of keys, and 192 (!) bass buttons.” Wow. That’s a whole lotta accordion! (Thanks, Dave!)

Jimmy Stewart, Accordion-Toting Cowboy

I remember reading that Jimmy Stewart got his start by playing accordion, but I had never him play until I found this clip from the 1957 Western, Night Passage. In the film, Stewart plays an ex-railroad man (and traveling accordion player) who tries to prove himself by defending a payroll train from a gang of outlaws. Unfortunately, this clip is dubbed in Spanish, but you can still hear Stewart squeezing and singing “You Can’t Get Far Without a Railroad”:

Chocolate Accordion Cake (Yum!)

Chocolate Accordion CakeWhen Debbie Budd’s father turned 80 years old, she didn’t bake him an ordinary cake. No sir, she made this delicious masterpiece — a chocolate accordion cake complete with white chocolate buttons and chocolate icing bellows. The cake is a full-size replica of a two-row button accordion that Debbie bought her father as a birthday gift. Read Debbie’s instructions to learn how to make your own, or check out this YouTube video where Debbie points out some of the cake’s finer details. (Anyone else need a glass of milk after seeing that cake?)

[Found via TDA’s Wall of Wheeze]

Kimmo Pohjonen is One Crazy Dude

Kimmo Pohjonen: Earth Machine MusicAs someone who comes from a long line of farmers, I’m no stranger to tractors and farm equipment. But I never thought of using their sounds in music, which is why I’m not a famous avant-garde musician like Finnish accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen. He toured four UK farms and recorded the sounds of tractors, milking machines, threshers, and more, so he could tweak, loop, and sample them with his MIDI accordion for his project, “Earth Machine Music.”

“When you amplify and equalise those sounds, and you have a great PA, you can suddenly hear music and rhythms. I’m sure people who come to the concerts will be surprised at what great sounds they have. These are kind of forgotten sounds. Everybody knows them, and everybody knows accordion sounds, too – but not like this.”

Next month, Pohjonen will revisit those farms for a series of concerts in which he’ll perform new music he has composed specifically for each venue. Local farmers will even “play along” with Pohjonen, firing up their tractors and machinery during the performance. There’s even a documentary film in the works. I wonder if it will spawn a whole new genre of agricultural accordionists…

Update: I found a YouTube clip of Pohjonen discussing the project, as well as a piece in the Telegraph.

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Uwe Steger’s MIDI Madness

Fellow accordion blogger Squeezyboy tipped us to this crazy video by German accordionist Uwe Steger showing off some of his extensions for the Roland V-Accordion. I’m usually not a fan of MIDI accordions, but I’ll admit his bizarre demo makes me want to try one. And don’t be fooled by the zaniness — Steger is an accomplished accordionist, taking second place at Roland’s 1st annual V-Accordion contest last year.

The Law Accordion to Hanson Bridgett

You wouldn’t think one of San Francisco’s oldest law firms would have much to do with accordions, but then along comes this quirky commercial for Hanson Bridgett that incorporates not one, but three accordion players. Blending polka, zydeco, and conjunto, the three accordionists featured are Tom Torriglia, Gerard Landry and Miguel Govea. I still have no idea how they relate to law, but I like it.

The Mysterious Pianaccord

Robotti PianaccordMore than a year ago, I wrote about a strange stand-up accordion that I found on eBay. I couldn’t find much information about it online, but there appeared to be a handful of them lurking around the country. This week, I got wind of another one: a Robotti Pianaccord that Bill Horton is selling on eBay. Here’s his description:

“It was passed down to me by my Italian grandfather. Unfortunately, he passed away before I got the story on it. Mine is fully functional, and I have enjoyed playing it… I have 2 names on mine. One is Robotti, the other is Pianaccord. I have not been able to find a whole lot of info on these at all… I contacted an appraiser from the antiques roadshow, and he said that the only one he had ever come across was bought by one of his friends as a decorative piece.”

Does anyone out there know more about the history behind these instruments? Are they all made by the same person? (This one has a “Robotti” nameplate, but the ones we saw previously said “Bonvicini”.) Leave a comment if you have any experience with one of these “stand-up” accordions.

Accordion Crackdown in Norway

File this one under “Buskers Gone Bad”: Police in Tromsø, Norway, are cracking down on accordion street musicians after fielding numerous complaints from residents. Police chief Truls Fyhn says:

“The reports we’ve had indicate that people are being driven mad by the tunes coming from the accordions all day long… I have myself stopped to listen, and let me make it clear: The quality of the music is very, very low.”

Ouch, that’s a harsh review. According to the article, it’s now only legal to play accordion music outside in the city’s main central square. I think what this town really needs is some better accordion players; who’s up for a trip?

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.”

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