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!

The Sounds of San Antonio

Accordion lovers descended on San Antonio this past weekend for the International Accordion Festival, featuring two dozen artists from around the world performing conjunto, polka, tango, zydeco, and everything in between. Early reports indicate it was another fantastic festival. For those (like us) who couldn’t make it, check out these festival photos, including shots of Boise-based basque band Amuma Says No and one of our local Bay Area groups, Rupa and the April Fishes. Or watch this up-close video of conjunto pioneer Paulino Bernal performing “Idalia.”

Accordion Noir Festival in Vancouver

Accordion Noir festivalA heads-up for accordion fans north of the border — Vancouver’s all-accordion radio show Accordion Noir presents its first annual festival this Thursday and Friday. The two-day squeezebox-o-rama includes live performances from Geoff Berner, Amy Denio, and more, as well as a special screening of the Accordion Tribe documentary. Check our calendar for more information.

Broadcast every Friday night from 9:30 to 10:30 on Vancouver’s CFRO: Co-op Radio 102.7 FM, Accordion Noir is “ruthlessly pursuing the idea that the accordion is just another instrument” by playing an eclectic brew of punk, folk, rock, zydeco, klezmer, jazz, and everything in-between. The brainchild of Bruce Triggs and Rowan Lipkovits, you can listen online live or download episodes directly from the Accordion Noir website. It’s the perfect companion to an evening of browsing the Let’s Polka archives.

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 Über 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!

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.

Need more accordion? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

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.

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.

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:

Pawnshop Accordions at the Fringe

Tired of Mamma Mia and Jersey Boys? How about some accordion-inspired theatre instead? Playwright Jonathan Wallace’s latest work, Pawnshop Accordions, will run from August 9th through 16th as part of the annual New York International Fringe Festival.

“A hallucinatory drama of community and violence in New York’s netherworld,” Pawnshop Accordions tells the story of a cynical EMT, a mute accordionist, a sinister Albanian, and a prophetic schizophrenic struggle to protect one another. (Not exactly Fiddler on the Roof, eh?) The play features Gina Samardge (of the Maestrosities and Main Squeeze Orchestra) as Zaida, the mute accordionist, and she’ll perform live accordion music onstage, including traditional Eastern European and klezmer songs and original compositions.

« Newer posts · Older posts »