Accordion, Instrument of the Gods

Accordion of the day: Fratelli Alessandrini’s “Celt”

Photo: An Alessandrini Celt accordion, whose body is made entirely out of wood.
Tap to see at full size.

Every once in a while, someone asks me how expensive accordions can get, and what you get for shelling out a lot of money. Pictured above is an example: The Celt, an accordion with Irish Tuning (I have no idea what that means) made by Fratelli Alessandrini (“Alessandrini Brothers”).

Unlike less expensive accordions — the kind I own, perhaps save the one that my friend Sean Galbraith gave to me — the Alessandrini Celt doesn’t have any plastic parts. The mechanical bits are metal, of course, but that’s a straight-up wood body, wood keys, wood switches, and wood grille.

Not only is it a visually beautiful instrument, but it also sounds beautiful. Here’s a demo video by The Squeezebox Shop in Scotland:

If you’re on Facebook, you can also check out this video of Ross Little enjoying his newly-purchased Celt in the great outdoors.

Photo: Still from video -- Close-up of piano keys and bellows on Alessandrini Celt.

And now, the price. For an accordion made with these materials and this kind of craftsmanship in small production runs, you can buy at The Squeezebox Shop for… £4,495.00. At today’s rates, that’s about $5,750 US.

I might wait until my LLC’s making a little more money before picking up one of these.

Recommended reading

Photo: A row of Alessandrini Celt accordions in various wood finishes.
Ooooooh. I want them all. Tap to see at full size.

The Squeezebox Shop has a regularly updated Facebook page for all your accordion fetishizing needs.

Also, for those of you new to this blog: How I became the Accordion Guy.

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me

All my sins remembered: Playing accordion at SxSW 2008

Joey deVilla plays accordion onstage in front of a panel at South by Southwest Interactive 2008 while Rannie Turingan looks on. You can see Tim Ferriss' name card (but not Tim himself).
Still one of the best photos of me playing. Tap the photo at full size.

I’ve had many great first weeks on the job, but this first week on the job had a particularly unfair advantage: I was working at b5media, and the timing was such that my first week on the job was the same week the company went to the South by Southwest Interactive Festival 2008 — that’s the one where Airbnb launched and got only two bookings.

I arrived on Day 1 of the festival and was going to spend a long time in the registration line, when some friends — Min Jung Kim and Rannie Turingan — who were on the “How to Kick Ass at Your First SxSW” panel heard I’d arrived. They somehow used their panel host powers to fast-track me through registration, bring me up to their panel (which was full of big names), and then play accordion for the audience.

That’s what the photo above shows. The best part? I’m literally upstaging Tim Ferriss.

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods Geek It Happened to Me Music Play Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

Joey deVilla playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" on accordion at Loser Karaoke

One of the songs in my MP3 collection that’s on heavy rotation is Cage the Elephant’s Beck-ish, slide-guitar southern-rock-y ode to “doin’ what you gotta”, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. It practically begs for an accordion version, so I’m learning it in order to add it to my repertoire, which could stand a little refreshing.

Joey deVilla playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" on accordion at Loser Karaoke with Jason Rolland in the background

While I haven’t learned the song well enough to perform it unaccompanied, I’ve had just enough practice to do it as an accordion karaoke number, which I did at last week’s Loser Karaoke. Loser Karaoke is a regular Thursday night event at Tequila Sunrise where having a good time trumps singing ability. It helps that Jason Rolland is an entertaining karaoke host. As an added bonus, it’s where a lot of the people from Accordion City’s high-tech, startup, social media entrepreneur scene come to cut loose. For more on Loser Karaoke, check out their Facebook page.

I should feel ashamed to say this, but a decade’s worth of public accordion playing has attenuated my ability to feel shame: the reason I know about Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked isn’t because I’m dialed into the alt-rock music scene. Thanks to middle age, I used to be with it, but they’ve since changed what “it” was. I know about the song because of…well, a video game. Namely, Borderlands, which uses the song in its intro sequence:

For the curious (and the fans), here’s Cage the Elephant’s official video for Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. Enjoy!

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods Music

Inside a Russian Accordion Factory

Close-up of accordion bellows and a detailed paint job featuring the image of a well-dressed bearded man.

John Bristowe pointed me to an article in English Russia featuring photos from a visit to a Russian accordion factory in Tula, a city known for a type of bisonoric button accordion (with bisonoric accordions, the buttons play different notes depending on whether you’re expanding or contracting the bellows) named after the city.

Woman assembling an accordion in a room full of them

“This musical instrument is undoubtedly one of the most popular nowadays,” goes the article. “First accordions appeared in Russia in the beginning of the 19th century, and thanks to original sounding and visual appeal, they soon became rather popular. Number of accordion masters has grown so much that their making became number two in Tula.”

Close-up of the treble buttons and grill on a red Tula accordion

The accordions that this factory makes are gorgeous, as are the photos in the article. If you’ve ever wondered how accordions are made, check out the article!

Woman applying glue to an accordion's bellows

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods Play

Happy Birthday, Jimmy Stewart!

jimmy stewart on accordion

He would’ve been 102 today. I’m celebrating his birthday because he’s a fellow accordion player, and like me, he’s played the accordion to make ends meet. When he graduated from Princeton with a degree in architecture during the great depression, there wasn’t any work in his field. He took a job playing accordion with a summer stock troupe in Cape Code, where he met Henry Fonda, got a role on Broadway and eventually ended up in film.

For more on Jimmy Stewart, see his entries in Finding Dulcinea and Wikipedia.

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me Music

Las Vegas Travel Diary: Playing Accordion at Cabo Wabo

Once upon a time, the great Van Halen were known for producing some really fun rock and roll. As far as I’m concerned, they haven’t been the same band since David Lee Roth left and Sammy Hagar took over as lead vocalist, and since Eddie Van Halen’s transformation from gifted guitarist and synth player into incoherent alcoholic with a penchant for Smoking Loon wine (which is pretty decent, if consumed in moderation).

Joey deVilla playing accordion with Dayna from 3 Digit IQ at Cabo Wabo Vegas

These days, the Van Halen guys are probably better known for their food-related side projects. Michael Anthony has a line of hot sauces and Sammy Hagar has a couple of nightclub/restaurants bearing the name Cabo Wabo, the newest one of which opened in Las Vegas in November.

Joey deVilla playing accordion with Dayna from 3 Digit IQ at Cabo Wabo Vegas

While in Vegas last week to attend the MIX10 conference, my coworkers and I dropped last Sunday to get some food and tequila:

Jamie Wakeam, Paul Laberga and Mark Arteaga

We ended up catching (and joining) the band 3 Digit IQ, who do a weekly live karaoke night there.

Joey deVilla playing accordion with Dayna from 3 Digit IQ at Cabo Wabo Vegas

Naturally, I had my accordion with me, and you’ve probably already guessed what happened.

Joey deVilla playing accordion with Dayna from 3 Digit IQ at Cabo Wabo Vegas

The video at the top of this article shows me doing a couple of numbers with them – I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones and Ritchie Valens’ hit, La Bamba – and the photos show some of the fun we had.

Joey deVilla playing accordion with Dayna and Jason from 3 Digit IQ at Cabo Wabo Vegas

I wasn’t the only one with an accordion; their keyboard player, Botielus, had his accordion with him, and we had a great time jamming.

Joey deVilla playing accordion with Jason and Botielus from 3 Digit IQ at Cabo Wabo Vegas

We stayed a bit longer than we’d planned to because people who join the band get free tequila (Sammy Hagar’s own brand, Cabo Wabo, which is pretty smooth stuff). Apparently people who bring accordions get free tequila for their whole table, and well, the night gets a little bit fuzzy from there. Rest assured, the local constabulary did not get involved.

Joey deVilla playing accordion with Dayna, Jason and Botielus from 3 Digit IQ at Cabo Wabo Vegas

My thanks to 3 Digit IQ and Cabo Wabo for the fun!

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me Music Play

Squeezin’ at the Society of the Secret Pickle

Photo by Jennifer Brown.

I did a fair bit of work massaging some presentations and software demos into shape last weekend, but there was also some downtime. The Ginger Ninja and I enjoyed dinner with the Accordion City foodie group/dinner club known as the Society of the Secret Pickle. The photo above shows me playing Happy Birthday to Pat, one of the guests at the event.

imagePhoto by Pat.

I’ll write more about the Society of the Secret Pickle and the lovely food we had later, but in the meantime, you might want to check out:

imagePhoto by Pat.