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).
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.
While in Vegas last week to attend the MIX10 conference, my coworkers and I dropped last Sunday to get some food and tequila:
We ended up catching (and joining) the band 3 Digit IQ, who do a weekly live karaoke night there.
Naturally, I had my accordion with me, and you’ve probably already guessed what happened.
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.
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.
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.
My thanks to 3 Digit IQ and Cabo Wabo for the fun!
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.
Photo 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:
Yes, that Dolph Lundgren – the guy who played “Ivan Drago” in Rocky IV and the cyborg preacher in Johnny Mnemonic. Here he is, bringing the house down with the long-underappreciated Elvis single as part of his co-hosting duties for Melodifestivalen, the event where the Swedish entry for the Eurovision Song Contest is chosen. He doesn’t just sing, he also dances, plays the drums, does some martial arts and rocks the black tie look:
How could I not like OMC’s one hit, How Bizarre? It’s a catchy little pop tune penned by a Pacific Islander that features the accordion (the credits say that Hershal Herscher played it) prominently. Although it has a happy “Pacific Rim pop” sound with its C-G-F chord progression, its bounciness belies its subject matter: gang life and trouble with the cops, New Zealand style. It’s a gangsta campfire song!
Released in New Zealand in 1995, it went triple platinum there, an achievement that Wikipedia says had not been surpassed as of 2005. In 1996 it found its way into the Australian, British and Canadian charts and even did well in the U.S., despite its being released for radio airplay only and not as a commercially-available single. How Bizarre sold nearly 4 million records between 1995 and 2000, making it the best-selling one ever to be recorded and released by a Kiwi band. (Somewhere, the guys from Split Enz are fuming.)
No visit to Halifax is complete without a stop to the Lower Deck pub for a pint (or five), and no rock band is complete without an accordion. A fortunate combination of the two came about when I went to Halifax to help run TechDays there in early November, and it resulted in the performance recorded in the video above, in which I joined the band for a rousing and drunken version of Steppenwolf’s classic, Born to Be Wild. Let this be a reminder to you: the accordion is not just a machine that creates music; it also creates serendipity.
Oddly enough, the band had never played the number before, but that never deterred them from doing so in front of an audience, and they played it as if it were a well-established part of their repertoire. This is not the first time that this has happened either – the Zaitchik Brothers, the band at our wedding reception, had also never played Born to Be Wild before, but we brought the house down. I’ll have to post a video of that one sometime.
I think that there’s something so basic, so primal, so inherently rock-and-roll-y in Born to Be Wild that it’s encoded into the genetic memory of rock musicians and hence they can play it on command without having rehearsed it.