Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me

Accordion News for July 27th, 2008

Accordion Death Squad

Accordion Death Squad

Brian Jepson forwarded me an email with the preface “Couldn’t let this sit in my inbox without sending it to Accordion Guy!” The email announced some bands coming to his home area (he’s deep in Family Guy country), including an intriguing one called Accordion Death Squad. How could I not like a band with a name like that and a description like this?

Accordian Death Squad come from Ratsylvania, where we would dance, play music, fight, strip off all our clothes, blacksmith, and generally carry on without work of a mundane sort. A few of us decided to venture away from our past haven and found ourselves traveling dusty freight cars through a strange God-soaked place called the U.$.A.. Our instruments: accordions, cello, fiddle, mandolin, toy piano, guitar, tenor banjo.

America’s Got Talent Doesn’t Like Accordions

Here’s a clip from America’s Got Talent in which an accordion-playing duo get rejected simply for their instrument of choice. It’s a pity, because their technique is excellent:

Chris from the blog Let’s Polka writes:

I try to avoid watching reality TV because it usually just makes me angry. For example, take this clip from the latest episode of America’s Got Talent in which Branson accordionists Dan and Kim Christian get the boot simply because they play the accordion.

“If there’s one thing worse than an accordion, it’s two accordions.” But what about three accordions? Or five accordions? Or (gasp) fourteen? Frankly, I don’t think you can ever have too many accordions.

Keeping the Accordion Alive in South Florida

The Accordion Club of South Florida is keeping the accordion alive:

[Club organizer Peter Lapira] said the goal is to get as many different groups together to see how many they can perfect including jazz, tango and rock ‘n’ roll accordion groups.

“For people who think the accordion is goofy, they are so wrong. It is a wonderful instrument,” he said. “You really become a one-man band. We are the only country that doesn’t have young people playing the accordion.”

Squeezin’ in Montana

Five Valley Accordion Association Jam

The Five Valley Accordion Association has been carrying the accordion torch for 22 years in the area of Missoula, Montana, and their annual jam took place this weekend:

It was a freestyle jam on an old porch under a blue sky, with young and old squeezing out some classic tunes – age 17 to age Reineohl. The only thing missing was an old bloodhound cuddled up next to someone’s feet, but the chorus of stringed and aerophone instruments kept young and old dancing and clapping.

With more than 200 dues-paying members, the FVAA is filled with accordionists and accordion fans across western Montana. Most, said FVAA secretary Nancy Kopszywa, are folks who just love to show up and dance. In fact, there are only about 20 or so members of the FVAA who actually play the accordion, though all play an instrument of some sort.

Mike Jones, of Victor, serves as this year’s FVAA president. The group gets together a couple of times a month, but the annual picnic and weekend jam is the most important gathering of the year.

“We get together twice a month, but this is definitely the highlight,” he said.

Reineohl, who was born in 1914, picked up the accordion and the banjo at a young age.

Though the average age of those at Friday’s jam session was probably approaching 65, Reineohl said the accordion is definitely making a comeback.

“It’s coming back to life fast,” he said. “A lot of country western bands around are using them. They’re a good lead instrument.”

Notably absent at Friday’s performance was any hint of a polka. And that’s just fine with Reineohl.

“The main thing with the accordion is that you think polka,” he said. “But you can play anything on an accordion.”

BlackBerry + Accordion = Any Tune, Any Time, Anywhere

Dorian Logan assists Joey deVilla at Kickass Karaoke, sometime in 2003
Dorian Logan assists me at a Kickass Karaoke back in 2003. I have no idea what’s up with my eyes — I’m either looking at the screen or in some kind of accordion trance.

Last night, I was at the 9th anniversary of Carson T. Foster’s karaoke night, Kickass Karaoke. Although I haven’t been making it to Kickass Karaoke as often as I used to, I still consider myself part of the Kickass Karaoke family of regulars who’ve been belting out the tunes with Carson. I’d like to thank Carson for the music and all his support, and especially for making my mother-in-law feel at home when she came to a karaoke night while I was out of town.

One of the tricky things about bringing an instrument to karaoke is that it adds another constraint to what you can play: not only do you need to be familiar with the song, you also have to know its chords. Sometimes you get a hint when the karaoke disc announces which key the song is in at the start, but most of the time, you’re on your own.

I used to prep for Kickass Karaoke by Googling for chord charts for songs I wanted to perform on my computer at home, but last night I realized that the BlackBerry provided to me by my work could perform the same function right there at the bar! (Yes, b5media allow some personal use as long as we’re not downloading giant files like movies on it, and I might be the person in the office who uses our phone data plan the least.) I wish I’d had something like this long ago.

When I finally get an iPhone — and that’ll happen when (or perhaps I should say “if”) the data plan pricing here in Canada becomes a little more reasonable — I’ll have to build some kind of rig that’ll let me attach it to the accordion so I can quickly look up chords and lyrics.

2 replies on “Accordion News for July 27th, 2008”

Well, to be honest, I’ve never really liked the accordion. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t listen to it and get into the moment; it’s just not something I’d pick to put on my iPod.

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