Dispatches from SxSW, Part 14: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap on Accordion at the Fandango Party

Joey deVilla plays accordion at the Fandango partyLast year, I wandered into Fandango’s party at South by Southwest and stumbled into a karaoke competition. I walked out with a brand new iPad 1, which now belongs to my friend Katie Hrycak (I myself got a free iPad 2, and that’s another story).

This year, my Shopify coworkers and I wandered into Fandango’s party, and Karaoke Apocalypse, the karaoke band who played at last year’s party, were there.

“I remember you!” said the rhythm guitarist. “You’re that guy with the accordion! You’re the accordion guy!”

“I’m back,” I said. “Wanna play Dirty Deeds?”

The end result is the video above, with special introduction by Cody Fauser and Mark Hayes. Enjoy!



There, Even When I’m Not

Photo of Joey deVilla on the cover of Jason Rolland's karaoke songbook

I may be in Ottawa (Alternate Accordion City) for the summer, but I maintain a presence in Toronto (Original Accordion City) thanks to Jason Rolland. He’s the host of many popular karaoke nights, including the one informally known as Loser Karaoke — the Thursday night session at Tequila Sunrise frequented by Toronto’s social media types and their friends. Jason’s just redone the covers of the big binders containing his song lists, and Yours Truly is on the cover. My friend Rayanne Langdon pointed it out to me last night. Thanks for putting me on the cover, Jason, and thanks for the heads-up, Rayanne!

If you want to see where Jason’s playing next or what songs he has, make sure you check out his site.


Happy Canada Day!

"Happy Canada Day! Now get drunk, mofo!"

Pictured above: One of the video screens from Jeremy Wright’s karaoke birthday party at Tequila Sunrise last night.

It’s July 1st, Canada Day! Happy birthday to my adopted home country. Now get drunk, mofo!

In honour of Canada Day, I present to you Canadian Stereotype Comics by Kate Beaton:

canadian stereotype comics

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!

Geek It Happened to Me Slice of Life

Slice of Life: Whuffie-oke with Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt and her book, "The Whuffie Factor"

Last week, I caught up with an old karaoke buddy: Tara Hunt, honest-to-goodness social media marketer (unlike the gazillions on Twitter who merely claim to be one), popularizer of BarCamp unconferences and coworking spaces and author of The Whuffie Factor. She just completed a move from San Francisco to Montreal by van, a move during which she stopped at various cities’ karaoke bars and thus named Whuffaoke or Bust. She didn’t pass through Accordion City during the move, but dropped by last Monday to bring the Whuffaoke or Bust tour to her old home.

Her Toronto Whuffaoke drew a crowd:


The folks at the venue, Tequila Sunrise, were able to personalize the event on their displays:


She brought along some copies of The Whuffie Factor and naturally, I bought a copy. I got her to autograph it for me, and she wrote the nicest things:


“Thanks for being my inspiration to blog years ago. I would be here without you!”

A Brief Personal History of Whuffie

My first encounter with the concept of whuffie was in late 1999. Cory Doctorow was trying to get me to join his company-within-a-company to build software that would help you find things you didn’t even know you were looking for. The idea behind the software was to harness the content and searches of people whose interests were similar to yours – chances are that they’d have content and search results that would be relevant but unknown to you.

In that software, which would eventually become OpenCola, whuffie was a personalized measure of similarity. If someone had many interests similar to yours, s/he would have a lot of whuffie in your eyes. However, that same person and I might have very different interests, and s/he would have very little whuffie as far as I was concerned.

Cory would later use the concept of Whuffie in his first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. In the novel, the “Bitchun Society” – a variant of The Technological Singularity — had been achieved. The world had entered an age of plenitude, where scarcity has been eliminated, death is obsolete and people can do or become whatever they like. In the Bitchun Society, whuffie – a score calculated based on your personal reputation, actions and contributions to society – had replaced currency.

Whuffie has a symbol similar to a dollar sign. It’s a W with two horizontal lines:

The whuffie sign: a W with two vertical lines

In my autographed copy of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory signed it with “Who put the [whuffie symbol] in Whuffie?”

Whuffie has since been used as a term for the concept of social capital, and that’s how it’s used in Tara’s book. Here’s how she defines it:

Whuffie is the residual outcome – the currency – of your reputation. You lose of gain it based on positive or negative actions, your contributions to the community, and what people think of you. The measurement of your whuffie is weighted according to your interactions with communities and individuals. So for example, in my own neighborhood, where I have built a strong reputation for being helpful, my whuffie is higher than when I travel to another neighborhood where nobody knows me. There, members of that community “ping” my whuffie to find out whether I can be trusted. But for me to be fully welcomed, I can’t simply use my whuffie account; I need to be helpful there as well. And I can do that, as Cory Doctorow points out in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, in three ways: be nice, be networked or be notable.