Monday, January 30, 2006

What's a Hose Hall?

Thanks for all the ideas about how to turn up the volume on the next TDA tour. Please keep 'em coming!

Reaching out to second- and third-generation Eastern Europeans is an intriguing concept. Some of the guys from Polkacide have mentioned that some people with that ethnic background now consider it "cool" and nostalgic to listen to polkas again -- for the very same reasons mentioned here.

But now I must reveal my ignorance: What's a Hose Hall? Can't reach out if I don't know the lingo ...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

OK, so maybe we're *not* lame

Hey, thanks for the positive comments, guys. Sometimes it just seems like we're butting our heads against the wall with the whole "all accordions" angle. And every time we get some press, it's always the same old "they used to raid restaurants, isn't that cute" write-up.

Sure, the four-squeezebox lineup is a gimmick. But just once I wish the media would focus on Paul's wicked songwriting, or his screaming fuzz accordion sounds, or the fabulously talented "ladies of TDA," or even the super-duper bass playing. (OK that last bit ain't gonna happen.)

Any wild ideas on how we can get people to check us out when we roll into town? Maybe a bratwurst giveaway or something? I'm personally in the mood to try something different as this year's touring season starts to take shape.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Awesome idea tweaks battle of the bands

Leave it to a South Dakota coffeehouse to brew up a tasty-sounding twist on the time-honored battle of the bands. The Red Rooster Coffee House in Aberdeen hosted a cunning competition that tossed local musicians together into impromptu musical groups, giving the baby bands just two days to work up sets worthy of public performance, according to The American News.

The 48-hour battle of the bands sounds like a blast. Sure wish some San Francisco club owners would put that much time, effort and creativity into the musical side of their businesses. Half the time Frisco clubs' PAs don't work or are completely inadequate. And don't get me started on the attitude thrown by some of the staffers. Oh well, a fella can dream ...

I know where I'm stopping for a cuppa Joe next time I'm in the Mount Rushmore State.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Guess that would make TDA super-lame

Bain Mattox -- a Georgia musician named like a Simpsons action hero -- trawls thrift stores for offbeat instruments. Nothing all that new there.

But he's got a funny insight that sheds light on the challenge Those Darn Accordions is up against when facing a world choked with a never-ending parade of bands and an alternative press pool composed, mostly, of shallow media hipsters (please don't hate me just because I tried to be one before I grew up).

"When people first hear that we are a band with an accordion in it, they’re kind of thinking, 'Well that’s sort of lame,'" Mattox tells The Red and Black.

How many people see TDA's name in the club listings when we come to town and say, "No way! I'd rather floss my toes"? How many people would like our music but get turned off by an archaic vision of Myron Floren? Does the name of our band help us (it's undeniably noticeable) or hurt us (it's apparently very difficult to spell correctly)?

I guess it doesn't really matter -- after 17 years, it's too late to turn back. But I wonder what would have happened over the years if TDA's founder had picked a different name -- maybe something not based on a Disney movie.

P.S. In the Red and Black article, Mattox's friend and fellow musician, Claire Campbell, tells a funny story about shopping for a musical saw at Home Depot that was almost enough to shake me out of the introspective funk triggered by that squeezebox quote. Pass the coffee, please, lots of sugar.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One snaky reason not to live in Australia

A poisonous snake bit 78-year-old great-granny Valerie Makin as she knitted and watched TV in the living room of her home in Werribee, Australia.

The Herald Sun has a photo of the sneaky snake, which gives me the creeps and brings back memories of being completely freaked out by all the black snakes, rattlesnakes and copperheads slithering around southern Ohio when I was growing up.

Guess that's one advantage to living in San Francisco, where the snakes drive meter-weasel carts, sell real estate and work for law firms.

Confession clears up Wisconsin mystery

He wasn't on his deathbed, but John Clavin's confession about a college prank cleared up a long-running Wisconsin mystery. And, while Loch Ness was not involved, a body of water was.

Clavin recently owned up to the 1969 prank -- he stole a large, wooden "S" that hung on a tower at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Clavin and a couple of his fellow art students deemed the sign unsightly, so they pulled it down and chucked it in the Red Cedar River.

"We looked up at the old, rickety 'S' and thought it would be really nice to remove it," Clavin told WEAU. "We climbed up with tools and removed it quite nicely.... I threw it in the river because the worst thing is someone could find it and put it up again -- that would be horrible. It was so rotten it needed to go."

In the years since the stunt, Clavin has gone Hollywood: He's worked as a post-production sound engineer for NBC Universal on television shows such as Law and Order and feature films including The 40 Year Old Virgin and Just Like Heaven, according to The Dunn County News (which has a photograph of the original sign before it was swiped).

Monday, January 23, 2006

The last accordion shop in the Big Apple

Seems our pal Walter Kuhr is the last accordion dealer standing in New York City (if you can believe anything The New York Times prints these days).

We've been to Walter's shop, Main Squeeze, which is located at 19 Essex St. The shop just turned 10 -- happy birthday, Main Squeeze, and congratulations, Walter!

Walter's a really nice guy with some quality squeezeboxes to sell. Look him up next time you take a bite out of the Big Apple. (And be sure to hit The Pickle Guys when you're in the neighborhood for the most amazing selection of pickled vegetables you'll ever see in your life.)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jolly Green Giant and friends get their due

As a man who's happily run circles around the Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, Minn., I can say that I look forward with great anticipation to the opening of the Advertising Icon Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

The hall of happiness -- which will pay homage to the aforementioned extra-tall purveyor of green beans, as well as Mr. Peanut, Tony the Tiger, Poppin' Fresh (the Pillsbury Dough Boy) and other nostalgic pitchmen -- is scheduled to open September 2007, according to The Washington Times.

Did mouse really burn house?

This story is just too, ahem, hot for the Wall of Wheeze. If we had 24 hours a day free to scour the Web for burning-mouse-house updates, we might be able to stay on top of the "yes it did/no it didn't/yes it really did" twists and turns surrounding this tale of intrigue and a revenge-seeking rodent.

Clearly we're dropping the ball on our mousefire coverage. So, I'm hoping this is the last thing we hear from Luciano Mares, 81, about the mouse that did -- or didn't -- escape a fire to burn down Mares' New Mexico house.

"That dang mouse crawled in there," Mares, who talks quickly and in slightly broken English, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "I have an awful hate for those critters."

But he loves cats ...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Let's play 'spot the errors'

I'd never heard of before a Google Alert turned me on to this flawed little listing about TDA. Some of the background info is spot-on, but other bits are laughably funny (at least to me).

My favorite part comes when I click the Related Artists section under the Group Info header in the left column. Who knew Paul was so dang busy?

The site's builders says it's in a "pre-release phase," and gush about the "amazing feedback" they've been getting from users. I'll bet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

One-man band runs on polka power

What's an accordion player to do when he can't find other musicians to jam with? While Pro Tools and a "studio tan" are always vital options for solo players, Art Hieb had a different idea.

The Idaho man brought his expertise at modifying farming implements to bear and went to his workshop, where he cranked out contraptions that let him play accordion, drums, piano and harmonica all at once, The Times-News reports.

That's right: The Art Hieb Quartet is really a one-man band.

Hieb, 79, sounds like an alright guy. He even relates his own story of squeezebox therapy for an injured shoulder, a "treatment" spawned after he heard a woman play an accordion on a camping trip.

"When we got home, I got out that old accordion I had in the closet," Hieb says. "At first, boy that hurt! I could just play for maybe 10 minutes. But after a few weeks, I could play longer and longer. Now my shoulder is fine, and there were no doctor bills or nothing for all that therapy. Just a lot of fun."

Sounds a little more charming than Captured By Robots. (Not that there's anything wrong with programming a band of foul-mouthed machines to back your musical mayhem.)

Monday, January 9, 2006

Wronged rodent gets fiery revenge

I've killed a few rats in my day -- sometimes with traps, other times with 2x4s or baseball bats -- but I've never tried fire. And I don't think I ever will.

According to the AP story, 81-year-old New Mexico man Luciano Mares -- who's probably not an experienced exterminator -- tossed a mouse on a leaf fire after he caught the rodent in his house. Long story short, the flaming mouse returned to its adopted home, and now Mares is issuing statements from a hotel room.

"I've seen numerous house fires, but nothing as unique as this one," said a fire captain. I'll say.

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Proof that accordions are cooler than guitars

Got your barf bag handy? Watch a humorless hair farmer play a ridiculous double-necked guitar
in this video clip. (It's a .mpg file and should open in your media player.)

After you've taken your cheese-metal lesson, just try to tell me with a straight face that electric guitars killed accordions because the six-string music machine is just so undeniably cool ...

(Bonus points if you can name the silly shredder.)

Friday, January 6, 2006

Miracle cat takes a wicked ride

We love cats. And we love weird news. When the two things collide and there's not a house filled with a mountain of dung, we're thrilled.

So it's with much excitement -- and pride in all things feline -- that we relate the story of a 6-pound kitten who took a 70-mile ride down the New Jersey Turnpike in the wheel well of an SUV and lived to meow about it.

"He's still pretty sore, he has a cold, and he still doesn't want to put weight on his feet," said Karen Dixon-Aquino, director of the animal shelter that's caring for the cat, post-adventure. "It's amazing that he lived. I've never heard of one surviving the engine being turned on, let alone surviving a ride down the turnpike. He's certainly used up 8 1/2 of his 9 lives."

The cat, now named Miracle, suffered a singed coat and burned paws but should be ready for adoption soon. The Philadelphia Inquirer has the story and a picture of the clearly tired cat. Heck, 20 minutes on the turnpike inside a car took the bounce outta my step.

RIP, Ramona Bell

Ramona Bell, wife of late-night radio king Art Bell, died unexpectedly Thursday night after an asthma attack, according to Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country website. She was 47.

Ramona sometimes appeared on the show with Art and, according to Unknown Country, she and the talk-show master "had not been apart a day since they were married" 15 years ago.

While Art hasn't been on the air so much lately due to a series of family and health problems, the show he started, Coast to Coast AM, continues to rule the nighttime airwaves and has been a frequent companion on many TDA road trips.

Rest in peace, Ramona, and our hearts go out to Art and his family.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Play an accordion, go to prison

That's the law, at least according to The Starving Musician's infamous bumper stickers. That could mean trouble for "America's favorite rock 'n' roll accordion band."

Well, it's never too late to make those New Year's resolutions, especially if a lifestyle change keeps you out of the clink or, more importantly, from showing up in a police booking photo wearing a polka dot shirt and a jester hat.

For a look at the true faces of ignominy, check out The Smoking Gun's 2005 Mug Shots of the Year. The Web's finest purveyor of
crime and news documents unleashes a true cavalcade of jailhouse hilarity. The pictures alone are fabulous, and the back stories make for great reading if you've got some time to kill. (Murderer!)

None of the people in these noteworthy pix got busted for squeezing, but this hilarious roundup of losers, bruisers, boozers, strippers, TV divas and even an alleged old-school moonshiner sure makes me more than a little nervous about what I'm going to wear to the next TDA gig. Sure hope the squeezebox cops aren't on patrol!

Monday, January 2, 2006

Cat dials 911 after owner's fall

Time for a New Year's resolution: Get some treats and train your cat how to dial 911. The plan apparently worked for Gary Rosheisen, an Ohio man who fell out of his wheelchair and was saved by his deft-dialing cat, Tommy, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

"I know it sounds kind of weird," says Columbus Police Officer Patrick Daugherty. But the cop -- who found Tommy by the phone after the emergency call -- can't find any other way to explain the situation.

Just another reason to love our feline friends!

Squeezebox rock flies in Florida

Jared Claxon, the 17-year-old accordion player who fronts the Mindless Tripod Experience, seems to have the right idea: Plug your accordion into a distortion box and squeeze out some silly songs.

"I write a lot of songs about the most pointless stuff in life, like Sea-Monkeys and Silly Putty and Japan," he tells The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Jared's a MySpace friend of TDA, and it looks like ROA Records is fixin' to release an album of his music called "Are You Experienced?" You can hear song samples on the ROA site -- sounds kinda "Weird Al" to me. I think "Godzilla" is my favorite (it's not a Blue Oyster Cult cover), and I'd love to hear more dirt on the squeezebox.

He's also got a song called "I Think About Stuff" (which isn't a TDA cover). Hope 2006 is a good year for you, Jared!