Sunday, December 31, 2006

Big Cash for Accordion Fest?

This strange report says the National Endowment for the Arts is ponying up $35,000 for an International Accordion Festival, which "celebrates the instrument's local identity and global reach," in 2007.

The story's short on specifics, though. Would this be the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio that we've been hoping to play? If so, it sounds like they've got the budget to bring us in next year. Sweeeeeeeeeeet.

The Other Problem With Animal Sacrifices

Sacrificing animals for religious reasons seems a little, oh, dated at this point. It's certainly a bummer for the animals. But the practice is still widespread in places like Turkey, where 1,400 "amateur butchers" were maimed this year. Oops.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

How to Pop a Cork With a Sword

More "news you can use," this time from an ace investigative reporter over at Wired News: "How to Pop a Cork With a Sword" (with video highlights).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

TDA Proves Squeezebox Mastery Isn't Required

Remember "polka dictator" Gene Sadowsky? A reader who took issue with the Corvallis Gazette-Times' second piece on Sadowsky wrote to the paper to defend the Oregon accordionist -- and used our humble band as proof that you don't have to be a superlative squeezer to truly entertain.

Writes Mike Ryan of Corvallis:

Anybody who went to this summer’s concert to see "Those Darn Accordions" should understand that mastery of the instrument is not the most important component. These accordionists never used the left side of the instrument. They were "keyboarding" melody and chords, relying on back-up musicians. The leader made the show with showmanship, not mastery of the accordion.

Talk about your backhanded compliments -- thanks, Mike (I think)!

P.S. For the record, the TDA squeezers do use their left hands to play the bass -- sometimes. Paul certainly eschews the bass buttons during his screaming, wah-wah-wrecking solos (and wait till he unveils his customized "rockordion" in 2007). And other times, he and the gals are just too busy singing or dancing (or dancing and singing) to play the left hand. But I can tell you that they can and do play bass lines during the show, even though they do have one of the finest "sleeping master" bass players in the Western Hemisphere. Speaking of which -- bedtime!

P.P.S. When will headline writers learn how to spell "accordion"?

Accordion Stolen!

Harry Bryant usually plays his accordion to raise money for his favorite charity, Stubbington Ark. But thieves put a stop to his fund-raising attempts by stealing his squeeze (along with his car -- this isn't how this joke is supposed to play out, is it?). Sad, sad, sad ...

It's All About the Cowbell

That's why they call it The Cowbell Project. No really.

Accordion Music: Premieres and Polkas

It's all about the squeezebox at Premieres and Polkas, a show of new music at the Milwaukee Art Museum on Jan. 6, 2007. Pieces by composers Randall Woolf and Melissa Mazzoli will make their public debut; Guy Klucevsek will play his Polkas from the Fringe (plus new compositions), with Stas Venglevski along for the ride.

The Fond du Lac Reporter says our friends from the Milwaukee Accordion Club and the Riverwest Accordion Ensemble will be there as well. Start the new year out right!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Onion's Least Essential Albums of 2006

I already confessed how out of touch I am when it comes to buying new records. But at least my CD collection boasts none of The Least Essential Albums of 2006, as compiled by those snarky tastemakers over at The Onion's A.V. Club. Talk about being banned from hipsterville ...

Oh My God, It's a Hippie With a Restaurant

Call it hippie nouvelle: Pick your own price restaurants sprout in Denver and Salt Lake City.

Peek Inside Portugal's Skinniest House

Dig these cool pix from inside a sliver of an abode billed as "the narrowest house in Portugal." Of course, once you open up that particular can of worms, you naturally stumble upon the United States' skinniest house (No. 32 on the list) and, eventually, the narrowest house in the world.

(Via Table of Malcontents)

Epicurious' Hangover Helpers

As a former newspaperman, I'm painfully aware of the old "news you can use" gambit. Usually those stories (beloved by ninny editors and hated by reporters) amounted to hard-hitting pieces on extended shopping hours at the local mall and primers on Christmas tree recycling.

But here's a pre-New Year's Day story that actually could prove useful: Epicurious' 17 Cures for the Big Head Blues. Get your supply shopping done early!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Squeezebox Shushes Yakkity Cell Phoner

Here's a novel use for a squeezebox: A train rider lets loose with a wall of wheeze to shame a person gabbing publicly on a cell phone.

The yakkity one, Beth Goldner, wrote up the incident for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Best line: "The squeeze box: An avant-garde instrument used for social revolt against obnoxious cell-phone users."

RIP: James Brown Dead at 73

Heaven just got a little funkier: James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," died early Christmas morning.

I saw "the hardest working man in showbiz" at the Maritime Hall here in San Francisco back in the '90s. Truly one of the best shows I've ever seen. Another great is gone.

Merry Christmas From Those Darn Accordions!

A little late for Hanukkah, a little early for Kwanzaa ... just right for Christmas.

Here's hoping you and yours have a wonderful holiday season and a truly happy New Year.

Those Darn Accordions

(Photo by Jim Merithew)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Santa in the Soundbooth

The jolly old elf gets schooled on how to unleash the perfect "ho, ho, ho." It's a Pro Tools kinda world, and St. Nick's gettin' a little peeved ...

PC World's 13 Most Embarrassing Web Moments

I love year-end roundups -- they're a "phone-it-in-Friday" ritual of the journalism industry, the kind of stuff even the most hurried hack can hammer out between coming in late (hungover from the office holiday party) and leaving early (for another Christmas party). So pour yourself some eggnog and enjoy PC World's 13 Most Embarrassing Web Moments.

Rolling Stone's Top 50 Albums of 2006

I knew Those Darn Accordions wouldn't be listed in Rolling Stone magazine's Top 50 Albums of 2006 -- we didn't put out a record this year. (Look out for a big sonic slab of TDA in 2007, though, Mr. Music Critic Man, and keep those pixels sharpened up.)

The big surprise for me while perusing the list is that I only own one of Rolling Stone's top picks. Care to guess which one? Frankly, I've only heard of a handful of those records. Just call me outta touch ...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Download Free MP3s From the Mad Maggies

Seems Maggie has, indeed, gone mad: She's giving away three sneak preview tunes from the soon-to-be-released CD Magdalena's Revenge by The Mad Maggies. The songs are "Musical Priest S" ("a twist on a trad reel"), "Surely, Shirley" ("hoping for love, a retro swing") and "Sparkey's Romp" ("hold onto your hats").

A bit of background: Maggie Martin plays accordion in Polkacide and put The Mad Maggies together to show off her own tunes, which are sometimes but definitely not always polkas, and to play some "tweaked trad" music as well.

Here's the full Mad Maggies lineup -- maybe you'll spot some other names you know from Polkacide and other Bay Area bands. Johny Blood (tuba), Dana Burt (drums), David Campbell (trumpets), Lawrence Jarach (trombone), J.X. Jones (sax, clarinet), Rhian Robinson (clarinet, whistle), Gary Wium (guitars) and Lewis Wallace (bass).

Anyway, check out the tunes. The official (and ambitious) Mad Maggies "genre" is "SkaPolka-KlezCeltica-Gitano-SurfRock," so there's something for almost everybody.

Merry Christmas a couple days early!

P.S. If you're really into exploring some new tunes over the long Christmas weekend, a little bird that looked a lot like a wild turkey just reminded me that you can hear (but not download) some new demos from another Bay Area band I happen to know a little something about on the Electric Boogie Dawgz' MySpace page.

The tunes, "I'll Be Rockin'" and "Gimme A Drink," don't feature accordions, but they were written by Bret Hagen, star of the super-low-budget Those Darn Accordions' video for "My Friend Jim." The songs (plus another EBDz opus, "Trans Am") appear on Krampilation 2006, a compilation of tunes by bands that played this year's Krampusnacht show (put on by EBDz drummer John Hofmeyer).

Accordions Make for Cool Jewltide

Can't top the Boston Herald's headline for this concert review (although I will quibble with the reviewer's classification of "Weird Al" Yankovic as a "mega-square" who's hurt the accordion's reputation).

But never mind. I love the sound of the Jewltide Hanukkah party that took place at T.T. the Bear's in Cambridge, and wish I could have made the show, which featured "punk klezmer" band Golem and Socalled, described as "the klezmer Beck."

Oy to the world indeed!

P.S. Looks like you lucky New Yorkers can catch a couple of Jewltide parties with the same accordion-laced lineup this weekend.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Another Friday, Another Successful Photo Shoot

Did some nitwit say there was no accordion news? Well, there's some pretty cool news about Those Darn Accordions, actually -- we had a great time this morning getting our photos taken by my old buddy Jim Merithew. The early proofs look fantastic. Be sure to check back -- I'm sure we'll be giving you a little taste all the eye candy soon.

But right now it's off to catch Paul with The Christmas Jug Band at the Sweetwater up in Mill Valley. If you're within 60 miles, you should get in your car right now and head that way. You won't find a more enjoyable Christmas show!

A Little More About Nine Pound Hammer

Still no accordion news to speak of, but those slam-bang boys from ol' Kaintuck get a little bit of loving hometown press in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

Here's Nine Pound Hammer singer Scott Luallen summing up the band's approach: "Our music ain't rocket science, but we've got a unique thing going."

In addition the West Coast shows I mentioned yesterday, there's also an early Christmas present for mobile Midwesterns: a Saturday night Hammer show at The Dame in Lexington, Kentucky.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Remember 'Metronatural'?

It's Seattle's hip, cool (and definitely worth the money) trademarked municipal tag line. Well, Heather Flanagan from over at People Geek tracked down the geniuses who came up with the marketing ploy and asked them a few probing questions. Thanks, Heather!

P.S. Still no Bumbershoot nibbles! Drats!

Nine Pound Hammer Nails California

This has nothing to do with accordions, no how no way. It does, however, have something to do with good music: Mighty Kentucky cowpunks Nine Pound Hammer -- probably my favorite band, when you get right down to it -- will be playing several California shows in early 2007, including a Feb. 3 set at San Francisco's coolest dive bar, Thee Parkside. See you there.

Frosty Slasher Caught on Tape

A pair of Ohio Grinches stabbed an inflatable Frosty the Snowman, but there's reason for a holiday cheer: The lawn decoration's owner caught the attack on tape, and the vandals have been arrested. You can see the video on WFTV's website.

Meanwhile, The Columbus Dispatch comes up with a bah-huumbug roundup of decoration-related crimes pulled off by holiday hoodlums, with thefts and stabbings of various seasonal appointments topping the list. Seems like it's always in Ohio ...

Elsewhere, holiday revelers make Frosty out of sand and hay bales.

Merry Christmas ...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gene Sadowsky: Polka Dictator?

I already told you about Gene Sadowsky, Oregon's colorful, self-styled "Polka King" and leader of the Little Bohemian Band.

Now comes word in the Corvallis Gazette Times of a pretender to the polka throne: Richard Kadrmas, Sadowsky’s ex-bandmate and now a squeezer in the R-K Polka Band, calls for an accordion duel with the Polka King. "Anytime, anyplace," Kadrmas told the Gazette Times. Mary Ann Albright's story of the accordion rivalry almost sounds like something out of Guns N' Roses' troubled history.

Now this is getting interesting ...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

'Weird Al': Accordion Is a 'Chick Magnet'

'Weird Al' Yankovic took accordion lessons from ages 7 to 10, his only musical training before launching a successful career (thanks in large part to the Dr. Demento Show, which helped him spread his madness to the masses).

Why the squeeze?, asks The Canberra Times. "The accordion is a chick magnet," Al says. "My parents wanted me to be extremely popular in high school."

That's just a snippet of the terrain in the Australian paper's wide-ranging interview with the parody master. Al even gives up the secret to his two decades of musical success: "A modicum of talent and a whole lot of luck, and a great group of musicians who've been with me from the very beginning. Also, I'm very stubborn -- I just don't go away."

Good luck with the Aussie tour, Al!

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Let's Show Santa Some Respect

This Canadian guy gets his tighty-whities all atwist over what he calls a Christmastime "orgy of consumption" and decides to make a statement about global warming, overfishing and whatnot. So, what does he do? He crucifies an effigy of jolly old St. Nick. Predictably, his neighbors are a little cross.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Let's Polka's 2006 Accordion Gift Guide

I was thinking about doing an accordion-themed gift guide, but then I saw that the folks over at Let's Polka already did one. Beaten to the punch, or maybe squeezed out, again. Oh well.

Anyway, check it out, just in time for the holidays: Let's Polka's 2006 Accordion Gift Guide. And I'm not linking to this just because of the first item listed. That was just a happy surprise. Honest.

Strangest Cover of a Paul Rogers Song

No contest: That award goes to the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus cover of "Santa Lost a Ho" on its new CD, Favorite Things. Chicago Pride calls the ditty -- which I'm assuming is the song by that title penned by Those Darn Accordions songwriter in chief Paul Rogers -- "a little-known gem filled with delightful double entendres." For the record, that's how we think of it, too.

If you want the original recording to place under your Christmas tree, Hanukkah shrub or holiday abstainer's potted plant, bag it now at the Christmas Jug Band site. It's on the Uncorked CD, and you can't top it for Christmas merriment.

P.S. Strangest news source cited on the Wall of Wheeze: Chicago Pride, "the ultimate guide to gay Chicago," which has been "serving Boystown and Gay Chicago since 1995." Where the heck is Boystown?

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Accordionist Gets His Game On

It's all about button-mashing: Moshezuchter plays game themes from Tetris and Zelda. Ain't YouTube great?

Friday, December 1, 2006

Holiday Tunes From Paul Rogers

December is the month I take a break from all the bellow-busting high jinks of Those Darn Accordions and head to California for some shows with the Christmas Jug Band. It's going to be a blast getting together with old friends and playing tunes like "Santa Lost A Ho" (.mp3), "Santa's Workshop" (.mp3) and a new one ... "Oh, St. Nick" (.mp3). Enjoy!

Let It Rain Beer

All across the country it's been snowing and blowing and raining. Snow's beautiful, and rain's been known to rinse a certain nasty smell off the streets of San Francisco.

But there's a better kind of storm, a downpour that's possibly backed up by the song "In Heaven There Is No Beer." See the Miller advertisement and dream a happy dream. (Of course, this could be proof that Miller Lite tastes like water.)

Those Darn Accordions Holiday Gift Packs

Response to our Holiday Gift Pack offer has been great. Just $50 for all five TDA CDs. There's never been a better chance to get an earload of Those Darn Accordions music. So if you're looking for a great gift for the hard to please, don't delay, because supplies are limited! Just jump over to the TDA Store and pick one or two up. While you are there be sure to check out the TDA Fun Packs that include a T-Shirt.

She's the Bowling Queen

Esther Medley rolled a 244 recently at Fairway Lanes in Centralia, Wash. Good score, sure, but amazing under the circumstances: Medley is 94 years old and legally blind, the Associated Press reports.