Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year (Don't Try This at Home)

Most accordion greats start (and finish) with the full complement of fingers, so I can't endorse this cockamamie "How to Pop a Cork With a Sword" article and video from Wired News. (On the other hand, the story is a year old, and there haven't been any lawsuits yet, so maybe it's OK.)

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Those Darn Accordions Pix From San Antonio

Don't know how I missed Kay Douglas' great pictures from the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, but here they are:

There are some fun shots of TDA as well as many, many pictures of other performers and happy audience members. Truly fine photography. Thanks, Kay!

And the Best Polka Album Nominees Are ...

Here are the bands competing for the Grammy for best polka album of 2007:

We've had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Brave Combo and Bubba many times over the years, and we got to hang with Alex at this year's Cotati Accordion Festival. But we've never met the old-school guys like Jimmy Sturr and Walter Ostanek -- we just don't seem to mingle with the straight polka crowd. (Guess that's sensible enough, considering the oddball nature of our music.) Maybe someday ...

Congrats to all the nominees.

P.S. I'm intrigued by Brian Sklar and the Western Senators. Turns out the band has an alter ego called the Tex Pistols, which sounds like essentially the same group, sans accordions. The Tex Pistols say they "play the (country) classics with today's sound and energy" -- they even dress up in Nudie suits, just like the pre-outlaw greats.

P.P.S. I'm equally curious about the National Polka Festival in Ennis, Texas. And the more time we spend in Texas, the more I like that musically rich state.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The 10 Stupidest Rock Quotes of 2007

Rockers with foot-in-mouth syndrome get their moment of ignominy, courtesy of Gibson's list of The 10 Stupidest Rock Quotes of 2007. Thundering loudmouths (and rock heroes) Gene Simmons and Ted Nugent make the list, along with twittering idjits like Amy Winehouse, Kelly Pickler and Christina Aguilera.

Simmons' award-winning quote is hilarious, and actually makes sense (if you're not into the whole "music wants to be free" download fever):

"Every little college kid, every freshly scrubbed little kid’s face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning," Simmons told Billboard magazine. "Those kids are putting 100,000 to a million people out of work. How can you pick on them? They’ve got freckles. That's a crook. He may as well be wearing a bandit's mask."

It's a pretty funny read. (And what a relief nobody from Those Darn Accordions made the list.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

'Heads and Horns': The Deer's Revenge

This video of a deer attacking a hunter is kind of old, but worth wasting a minute of your back-to-work Wednesday. I'm waiting for the "Heads and Horns" remix. (It's still my favorite song on Squeeze Machine.)


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Carl Finch's Polka Faves

Brave Combo leader Carl Finch runs down his top five favorite polka albums for the Houston Chronicle, then goes on to list other "essential artists" in the genre. Shockingly, Those Darn Accordions did not make the list -- but our friends in Polkacide, Polka Freakout and The Polkaholics did. Time for some kielbasa, beer and sauerkraut to celebrate!

Best Albums of 2007?

Everybody in the blogosphere is picking the best albums of 2007, including Wired's culture blog. Underwire is also letting readers nominate their own faves and vote -- and some joker added a record by a certain squeezebox rock band. Check the list and vote! (Don't miss the "next" link at the bottom, as that's where Squeeze Machine will probably be listed.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Seattle's Crocodile Cafe Snaps Shut

The legendary Crocodile Cafe, a cool Seattle club where Those Darn Accordions has played more than one memorable show, closed unexpectedly (or maybe not) this week, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Bummer ...

A Visit With Clyde

Got this photo from former TDA member Patty Brady on a recent visit she made to Clyde Forsman, another TDA alum. For those of you lucky enough to have caught Clyde in action at Milwaukee Summerfest and other festivals, you know what a great showman he was. He's had a pretty rough year and I'm hoping to pay a visit this week while I'm in the Bay Area. His rendition of Hendrix's "Fire" is legendary. If anyone would like to send a note to Clyde, just post a comment here and I'll forward it to him. I know he'd love to hear from his fans!

Friday, December 14, 2007

'Santa Lost A Ho' in LA

Looks like The Christmas Jug Band isn't the only group putting a slightly nutty twist on the holiday season. The Fruitcake Follies is having a sold out run in Los Angeles this year with a little help from "Santa Lost A Ho." Backstage Magazine has a nice little article on a few oddball offerings in the LA area.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Santa Lost A Ho' Keeps Rolling

"Santa Lost A Ho" is now No. 1 in multiple categories at MP3 downloads and No. 80 overall! What the heck is going on out there? I don't know ... but I do know that the Christmas Jug Band tore it up at the 2AM club last night in Mill Valley, Calif., and we intend to do the same at The Palms Playhouse in Winters, Calif., tonight. Come on over, up or down and join the holiday high jinks!

Monday, December 10, 2007

'Santa Lost A Ho' Hits No. 1

As I write this George Strait has been bumped by yours truly and "Santa Lost A Ho" is sitting up on top in the Country Swing category for MP3 downloads. It's No. 273 in all MP3 downloads. I'm not sure what any of this means when it comes to buying groceries, but it's still kind of fun to see that folks are catching on to the Christmas Jug Band.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Mad Maggies Set Sail for Smiley's

Big band in a little bar, tonight! The Mad Maggies play Smiley's Saloon & Hotel tonight, so if you're anywhere near Bolinas, Calif., come on out and listen for a spell.

To call Smiley's "colorful" is like saying Dick Contino plays a little acordion. The place is a hoot.

This is a warm-up gig for the Maggies' recording session next weekend. TDA drum alum Bill Schwartz is back in the band, so prep yer ears fer a display of some mad skin-poundin' skillz on the third CD.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Behold the Gummy Haggis

Just look at it, sitting there in all its faux meaty goodness. It's Angry Scotsman's Gummy Haggis, and it wants to be in your stomach. Which is kinda weird when you think about it.

Reminds me that I always wanted to open a restaurant called The Haggis Shack. The motto: "The Haggis Shack -- Where the Offal Ain't."

Is there nothing they won't make out of "gummy" (whatever that is)? One thing's for sure: If it's weird, Archie McPhee sells it -- check out their meat-themed goodies.

(Via Laughing Squid)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

TDA Video Clip: 'Them Hippies Was Right'

I put a video clip of "Them Hippies Was Right" up on YouTube. The sound is pretty gnarly, but it's kind of fun to watch. It's from a 2006 show at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, California. Check it out!

'Santa Lost A Ho' Is Moving Up

That other darn band I play with every December, The Christmas Jug Band, is moving up the charts. One ditty I do with the CJB, "Santa Lost A Ho," is actually ranked No. 7 in downloads in the Country Swing category and No. 3,576 overall for best-selling MP3 downloads. Not too shabby!

Get Yer Steampunk Accordion Shirts

Behold, the brown Squeeze Machine shirt! The electronic sweatshop known as the Those Darn Accordions Web Publishing Division has finally stopped polishing the storefront pixels, and now the must-have squeezebox tee of the year is available online in the TDA Store. The two-color front print features the steampunk accordion from the Squeeze Machine CD cover. The back is tastefully blank.

As you can see, the shirt will make you look very cool indeed.

P.S. Got other holiday gifting needs? See Paul's TDA X-Mas Shopping Tips.

Robots Serve Drinks at Roboexotica

Robots? Booze? How can you not click on "Boozebots Get Their Shot at Roboexotica"?

Too Bad Leslie Hall Doesn't Play Accordion

Because I'll bet she'd be a heck of a squeezer. Check out Wired News' profile of the gem sweater lady, "YouTube Gem Leslie Hall Bedazzles the Masses."

Friday, November 30, 2007

TDA X-Mas Shopping Tips

Before you run out to Wal-Mart and load up on oodles of toxic toys from China, I'd like to suggest you visit this guide to buying American. Lots of ways to Christmas shop right here in the good old USA! Of course, I'm proud to say that TDA Music is 100 percent American-made, so if you'd like to give the gift that lasts multiple lifetimes,and has actually been proven to extend a few, click on over to our special Holiday Gift Pack page. We've got special offers designed to meet the needs of the most discerning diatonic devotee!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Little Buddy Radio

I got a nice message from the folks at Little Buddy Radio, a streaming online radio station that keeps the dream of Bob Denver (Maynard, Gilligan) alive. They listened to "Maynard Played The Bongos" and liked it so much they are adding it to their playlist. How about that! And to think that poor song has been sitting on a shelf for years. Dreama, Bob's wife, said that Bob would have gotten a kick out of hearing it. That makes it all worth while for me! Little Buddy Radio is involved with the Denver Foundation, started by Bob and Dreama Denver to aid handicapped and disadvantaged kids in WV. Please give LBR a listen!

Paul Rogers: Songs From The Shelf

This may come as a surprise to you, but not every tune I come up with complies with the rigorous standards of nonsense required for inclusion in the TDA set list. So, what happens to these "Non-TDA" tunes you might ask? Oh, I've got a wall full of them. I was staring at that wall the other day and decided, what the heck, I'll start putting some of them up on MySpace on a rotating basis. Just for kicks! So here's my very own MySpace page. Right now I've got a few Christmas tunes that I recorded with The Christmas Jug Band, a special salute to Maynard G. Krebs and a few others. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Paul Rogers

A Tour With Teller

Having had the pleasure of performing with Teller on Penn and Teller's Sin City Spectacular, I found it quite interesting to take an inside peek at the abode of this quiet magical genius, courtesy of USA Today. While Teller's onstage persona is mute, I am honored to say that I have had lively conversation with him and he is indeed a gentleman and a scholar.

Take a virtual tour of Teller's home in this Flash photo gallery (don't miss the secret bookcase).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Just Added: TDA Holiday Gift Pack 2007

Overdose on Those Darn Accordions with this amazing deal: All six TDA CDs for just $60, with no shipping or handling.

It's the amazing TDA Holiday Gift Pack 2007. Such a deal! (Sorry, but international shipping will cost a little extra.)

We've also got a new Squeeze Machine Fun Pack, featuring the new CD, the new Squeeze Machine T-shirt and a couple of extras thrown in just for fun.

Photo by kafka4prez.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Building That Looks Like an Accordion

Most wild architectural flights of fancy look better on paper than they do in real life. But there's no denying that architect Ken Shuttleworth's design for a London building with a pleated facade looks an awful lot like an accordion's bellows. Shuttleworth told the Evening Standard he wanted the squeezebox-shaped building to "reinstate a more coherent plan of the square as envisaged by (Christopher) Wren." Wren's monument to the great fire of London will be reflected in the accordion building's bellowslike reflective face.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vote on Star Trek's Weirdest Aliens

Over at Wired News, we put together a gallery featuring Star Trek's 10 Cheesiest Classic Creatures. There's no Hamsterman or Loch Ness Monster, but you will find the Gorn, a salt vampire and, of course Tribbles. Is there a better job in the world?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Request 'Heads and Horns'

Want to help get the word out about Those Darn Accordions? Take a second to request "Heads and Horns" on Sirius' Outlaw Country. The Request a Song link is on the upper right-hand part of the page.

Outlaw Country is an awesome Sirius Satellite Radio channel (it's also available on channel 6063 on Dish Network satellite TV). The celebrity DJs play tons of great classic country, hard-core honky tonk and even rootsy rock 'n' roll -- a big focus is on strong songwriting. It's my favorite radio station, and I'm pretty sure "Heads and Horns" would fit right into the play list. (They already play TDA founder Big Lou's "Yoo Hoo Polka" on a regular basis.)

Look What They've Done to My Song, Momma!

When you write a song and put it out in the world, you just never know where it might end up. In this case, right in the middle of the Fruitcake Follies. It's a pretty entertaining version of "Santa Lost A Ho," I must say.

Lucy Liu Played the Accordion

Actress Lucy Liu tells Parade magazine that she tried the accordion as a kid -- but wasn't that great, so she gave it up.

"When I was young, I tried violin and accordion for two weeks each," she said. "I was really horrible at the violin. And I wasn’t good at the accordion, but I liked it."

Too bad ... I bet she'd be great at it now -- ever see her kung fu skills in Charlie's Angels?

Friday, November 16, 2007

I Want a Trunk Monkey

If I lived in Oregon, I'd be shopping for a car with innovative Trunk Monkey technology at Suburban Auto Group.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No 'Ho, Ho, Ho' for Sydney Santas

Politically correct Australian Santa schools -- which train seasonal workers to portray the jolly old elf Down Under -- have banned the phrase "ho, ho, ho," according to a report in The Daily Telegraph. A pair of recruits quit over the ridiculous ban, and at least one would-be Santa said the proscription was because "ho" is English slang for "prostitute."

Westaff, the recruitment firm at the center of the controversy, issued a statement saying the whole thing was overblown.
"Westaff has been a provider of quality caring Santas for over forty years," wrote Sari Hegarty, the company's national Santa coordinator, in an e-mail to stores. "Part of our advice to our Santas is that they should be mindful of children having their first Santa experience. We ask our Santas to try techniques such as lowering their tone of voice and using 'ha, ha, ha' to encourage the children to come forward and meet Santa. We wish you and your family a very merry Christmas."

Man, have I got a song for Australia (actually, Paul does): "Santa Lost A Ho," which is track No. 1 on The Christmas Jug Band's fantastically funny record, Uncorked.

BONUS: Download a free MP3 of "Santa Lost a Ho."

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Squeezebox Story for Veterans' Day

World War II veteran John Martino storming Omaha Beach with an accordion in tow. A squeezebox plucked from Hitler's bunker. What can I say? These vignettes make the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review feature, "Region's Vets Retell Vivid Stories," the perfect Veterans' Day reading on the Wall of Wheeze.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Flashback: 'Weird Al' Unveils His New Look With TDA

Pretty funny blog post by a "Weird Al" Yankovic fan who describes watching Those Darn Accordions on the American Music Awards back in 1998, scanning for Al and being stunned by the first appearance of the parody king's new look.
"Surely Al's got to be in there somewhere...scan for frizzy hair, glasses, moustache, Hawaiian shirt...NOTHING! Just Drew, Dick, and the guys from Those Darn Accordions again, including that one member with the shiny shirt who looks kinda like Varna the Squirmese Cook, and it looks like he stole Al's accordion or something...

Wait a minute.

Is that.................................................AL?!

Yes, hard as it was to fathom at the time, Al had ditched the glasses, grown the biggest goatee I've ever seen on him, and apparently gained a bit of weight from the Weird Al Show post-production process. To compound the confusion, Drew's mike was out when he yelled "Al Yankovic!" so the reveal was blown. For the first, last and only time in his life, the new "Inconspicuous Al" Yankovic simply blended in with the rest of the band."

It is kind of shocking, really, seeing Al's makeover and remembering how he used to look. Check out the YouTube video and see for yourself, as we do "a medley of 25 years of hits" with "Inconspicuous Al," Drew Carey and Dick Contino. (Right after us? Wu-Tang Clan, baby.)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

TDA at International Accordion Festival in San Antonio

And the devil wins one! It's nice that the camera operator zoomed in a bit for Carri's amazing dance.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Squeeze MachineSecrets: 'Heads and Horns'

It's been said that some songs just about write themselves, but in this case it was even simpler. My relocation to the Great Northwest has introduced me to many cultural wonders, such as single-wides, double-wides, guns going full auto in the night and good old-fashioned game hunting. I'm not much of a hunter, but an ad in the local paper caught my eye and inspired me to begin a month-long research project into the world of "Heads and Horns." That was the title of the ad and it was an invitation for all hunters to bring their trophies to a convention in Tacoma, Wash., for judging and award presentations. Here are the lines that stuck out:

"Heads and Horns"
"Do you have a trophy in hiding?"
"Boone and Crockett rules apply"
"Typical, Non-typical"
"Horns must be attached to the skull"

How could you not write a song after being given these lines?

"Typical, non-typical"? Whatever could that mean? I had no idea, but I immediately started walking around the house singing it. Turns out it means if the animal's horns are unblemished, they are "typical." If they are broken from fighting or some other mishap, they are "Non-typical."

Then I began my research to find out what the Boone and Crockett rules were. (Yes, it's Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, who set the judging criteria for heads and horns way back in the 1800s). Finally, it was time to compile a list of every type of game that hunters stalk and put them in an order that was the most singable. This proved to be a real challenge for me and I still have trouble singing this tune without getting a little tongue-tied. I went into my studio and did a demo with a guitar and I got carried away and recorded a couple more tunes while I was at it.

I put them up on MySpace for kicks under the name The Grunts. I never intended for TDA to do the tune, but the band heard it and decided we should give it a go. After we had a track for the tune, I sent an e=mail to my pal Norton Buffalo and asked him to put a few harmonica tracks on top. He was in Idaho recording with Steve Miller, so I sent him an MP3. The next morning I had 2 AIFF files waiting in my in-box. Ah, the wonders of modern recording.

Susie suggested we get her friend Evan Price to add some fiddle and he did an outstanding job. I have to say the whole thing ended up sounding pretty dang authentic. My only regret is that the knee-slaps and hand-claps in the chorus got lost somehow. If we ever get a chance to remix, that will be one of the first things I fix!

Now That's How You Make a Record

Wired News' Listening Post blog dug up a couple of cool YouTube videos that show exactly how vinyl LPs are made. Fascinating!

Part 1: Making the master disc.

Par 2: Pressing the records.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Anybody Got an Accordion-o'-Lantern?

Sci-fi icons, geek titans, Halloween horrors -- it's a glowing pumpkin buffet! Vote for your favorite geeky jack-o'-lanterns or submit your own at Wired News' Underwire blog. An accordion-o'-lantern sure would make a nice addition.

Also: Don't miss the Robotic Snap-O-Lantern in action!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Heavy Metal + Parody = Priceless YouTube Humor

If you haven't witnessed the hilarious rock 'n' roll parodies created by YouTube prodigy StSanders, you're cheating yourself out of a free belly laugh. Earlier this week, Wired News ran an interview with the Finnish funnyman, who takes vintage heavy metal videos and overdubs crappy solos that are strangely convincing and remarkably funny.

Now he's unleashed another gem, "Iron Maiden shreds," this time targeting the veteran U.K. metal band's performance of "The Trooper." The climax of the video -- which features the appearance of Maiden mascot Eddie, set to a circus theme -- is, well, a monstrously funny moment.

Some of StSanders videos are surprisingly convincing -- the "Eddie Van Halen shreds" video had me scratching my head and despairing for the rocker's failing talents, at least until the "Iron Man" quote -- and some people fall for the parodies hook, line and sinker (just check the comments). But in the end, it's all in good fun.

P.S. My favorite StSanders creation is "Jake E. Lee shreds." The crazy Ozzy clapping, the vague haze of applause and Ozzy's under-enthusiastic wail about a minute into the clip ... truly inspired.

Nudie's the Name, Fashion's the Game

Everybody knows the female members of Those Darn Accordions dress fabulously and that, perhaps, from time to time on rare occasions, the manly members of the band fail to raise the fashion bar. I'm guessing some Nudie suits, as shown in the book Nudie: The Rodeo Tailor, would kick things up a notch. After all, who doesn't love a rhinestone cowboy?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Squeezin' in San Antonio, Part 4

Express-News journo Jim Beal Jr.'s blog coverage of the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio includes some cool pictures of performers. He also doles out some superlatives -- guess who he named "best-dressed band"? That's right: That title goes to "Those Darn Accordions, at least the three female members, Carri Abrahms, Susie Davis and Suzanne Garramone."

Paul's button-free Rockordion also gets the nod for "most radically altered accordion," and there are plenty more accolades and witty observations to go around. In fact, I nominate Jim for best coverage of the International Accordion Festival.

For more on the festival, check out the San Antonio Current's feature story, "Argentina, via the Ukraine." It starts out profiling "Argentinian accordion superstar Chango Spasiuk" and discussing the festival's truly international roots, then swerves into an interview with Paul about TDA's "oddball path" to squeezebox rock.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Squeezin' in San Antonio, Part 3

The Express-News' Jim Beal Jr. provides a post-action report of Day 1 at San Antonio's International Accordion Festival, headlined "Fest Offers a Lot of Fun and Tradition."

An excerpt:
"The old music and the new music kept dancers moving and large crowds at three stages grooving to the classic Western swing of the Ridgetop Syncopators; the Native American "chicken scratch" (a relative of conjunto) of Southern Scratch; the Celtic of Johnny B. Connolly and the Tradmarks; the San Antonio conjunto/rock of Texmaniacs; Quebecois from Yves Lambert & Le Bebert Orchestra; the complex Argentine folk/world music of Chango Spasiuk and his band; and the rollicking, rocking, four-accordion attack of San Francisco-based Those Darn Accordions."

There's a lot of roots music at the festival, and many mighty nice musicians hanging around. (We're getting quite an introduction to the button box and creole music, courtesy of Ed Poullard, who plays a mean fiddle alongside Louisiana accordionist Lawrence Ardoin, and builds button boxes himself). The festival organizers and volunteer staffers couldn't be any nicer, and the post-fest poolside party was pleasant as all get out.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Squeezin' in San Antonio, Part 2

Two sets down! Afternoon set -- hot as a fresh-fried puffy taco shell (I know because I had one). Evening set down by the River Walk -- much cooler. Bee-yoo-tee-full location, just right for an accordion band. Nice moat in front of the stage and all. You know things are looking up when you see a purple drink ticket.

Paul's black socks look cool and all, but here's what Suzanne and Carri looked like for tonight's show.

BTW, when you're in San Antonio and you're looking for a steak, give Little Rhein Steak House a try. Delicious filet-and-shrimp combo, and pecan pie that's outta this world.

Squeezin' in San Antonio

We're lovin' the International Accordion Festival so far. San Antonio is beautiful, the people are nice, and it's always fun to watch your bandmates put on a workshop.

Suzanne, Carri and Susie were joined onstage by a local San Antonio squeezebox player and another from Austin for the "Calling All Accordion Grrrrls!" workshop, which was moderated by festival organizer Pat. All these lovely ladies talked about their instruments and what it's like to be a female squeezer. They also played a few tunes.

Paul joined the women of TDA to sing a polka (even though he was wearing black socks with shorts).

Well, it's time for our first set -- come on down to San Antonio if you can. We play Saturday and Sunday, and this place is lousy with accordion greats.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Squeeze Machine Secrets: 'Wrinkle Suit'

TDA does a fair amount of traveling, and lately I've been spending a lot of time in airports. In fact, I'm writing this while I wait for a flight to San Antonio, Texas, to play the International Accordion Festival. Looking around, I see a lot of folks on cell phones, and in the past, if I wasn't writing this, I'd probably be on mine, too. It's a good time to call around the country and talk to festival directors and anybody else that might be interested in hiring a six-piece rock accordion band. Can you imagine what a cold call sounds like when you are trying to pitch this band?

"Yes, hello, this is Paul Rogers with Those Darn Accordions. Is Bob Jefferies in? Yes, Those DARN Accordions.... No, not that Paul Rodgers -- he spells his name with a "D," but we do have the same birthday! How about that! Well, anyway, we're a six-piece rock accordion band and we play lots of fairs and festivals and we would love to be considered for next year's ... Hello? Hello?"

You get the picture.

Well, last year I was waiting for a flight and making those cold calls and a salesman was seated right next to me doing the same thing. Only he was selling large industrial waste compactors. I'm not sure who had the harder job, but when you think about it, we were both trying to convince our clients to buy our squeeze! (Sorry about that.)

Anyway, this hapless fellow was going through his Rolodex and getting nowhere. I stopped making calls and began to listen to his calls. He had one heart-breaker where the potential client had just bought a new compactor the previous week. The poor guy had missed the sale by days and he looked pretty depressed. I noticed that his suit looked wrinkled and figured he had been traveling around the country for the past week and probably just wanted to get home. That's when the title "Wrinkle Suit" popped up, along with the first line from the song:

"I've got a cold call up in Raleigh and a red-eye to L.A.
If I can close in West Covina, I'll be home by Saturday"

And of course if you are going to write a song about a traveling salesman, you have to include a nod to the most famous of them all, Willy Loman. So I got right to it in the second line:

"I'm low man on the totem and Loman back in coach
And I'm feeling like a shadow of myself as we approach."

Lately I've been cutting back on the cold calls and just taking the calls that come in after we play a show. I like this approach better, because, let's face it, you really need to see TDA to get what all the hoopla is about. It's just about impossible to explain this band in 20 seconds! Well, time to get on my flight to Texas -- wrinkles and all!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

'Humor Rules' When It Comes to TDA

Nice TDA profile in today's San Antonio Express-News. "Humor rules during a TDA album and show," writes Jim Beal Jr., who has been pulling for us to get a slot at the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio for years.

Now it's all about to happen. Should be a riot (or at least a "heaping helping of accordions"). Thanks for your support, Jim! We're really looking forward to being part of an event with so many squeezebox greats.

Heads and Horns and ... a Video Shoot?

TDA squeezer emeritus Patty sends along a link to the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum in San Antonio, begging the question: Could there be a better place on the planet to shoot some video for our new song, "Heads and Horns"?

The Texas Legends website lays out the joint's interesting history:
"An enterprising entrepreneur, (Albert) Friedrich opened the saloon with the offer: 'Bring in your deer antlers and you can trade them for a shot of whiskey or a beer.' And so, the world’s most unique collection of horns and antlers began. Albert's father, Wenzel, soon joined in on the act, making handmade horn furniture for the saloon. In no time at all, cowboys and hunters began to bring in horns and trophy mounts from all kinds of animals."

I'm hoping we can stop by when we are in town for the International Accordion Festival. You may have a winner on the wall ...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

'Latino Roots' Spice Up San Antonio Squeeze Fest

The accordion's place in Latin music will be celebrated at the 2007 International Accordion Festival in San Antonio this weekend, according to Express News. Of course, we'll be there (we're listed as "alternative").

Check out the full list of performers and workshops (including one dubbed "Calling All Accordion Grrrrls!"). Wonder who'll be at that one?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

End of an Era: Art Altenburg Leaves Concertina Bar

Looks like Milwaukee treasure Art Altenburg finally found a buyer for his truly wonderful Concertina Bar.

That's bittersweet news -- I know Art has been trying to sell the place for a few years, so I'm happy for him. But I'll miss his 100-watt hospitality, his bar-top concertina riffs, his cheerful "beer time!" I'll even miss the broiled cheese curds. But I'm sure it's a good thing for Art, who says he will move to his family farm, take care of his mother and "probably go chasing women."

The possible silver lining is that "the new owner, Andy Kochanski, intends to keep the tradition of Art's alive, but minus Art," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. What's more, "Andy plans to allow accordions. Art is such an aficionado of concertinas that he would never allow their keyboarded cousins in the bar," the paper says (although Art always gave us the warmest of welcomes).

Good luck, Art, and good luck, Andy!

Bronze Fonz for Milwaukee?

TDA stalwart Bill from Milwaukee sends along a quick note about a bronze statue of Henry "the Fonz" Winkler that tourism booster Visit Milwaukee wants to erect in Beer City. The group might think it is capitalizing on the success of Happy Days, but Bill says, "I would give this thing about a week before it's vandalized."

The big question: Would the vandals be listening to TDA's cover of "Making Our Dreams Come True (Theme From 'Laverne and Shirley')"?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jamming With Dick Contino in Reno?

Great news! Accordion-centric blog Let's Polka reveals that we will be sharing the stage with Dick Contino at the Eldorado's Great Italian Festival this weekend. Of course, that information is buried on the casino's website (although the appearance is confirmed on Contino's site).

Check out the full schedule and you'll see that OG TDA member Tom Torriglia's band Bella Ciao will be playing, too, along with many other fun bands.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Squeeze Machine Secrets: 'Glass Of Beer Polka'

What would a Those Darn Accordions CD be without a polka or a song about beer? In the interest of economy, I decided to combine the two ideas and "git 'er done" at the same time. The first demo of this song was about a suds-loving carpenter who gets a call from his sister to come over and put together a doll house for his niece. There were a few decent lines, but the tune just didn’t pop enough. (Read the original lyrics.)

Lewis suggested that I remodel the tune -- to "go big" with it, making it about a couple of beer-drinking knuckleheads that are building an actual addition on a house. In a weird confluence of art and reality, my brother and I had just started building a room on the back of my house. It’s hard to tell what was driving what -- the song describing the addition, or the addition providing fodder for the tune. In the end, I think it was a little of both.

I thought it would be fun to get Drew Carey to help out on the tune, but I was having trouble getting hold of him. As the deadline for the mix loomed, I became resigned that it wasn’t going to happen. Then, out of the blue, Drew gave me a call to invite the band to L.A. to back him on a live show. It's that weird polka synchronicity that happens from time to time.

I asked Drew if he would like to join us on the tune and he immediately agreed. We went to a small studio in Burbank and sang the tune together. Drew's a real down-to-earth great guy and we had a lot of yucks doing the track. He did lots of ad-libs and we put a few at the end of the tune to give TDA fans a feel of being in the studio with us.

I'm happy to say that yesterday I put the last board on my roof and it's looks pretty darn good. And, yes, I celebrated with a frosty, foaming mug of cheer. So, what time is it? Polka (and beer) time! Enjoy!

Nice Words About Squeeze Machine

Courtesy of songs:illinois. Thanks!

P.S. You can read fan reviews of the new Those Darn Accordions CD (and add your own!) on our Squeeze Machine post.

Smoke Gets in Your Squeeze

Yet another reason smoking sucks: Secondhand smoke fouls squeezeboxes. reports that "anecdotal evidence" indicates "the interiors of accordions played regularly in smoke-filled environments are dirtied as a result of the trapping of contaminant particles circulating in the air as it filters through the instrument." Freaky. (And possibly the least often cited reason for a smoking ban.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Squeeze and Vino: I Guess It Works

I'm getting a little fascinated by the accordion/wine convergence. First it's accordions as the backdrop for a Canadian grape-stomp competition. Now comes word that accordion music fills the air at an Oktoberfest held at Lynfred Winery in Roselle, Illinois. The Daily Herald reports that the event also features barrel races and grape-spitting and -stomping contests.

Now that's news to me. I always thought Oktoberfests -- like the Columbia County Oktoberfest we're playing tonight in Oregon -- were all about the beer.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How Flogging Molly Got Its Squeeze Back

OK, I don't technically know how it happened, but Flogging Molly is recording a new record in Ireland, and the band has reunited with accordion player Matt Hensley. Reunited, and it feels so good ...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who Says Accordionists Can't Be Rock Stars?

Michael Hearst of One Ring Zero, that's who. Says Hearst to an audience at the University of Dayton (as reported by indie student paper Flyer News): "I should have worn sunglasses and done the rock star thing. It just doesn’t work so well with an accordion."

Man, have I got news for him. Has he ever seen Susie Davis in action, belting out a Led Zeppelin medley? Has he ever seen Paulie "Wah Wah" Rogers rip through a screaming squeezebox solo? Probably not, actually, but still ...

P.S. Bonus points to the first person who can name the accordionlike instrument Hearst is playing in the photo that accompanies the story (without reading the story, that is, since it's identified in the piece). Looks pretty rock 'n' roll to me!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sheet Music From Hell

The Listening Post headline says it all: This is indeed "sheet music from hell." Suzanne might be able to these read ridiculous charts -- with their bizarre instructions such as "untie slip knot," "like a dirigible," "release the penguins" and "continue 'swimming' motion" -- but don't ask the bass player to hack through 'em.

I know Paul has put some weird notes on TDA charts, but just right now they're slipping my mind ...

Accordion, Digital Delay and All That Jazz

I don't have a clue how to pronounce his name, but I want to hear accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen in action. The All About Jazz website describes his tweaked squeezebox music like this:
"With the aid of added microphones, digital relays and delays, he has dragged the accordion wheezing, shrieking and wailing into the new century. Taking it by its bellows, and with an acute awareness both of the prejudices the instrument brings as well as the visual appeal it can also offer, he has composed and performed in a multiplicity of styles and tastes."

All About Jazz's lengthy Q&A with Pohjonen gets into the Finnish musician's history and his experiments with various electronics to transform the sound of his button box.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fun's on Tap at Columbia County Oktoberfest

My heavens -- The Oregonian boasts a beer blog called The Beer Here, and blogger John Foyston taps the info keg on the Columbia County Oktoberfest we're playing next weekend.

It's a fun festival with plenty of sausage, beer and sauerkraut (not to mention some delicious barbecue, if past years are any indication). The Oktoberfest takes place at the Columbia County Event Complex in St. Helens, Oregon, about 30 miles north of Portland. If you're anywhere in the area, come on out!

Accordions Plus Wine Is Fine

Usually beer comes to mind when thirsty people think of accordion music. But the squeezebox's Italian heritage came into play when a pair of accordion players provided the soundtrack for a charity grape-stomp fundraiser for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

"With a little accordion music, you can't go wrong," participant Stephanie Stasyna told the Ottawa Sun. You said it, Steph.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Squeeze Machine Secrets: 'Tandem Bike'

Inspiration for a tune can come out of nowhere, or right at you on a bike path. We had a day off in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and I was sitting at my laptop in my hotel room when I noticed Carri walking briskly across the parking lot. I thought for sure she must be headed to a store and decided to seize the moment and put in an order for a sandwich and a candy bar.

I slid open my window and asked her where she was going and she completely confounded me by replying that she was off to rent a bike. Then she asked me (demanded, actually) if I wanted to come along, claiming that as a band leader, I need to keep in shape, blah blah blah. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but before I knew it, I was pedaling down a bike path about 50 yards behind Carri, breathing dust and wondering how I could have let this happen.

The Stevens Point bike path is a loop, but at times it uses city streets, and somehow we managed to get lost. We stopped to check the map the bike-rental shop had given us, but we couldn't make any sense out of it. That's when an older couple came gliding serenely toward us on a tandem bike.

Now, I had always thought that a tandem bike is a sure recipe for divorce, but these folks looked like they were having a wonderful time. I waved them down and asked them for directions, and they came to a graceful, synchronous stop in front of us. The gentleman in front gave me directions and we exchanged a few pleasantries; then he proceeded to remount and pedal off.

Unfortunately, Carri was still engaged in deep conversation with his wife as the bike began to move away. The poor woman did her best to make a quick seating and get in step, but alas, they only made it about 5 feet before slowly careening down to the ground. I was truly shocked and fearful that they might be hurt, but they waved us off and said they were fine. The gentleman then mentioned that it was the first time they had gone down in 30 years. Carri and I both felt a little guilty about helping to break this streak, and we offered our most heartfelt apologies.

Well, sort of.

I must admit that as soon as I saw they were OK, my mind was headed on its own little tandem-bike adventure. "Tandem bike" -- it just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? How could you not write a song about this? I tried not to for about 10 minutes. This happens sometimes. You know you're going to write a song about something, but you are feeling lazy and try to put it off for as long as possible. But then the lines start coming, and as soon as I start to chuckle, I know I have to do it.

As we continued our ride I would occasionally catch up with Carri and sing a few lines. She got in the spirit and threw out a few of her own, and by the time we made it back to the rental shop, this little ditty was complete. I especially like the ending, which -- oddly enough -- came first!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's TDA Polka Time!

Lots of folks have been asking how they can get all of TDA's polkas in one place. Yielding to popular demand, we've made an iMix on iTunes of all our polka recordings. Just click on this link and you can buy all our polkas at once. Of course, you'll need to open iTunes to view and purchase the list. What time is it? It's polka time!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Squeeze Machine Secrets: 'Blame It On Those Darn Accordions'

We often are asked why we don't do more New Orleans-style music. With all these accordions, it's a fair enough question. My answer has been that there are plenty of "authentic" New Orleans bands that play this style of music all the time -- and way better than we could ever hope to. I just felt it was a genre better left alone.

When our drummer, Michael Messer, joined the band, he brought with him a long history of playing New Orleans music. He has lived and played in the Big Easy and is a huge fan of the New Orleans sound. I wanted to take advantage of his talents, so I just sat down at the piano and started banging out what I thought sounded like a New Orleans groove. (Professor Longhair I am not!)

I basically wanted to give him something to showcase his drumming. I think he did a fantastic job. I had a lyric idea about someone who blames his mess-ups on "those darn accordions." Think, "Blame It On The Bossa Nova." I laid that on top of the groove and that was it. Susie, who plays a lot of New Orleans music herself, worked out some cool harmonies and a vocal breakdown to put on the finishing touches. The result is a pretty fun party tune and a handy excuse for being late to work!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, Squeeze Machine!

The new Those Darn Accordions CD hit store shelves today. You can get it at your local record store (make them special order it if necessary), on iTunes or from the TDA Store.

The fan reviews are rolling in -- get your copy quick so you can give us your two cents! And be sure to check the Wall of Wheeze this week for Paul's "Squeeze Machine secrets," a series of posts outlining just what, exactly, he was thinking when he penned songs like "Mr. Saggy Butt" and "Larry's Wonderful Life." (The first one, about "This Song," is already live.)

Pass the champagne, would you dear?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Squeeze Machine Secrets: 'This Song'

At our live concerts, a lot of folks come up and tell me they like the stories I tell before some of our tunes. They say knowing where the inspiration comes from helps them enjoy the tunes more, or at least make them tolerable. Well, I'm all for that! After a bit of prodding from our bass player, Lewis, I've decided to offer a little insight into the tunes on our new CD, Squeeze Machine, one day at a time.

I'll do my best to explain them, but I can't guarantee that it's all going to make sense. With any luck, this will eliminate some of the RCA dog looks at upcoming shows.

Let's start with the first track on the CD, "This Song."

Every year I take my family to my home state of Michigan and reconnect with some childhood friends and their families. We all head up north to a great little resort on Lake Michigan. Bonfires glow on the beach every night, and inevitably someone brings out a guitar and a sing-along ensues. Now, I've never been one for singing around the campfire, don't know why exactly, but I prefer to stare into the fire (or the stars) with a beer or glass of wine and share a laugh with my old friends, unfettered by melodic angst and improvised percussion.

One night another family came over to our fire with a couple guitars and a huge songbook. They were very prepared and, I must say, quite good. They sang a lot of tunes from the '60s and '70s and even a few new ones. I was almost tempted to bust a version of "Hamsterman" but thought better of it. Then they sang a couple of Beatles songs and for some reason it reminded me of a Fab Four tribute band I saw in Reno awhile ago.

I started thinking about some of my musician friends who have been slogging it out in the clubs the past 30 years and are still hoping to "make it" one day. I was thinking about all the musicians out there, including myself, who start out with a dream and just can't seem to let go. I went to sleep thinking about this and woke up with the line, "This song's got money written all over it." The rest of the lines just sort of fell in place. I walked to the cottage next door, grabbed a guitar from one of the kids and started singing "This Song." There's a video of it somewhere -- I look real sleepy and sound like a frog -- but that's where the song was born.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Squeezer Gets His Minute of Glory

In Russia, young accordion players win big money on TV talent shows. Tula's own Maksim Tokaev, 14, took first place in the popular Russian show Minute of Glory, bagging 1 million rubles ($39,000) for his squeezebox excellence.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What's the Word on Squeeze Machine?

UPDATED: The official Sept. 18 release date hasn't hit yet, but the new Those Darn Accordions CD, Squeeze Machine, is out there in the wild -- we've sold hundreds at gigs and through the pre-release online sale. Perhaps it's time to solicit some quick reviews. Have you heard it? What do your ears tell you? Inquiring minds want to know ...

Is There an 'Accordion Face'? captures a wide range of onstage emotion with its feature, "The History of the Guitar Face," which names and classifies those funny looks many guitarists wear while soloing.

So, is there an equivalent gallery highlighting "accordion face"? There ought to be ...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Have Beer, Will Travel

An idea whose time has come: Deschutes Brewery's Neighborhood Hops, a "traveling beer festival" designed to bring excellent beer, food and music to Seattle enclaves. Reproduce, please. (Can you hear me, Speakeasy?)

Road Food: Good Grub in Washington

* The Primo Grill in Tacoma serves up delicious meals (we've been there twice so far this trip). Hard to explain how fantastic the sticky toffee pudding is -- sounds weird, tastes unbelievable.

* At the Puyallup Fair, the rib tips from Longhorn Barbecue Outpost rule. They're meaty, chewy and satisfying -- and almost too good a deal!

* Engine House No. 9 in Tacoma makes a lucious, fruity hefeweizen that's banana-y and extremely refreshing. If you like the Euro-style wheat beer, this is the stuff (goes good with their chili, too).

Pink Floyd a la Polka

The Polka Floyd Show, a musical mashup out of Toledo, Ohio, performs the classic rock band's songs polka-style, with an accordion high in the mix. "We take the songs and make our own thing out of it," drummer Frank Dramczyk tells The Independent Collegian. "We get an incredible amount of people shaking their heads, in a good way, saying 'Wow, that is really cool.' No one has walked up to us and said, 'You are a disaster.' We expected a lot more bad input than what we've received."

Musical genius or just another schtick in the wall? Hear it for yourself at the band's MySpace page.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wild Times at Widmer

Now that's what I'm talking about: A huge crowd of enthusiastic folks splayed out across the "natural" parking-lot amphitheater of a brewery, with a loading dock turned into a stage and a green room with a tap in it. Plus great bands, cheap admission and excellent food (I've developed a whole new appreciation for kielbasa, and now can't get the song "Kielbasa, Beer and Sauerkraut" out of my head).

Widmer Brothers -- you do Oktoberfest right. Thanks for having us.

P.S. Do yourself a favor and try a Widmer Okto while the fest ale is available (through late October). Sehr gut!

P.P.S. Thanks to Kevin the cook man for loaning me his bass to get through sound check after Southwest lost mine (again).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

TDA Bubbles With Enthusiasm About Widmer Oktoberfest

Speaking of beer, Those Darn Accordions plays the third-annual Widmer Brothers Oktoberfest in Portland, Ore., this Saturday. Other bands include Curtis Salgado, Dr. Theopolis and Widmer's own Colin Lake and Wellbottom.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the giant lemon drop (as described on the brewery's website): "Test your catching skills at the world's biggest 'Lemon Your Widmer' Event, in which lemon wedges will be dropped from the brewery roof to Oktoberfest-goers 40 feet below ... all while enjoying delicious Widmer Brothers beers!"

You'd have to be a real sourpuss not to get a kick out of that.

Man Builds 'Ultimate Beer-Brewing Machine'

Its creator calls it simply The Device, but the wondrous task it performs is anything but simple: The self-contained machine makes and serves beer.

Constructed by Popular Science staff photographer John Carnett, "the ultimate all-in-one beer brewing machine" is a pretty amazing invention. In the video clip, Carnett walks through the brewing process that transforms plain old Philadelphia water into the magical beverage that made Milwaukee famous. It's something to behold, although at $4,315 to build, it's a lot cheaper (and easier) to nab a six pack at your corner store.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

TDA 'Lite' Rocks Cotati Accordion Fest

Some folks are perhaps still wondering about the absence of Carri and Susie at last week's Cotati Accordion Festival. Though we rocked mightily, if I do say so myself, we missed the mellifluous harmonies of TDA's songbirds. Susie was attending a cousin's wedding in Idaho and poor Carri came down with a bad case of the stomach flu the morning of the show. She's doing much better now and we expect to be in full force for next Saturday's Widmer Brothers Brewing Oktoberfest in Portland, Oregon. See you there!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Julieta Venegas Calls Accordions 'Organic'

Award-winning accordion player Julieta Venegas calls the squeezebox "a very organic instrument" in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News (and published on

"There's something magical about the strength of it," Venegas says. I'm thinking that, if accordions are organic, we can charge more for them.

Saturday Food and Drink Updates

* September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. Time to celebrate.

* San Francisco Bay area "coffee pioneer" Alfred Peet -- the founder of Peet's Coffee & Tea, the java jet fuel that keeps TDA humming on the road -- died Wednesday.

* Through shadowy means best left undocumented, I am now in possession of the secret recipe to the amazing Swiss cream pie served at Turner Hall of Monroe, Wis. I'll be shopping for expandable-waist pants in the near future.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Alleged Burning Man Arsonist Spills the Beans

When I'm not playing bass with Those Darn Accordions, I'm working as culture editor for Wired News. Yesterday we got a pretty funny interview with Paul Addis, the prankster accused of torching the giant Burning Man statue five days early. It's worth looking at the story just to see his crazy mug shot.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nice Promo for Gogol Bordello

The Portland Mercury's advance notice for a Gogol Bordello show hits all the right notes: The "UN-approved punk rock" band is led by frontman Eugene Hutz, who's "part Iggy Pop and part Borat."

A friend of TDA slipped us a Gogol Bordello CD in Oshkosh, Wis., and I've been rocking it in the pickup almost every day since I got back to the Bay Area. Very much do I agree now with this fine music and newspaper review. Thanks you very much.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bust Out the Popcorn for The Accordion, the Movie says Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman will star in a romantic comedy called, simply enough, The Accordion, based on the Italian film Pane e Tulipani ("Bread and Tulips"). Wonder if the soundtrack is all hammered down?

Friday, August 24, 2007

TDA Road Food Highlights 2007

If you know Those Darn Accordions, you know we like to eat. It's said that an army travels on its stomach, and it's the same deal for this squeezebox brigade. In the interest of sharing the wealth, here are some exclusive dining tips (in no particular order) from the TDA vault:

* Swiss cream pie at Turner Hall of Monroe, Wis. If you only know this fine venue for its musical offerings and wonderful staff, do yourself a favor and head downstairs to the Ratskeller next time. The food is fantastic -- so fantastic, in fact, that it's hard to nail down the most fantastic part. Delicious fried cod? To-die-for mashed potatoes? Light and wonderful Käsechüchli? Spectacular Rösti? On and on the options go. And the dessert list is truly formidable (I'll go with the Swiss cream pie, because it was out of this world).

* Dinner at The Corner Wine Bar in Indianapolis' Broad Ripple neighborhood. Unbelievably delicious food at a great price -- I heartily recommend the cheese crock, the tomato orange soup and the extra spicy gazpacho, and that's just the appetizer menu. And Broad Ripple rocks -- who knew? (Thanks Rob, Mom and Dad.)

* Lunch at the Water City Grill in downtown Oshkosh, Wis. The website is lame, but the food is delightful. (Try the grilled shrimp appetizer for a real treat.)

And the list grows ...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Monsters of Accordion Descend on Bay Area

There's gonna be a whole lotta squeezin' goin' on this weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area. Saturday and Sunday you've got the Cotati Accordion Festival (we play Sunday).

And if that's not enough accordion action, the Monsters of Accordion tour rolls into town Friday (Frisco) and Saturday (Oakland). Jason Webley, Corn Mo, Geoff Berner and Duckmandu will be playing, with special guests to include East Bay squeezebox fiend Kimric Smythe and others. SF Station writes it up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Look Out, Cotati -- Here We Come

We play the Cotati Accordion Festival this Sunday, Aug. 26. Also on the bill that day: Brave Combo, Culann's Hounds, The Mad Maggies and more. Check the full schedule to see what accordion madness awaits both days (the $25 two-day pass is the obvious bargain). Guaranteed good times!

Accordions: Funny or Enchanting?'s world music guide, Megan Romer, chooses the E word over the F word in her mini-essay, "What's So Funny About Accordions?" She also issues a call for accordion jokes, so let 'em rip.

World's Oldest Chewing Gum?

It's a 5,000-year-old hunk of chewed up pink-and-gray ... made of birch bark. See the picture on the Fortean Times website (and imagine a really old wall of gum).

All Hail Midwestern Weather!

Leah Garchik, the San Francisco Chronicle's must-read daily columnist, ran an item (scroll down) describing our glimpse of Mother Nature's power while on tour last week. (Get the extended version of the hailstorm horror story on the Wall of Wheeze.) Thanks, Leah!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cleveland Dedicates Frankie Yankovic Square

The Plain Dealer's website posts photos of friends and family members of the Polka King.

UPDATE: Here's the Plain Dealer story about the dedication ceremony.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

It's Our Party, and You Can Come If You Want To!

The official Squeeze Machine Midwest CD-release party happens tonight at FitzGerald's in Berwyn, Ill. We'll be playing tons of material off the new record, and special guests will include executive producer Jim Barry and art guy Sean Pete (who created the steampunk accordion on the CD cover and pulled together the rest of the album artwork). If you're in Chicagoland, come on down!

Money Quote: TDA Boasts Boomer Appeal

From a little blurb about our show in Monroe, Wis., in Madison's Isthmus: "Seasoned with low-key humor, Baby Boomers and other free-thinkers will find this group especially appealing."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Here We Come, Monroe!

Still reeling from a great night in Oshkosh, Wis., we're getting ready to load up the van and head for Turner Hall of Monroe. Word on the street is that there will be a limburger smackdown in the Turner Hall Ratskeller. It's on!

Farming Fun at the Indiana State Fair

Blogger skaryma's cool snapshots of weird stuff -- like the awesome display of hog oilers -- at the Indiana State Fair captures the agricultural merriment of the event. She also describes a TDA set there as having "the worst audience in the history of the world." She bought a CD and some shirts to help us out -- hope she got Squeeze Machine (and likes it).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thank You, Oshkosh, Good Night!

What an awesome night and an honor, opening for Tower of Power and David Sanborn. Thank you, Oshkosh, for making Waterfest so cool. (And thanks to all the Wisconsin TDA fans who swarmed the place early. You make it all worthwhile.)

Indy to Oshkosh: On the Road With TDA

Here's what it's like to roll with Those Darn Accordions: Wake up way too early to the sound of a cell phone alarm. Drive to the Indiana State Fair. Set up your gear. Sweat a bit. Look at the new copies of Squeeze Machine in sunlight for the first time.

Load onto the stage. Marvel at the stage manager's "fun is corntagious" fair shirt. Eat a hand-dipped corn dog. Play three sets, with the temperature steadily rising. (If you're the bass player, screw up a couple of songs -- in the best parts!) Eat a ribeye sandwich. Load off the stage, sweating mightily.

Get in a rental car. Drive toward Wisconsin. Get some coffee at Starbucks. Just before you get out of Indiana, have a nice dinner at Red Lobster (drink three more cups of coffee). While exiting the restaurant, notice the gusting wind and the far-off lightning. Notice that the storm rages between you and Wisconsin. Start driving.

When the torrential dowpour begins, pull over along the highway to endure the worst rain-and-hail storm you've ever seen (imagine 100 angry monkeys with golf clubs and a firehose beating relentlessly on your rental car for 10 minutes). Shriek in disbelief as the hailstones, some of which are just about as big as your fist, slam into your car. Question the state of the windshield of your rented Impala and, in the end, praise the inventor of safety glass. Drive very slowly for a long time, dodging downed trees and miniature lakes that have sprung up in fast lane.

Stop just over the Wisconsin state line for some vending machine "cappucino." Inspect the welter of dents on the rental car and relish the opportunity to perform a real-world test of the "automatic" insurance coverage your credit card gives you.

Keep on driving.

Get to Oshkosh, only to discover that the hotel bar is closed. Walk up the street to Screwballs Sports Pub, 216 N. Main St., Oshkosh, (920) 651-1515, to enjoy a late-night New Glarus double header. Revel in beers that go from half-price to free. Thank proprietor Brett Jungwirth profusely, and promise to drop off a copy of Squeeze Machine. Type yourself into a frenzy as you get psyched to play with Tower of Power and David Sanborn at Waterfest, and plot your revenge against Erin the overachiever.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

'Squeeze Machine' Pre-Release Sale Starts

Help buy Paul some gas money for that big white van! Place your orders now for the new Those Darn Accordions CD, Squeeze Machine, at the special pre-release price of just $13.50. Order your copy now from the TDA Store and it will be delivered on or about the official release date of Sept. 18.

Our manufacturer assures us we'll also have copies of Squeeze Machine in time for at least some of our upcoming shows.

Ruin Your CD With These Recording Session Faux Pas

Maybe we should have read "41 Things Not To Say During A Recording Session..." before going into the studio to work on Squeeze Machine.

The all-too-true funny list comes from Bermuda Schwartz's Rock and Roll Lies, "Your source for classic rock and roll lies, famous last words and excuses for all occasions... entertainment industry humor... quotable quotes... humorous and scandalous band names... and more." (For those of you not in the know, Bermuda is the drummer for "Weird Al" Yankovic -- and so much more!)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Accordions Storm the Nation's Capital

Lots of international accordion action in Washington, D.C., starting Monday, when the Coupe Mondiale (World Cup) squeezebox competition rolls into the capital. The weeklong event is co-hosted by the American Accordionists' Association and the Accordionists and Teachers Guild International, and the Washington Post has the scoop on a bunch of related concerts and street performances, some of which are free. (Guess TDA's invitation got lost in the dead letter office.)

Emmylou Harris Loves Accordions

"I'm a sucker for accordion music," country songbird Emmylou Harris says in praising the Amelie soundtrack in a Wall Street Journal Hit List feature. I know somebody who's getting a copy of Squeeze Machine in her mailbox ...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Are You Ready to Rock, Monroe?

Or maybe the more important question is, "Can you handle the Limburger, Mr. Rogers?" Get the answer to these burning questions and more in a funny interview with Paul that appears in The Monroe Times.

Our Aug. 17 show at Monroe's Turner Hall is one of only two Wisconsin gigs we've got booked this year (the other is the previous night at Waterfest in Oshkosh, opening for Tower of Power, David Sanborn and Paul "Poppy" Sanchez and The NOLA Allstars).

Guess that's what happens when you spend all winter, and then all spring, and then most of the summer, working on your studio tan.

We are super-stoked to return to these fine venues, and we might even have copies of our new record, Squeeze Machine, in hand to sell at the shows. But we don't make any promises our accordion cases can't keep. See you there?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

S.F. Giants: Oh Say Can You Squeeze?

OG TDA squeezer Tom Torriglia's band Bella Ciao will play the national anthem Tuesday at the San Francisco Giants' Italian Heritage Night. Undoubtedly this will propel Barry Bonds to hit No. 756 -- should be a packed house. Knock 'em dead, you Italiano party crazies!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Mile-High Squeeze-Off

More than 150 squeezers are squaring off in the Rocky Mountain Accordion Association competition this weekend, according to KUSA-TV.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Brief History of the Bayan

From the Asian shen to the Russian cherepashki ("turtles"), garmonika ("accordion") and bayan, the article "Bayan, a Russian Folk Music Instrument" offers a glimpse into the squeezebox's majestic past.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Accordions Invade Ashkenaz

The Mad Maggies open for Dginn -- yet another eclectic, accordion-powered California band -- at Ashkenaz in Berkeley this Thursday. Get details on the Maggies' gig calendar.

No Accordions Anywhere in Sight

... but that doesn't demean a Dale Watson show, no how no way. Suzanne and I (and our friends Sonia and Bev) just got back from a fine night at 12 Galaxies in San Fran Sicko. (It was a fine night in spite of the club's inability to properly dispense beer in a timely fashion -- come on, folks, how hard is it to stock up on High Life and sell it to the people? And then again, how hard is it for Miller to have a website that mentions High Life? Apparently impossible. Give me a break and don't get me started and all that.)

But anyway, if you like real country music and you haven't heard Dale, buy one or all of his records immediately. And then catch his show the next time he comes anywhere near your town. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New Those Darn Accordions CD Is Off to the Presses

It's called "Squeeze Machine" and, to quote one of the new songs on it, "you're gonna love it (oh yeah)." It's probably our most eclectic and fun record yet.

We'll be posting more info about the 15-song behemoth, which hits store shelves mid-September, right here on the Wall of Wheeze over the next few weeks. But right now, it's off to the Pacific Northwest for a couple of shows:

Tonight!! Thursday, July 26
Summer Concerts at the Lake in Longview, Washington.

Friday, July 27
Bite of Salem in Salem, Oregon.

And the Tour Page is filling up ...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bat Boy Flies the Coop

The Weekly World News -- chronicler of the exploits of Bat Boy, Bigfoot and assorted extraterrestrial freaks -- will no longer spice up your grocery store checkout line. The print edition is folding, but the website will live on, according to Westword.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Price Is Definitely Right for Drew Carey

Congratulations to Drew Carey, who has confirmed the rumor that he will replace Bob Barker as host of The Price Is Right. It's a smart move by CBS, which also tabbed him to host a new game show called Power of 10 that premieres Aug. 7.

The twin wins (tough luck, Rosie) pretty much make Drew the new king of the game shows. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

When he flew us down to Los Angeles last month to back him up -- he was singing a few tunes at the Greg Proops Chat Show, and needed an accordion band -- he told us about the Price Is Right negotiations as champagne flowed at the fabulous One Sunset restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.

Drew was rattling off concepts for the show, and it was clear he was psyched about the opportunity to take Price Is Right to a new level. We had a great time hanging out with him (he even picked up what must have been a fat tab for the fab meal), and the Greg Proops show was a real hoot. All in all, we couldn't have had a better time.

Drew, described by the Associated Press as a "genial comic" -- no quibbles there, although I prefer "America's funnyman" as a shorthand descriptive phrase -- is a truly nice guy with loads of energy and ideas. And he even found time to record some vocals for a duet with Paul on the upcoming TDA record. (You heard it here first: Drew and Paul share lead vocals on a new blue-collar song called "Glass of Beer Polka.")

Now, Drew just needs to get a band for his game shows ...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jet-Powered Outhouse Belches Flames

Growing up in Ohio, I've got an evil memory or three related to outhouses. But if you want a real fire-and-brimstone privy vision, you've got to see the Port-O-Jet, a jet-engine-equipped toilet that makes 46 mph and emits flames worthy of Beelzebub. Next up on creator Paul Stender's to-do list? A jet-powered beer truck, according to Popular Science.

Mad Maggies Make Noise at McGrath's Pub

Bay Area accordion band megamoonlighters the Mad Maggies play McGrath's Pub in Alameda this Saturday. The venue's calendar says it all: "Klezmergrass? Huh???"

I'll be there on bass, of course, and original Those Darn Accordions drummer Bill Schwartz (who played on the first Mad Maggies CD, Crazed and Enthused), will be pounding the skins.

P.S. I guess you've gotta love a place with a "buy one, get none free" slogan.

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's Raining Worms in Louisiana

I knew the San Francisco Bay Area had the best weather around, but I didn't know exactly what people in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were up against. Yikes.

I'm Getting Hungry ...

Looks like the food tents will be humming at the 14th Annual Bite of Salem festival in Salem, Oregon. The culinary options include such obvious winners as rope sausage on a stick, fresh-squeezed lemonade, hand-dipped Pronto Pups, and crawfish-and sausage jambalaya. I'm almost certain Adam's Rib Smoke House will be servin' up some big meat, and I also like the sound of an "expanded beer and wine garden."

In between meals, Those Darn Accordions will take the stage Friday, July 27, at 7:15 p.m. -- here's the rest of the musical lineup.

See the Funny Goats Faint

Why do I find it so hilarious when these fainting goats tumble like bowling pins?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Freaky News Saturday

@ Genetic defect yields "whopper of a whippet": Meet the Incredible Hulk of Hounds (with pictures)

@ Beijing bonus: Buns Made From Cardboard Found in China

@ Cut in half, but 100 percent spirited: Miracle Man Walks Again (with inspirational photos)

In Praise of Accordions ...

Colorado squeezebox player Keely Brown, who blames the instrument's "bad rap" on the overwhelming cheese of The Lawrence Welk Show, shares a few of her personal experiences in a lovely little essay titled, "In Praise of Accordions" in The Summit Daily.

Canadian 'Polkapalooza' Draws Accordion Army

The Kimberley International Old Time Accordion Championships sound a little like a squeezebox Sturgis, only with motor homes and polka fans rather than motorcycles and wet T-shirt contests. The Globe and Mail describes it as "an annual festival that floods the mountain community with devotees of the stretchy instrument."

"The stretchy instrument"? That's a new one.

But hordes of squeezebox fanatics descending on a small town sounds interesting, to say the least.

"People are accordion crazy up here," says Alex Meixner, one of the judges who rates competitors on "'old-time feeling,' technique and the danceability of their style ... gauged by a lone couple dancing offstage at the Civic Centre during competitions," according to the paper.

At least one stomach Steinway aficionado at the gathering is thinking more avant-garde than "old time." Reports the Globe and Mail: "One festival goer struts around wearing a white T-shirt that reads: Accordions rock."

Boy howdy they do.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Let's Hope This Guy Doesn't Get an Accordion

We already discussed the fact that accordions might be hipper than iPhones. Now this joker has put one of Apple's pricey "Jesus phones" in a blender and hit the Smoothie button.

It's destructive and incredibly wasteful -- maybe even dangerous, considering the ominous look of that black, dusty smoke -- but priceless.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Record Biz Biting the Dust?

Writing about a possible new Bruce Springsteen album featuring the E Street Band, Fox News wag Roger Friedman slips in a funny little "the sky is falling" snippet from a high-level Sony exec.

"You are the last one writing about the record business," the anonymous Sony muckety-muck told Friedman. "Don't you realize it's over?"

Can it really be that the record biz is a dinosaur wheezing out its final death rattle? Is the CD really on the verge of extinction?

Friedman says a big Springsteen rock extravaganza could be seen as a "savior" by Columbia Records. I don't think Globe Records, Those Darn Accordions' label, needs such a lifeline. But then Globe never supported an army of publicists and marketing mavens (or caviar-and-champagne executives, for that matter). The "good old days" -- which kept some folks extremely fat and happy -- may be gone forever, but I suspect people will keep making music in one form or another.

I know we will. Heck, there's a new one in the chute!

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Year Without Summerfest ...

Somehow it just doesn't feel like summer when we don't make the trek to Milwaukee to play Summerfest. Luckily, Bill from Milwaukee dropped me a line to give me a little taste of the Big Gig and share his favorite "Summerfest moment" of 2007. (Next time I hope he e-mails me a bratwurst, too.)

Writes Bill:
Saturday was a nice toasty day on the grounds, 95 degrees and high humidity. Just my kind of weather (not). Anywho, I'm watching this interesting band called The Scarring Party. They have an eclectic lineup of musical instruments: accordion, banjo, tuba, xylophone, church bell, typewriter, bassoon and didgeridoo. (No kidding.)

So, my best Summerfest moment came when the bandleader asked the soundman: "Can I get more didgeridoo in my monitor please?"


I wore the tattered old TDA squeezebox T-shirt to Summerfest this year. Must've had about 50 people ask if you guys would be playing.

Maybe next year Bill will be able to say "Yes."

Let There Be Lights

We don't tout a million stupid things here on the Wall of Wheeze. But I can heartily recommend the Mighty Bright XtraFlex Duet Super LED Music Stand Lightyou see here. The twin-LED gadget is easy to pack and perfect for lighting up your music stand in a dark club. Plus, they look like aliens or something. Frankly, I wish I had invented the Mighty Bright.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Accordions: Hipper Than iPhones

The accordion is set to explode, according to New York Sun writer Lenore Skenazy, who has penned "An Ode to the Squeezebox" in honor of the upcoming NYC Main Squeeze Accordion Festival.

Her thesis -- that American hipsters are catching on to the accordion in a big way -- sounds right to me. As San Francisco's self-appointed accordion ambassadors, we've been doing our share to pump up squeezebox awareness for almost two decades now, and we've seen a steady rise in the instrument's popularity over the years.

With a new Those Darn Accordions record in the chute, it's time to make the call: 2008 will be the Year of the Accordion. Brace yourself for a wild ride into the free-reed future!

What's That Sound?

If you're near New York's Pier I tomorrow, the racket you hear could be the Second Annual NYC Main Squeeze Accordion Festival, which The New York Post says "may sound like mating walruses coming from the Hudson." I bet it sounds a lot more radical than that!