Saturday, March 31, 2007

'Accordion Warrior' Fronts The Serfs

The Sun Journal's nice little profile of Gary Sredzienski, the accordion player who fronts "global groove" band The Serfs, makes him sound like quite the eclectic squeezer:
"People know Sredzienski as 'The Polka Guy' because of his radio show Polka Party, which airs on WUNH-FM. But the show is only a small part of who he is and what he does. Sredzienski is a full-time accordionist with a forestry degree, who left the field years ago to start The Serfs, with four compact discs on his own Bellows Music label and a gig at the Smithsonian on his resume."
Love the surfboard photo!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

World's Tallest Man Marries

The world's hairiest fellow plans on getting hitched, but the world's tallest man beats him to the matrimonial punch. And they're both from China ...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

China's Freaky 'Great Dragon' Project

Developers are building a 13-mile-long dragon made of cement and steel and (eventually) covered with "5.6 million scales of jade or gold-coated bronze." When finished, the giant hilltop dragon will hold trains and clubs, the developers say. Those Darn Accordions officially wants to play the grand opening.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

World's Hairiest Man Getting Hitched

No photos (or even a name) of the woman who will marry hirsute Yu Zhenhuan. But plenty of pix of the 30-year-old man, described as a "successful musician."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mystery Accordionist Makes Rolling Stone

A blindfolded bellows-pumper works 6th Street during the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas -- and winds up in a Rolling Stone photo gallery. Wonder if the squeezeboxer had a pair of partners, one wearing earmuffs and the other with duct tape covering the mouth?

Top Accordionist Dies After Show

The BBC's headline says it all. Very sad, but at least accordionist Jean McConnachie went down squeezing.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

TDA's Strange Chartfellows

We made Corey Anderson's American Idle Friday Random Ten this week. Sandwiched between "Happy Meal" by The Cardigans and "The Passion" by Bill Bragg sits "Dancing With a Dead Man" by Those Darn Accordions.

This post is dedicated to the recently deceased Calvert DeForest, who the Los Angeles Times describes as "the roly-poly character actor with the black-framed glasses and seemingly clueless delivery who developed a cult following as Larry 'Bud' Melman on Late Night With David Letterman in the 1980s." Rest in piece, Larry. Thanks for the laughs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

See Spiders on Drugs

No accordions, just wacky fun in this under-two-minute video diversion on YouTube. (Caution: Contains slightly offensive language and, obviously, drug references.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Al Bunde: 'Ambassador of Beer'

Our pal Al Bunde, (apparently formerly) of the (apparently defunct) Riverwest Accordion Club, makes the St. Patty's Day report in the West Bend Daily News:
"People were also smiling at Al Bunde, brewmaster at Riverside Brewery and Restaurant in West Bend, as he trudged up the hill with his accordion on his back and a hogshead of beer at his side. 'The cops wouldn’t let me in,' said Bunde, who had parked north of the parade route and had to hike uphill.

What the police couldn’t know is that Bunde was a member of the now-defunct Riverwest Accordion Club and was dubbed 'The Ambassador of Beer.' Wouldn’t he have political immunity or something?"
Al was bending our ears pretty good about his exciting work at the new brewery/restaurant in West Bend last time we played Milwaukee's fabulous Shank Hall. Riverside Brewery is on the must-visit list next time we're in Wisconsin.

Are You Tex-Mex Experienced?

TDA's favorite "pro-accordion and I write" journalist, Jim Beal Jr. of San Antonio's Express-News, touts a Texas band called Shawn Sahm & the Tex-Mex Experience. Beals says the group burned up the stage at this year's South by Southwest Music and Media Conference:
"The quintet of Sahm (guitar, vocals), Nunie Rubio (vocals), Michael Guerra (accordion, vocals), Neal Walker (bass, vocals) and George Rains (drums) is a rock 'n' roll powerhouse.... TMX is ready for the big time. The fusion of all-out rock, hot-licks accordion and guitar, spot-on vocals and catchy, hook-laden songs is irresistible.

If the business types from the music industry are worried about marketing a rock band with an accordion, they need to get over it, strap on their dancing shoes and unleash the Tex-Mex Experience."
Now how hard could it possibly be to market a rock band with an accordion? Sounds like a mother-of-pearl money machine to me!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Anderson Valley's Beer-Cap Laffs

In a nod to a more whimsical and amusing brewing past, Anderson Valley Brewing Company puts little sayings and rebuses on the backs of at least some of its bottle caps. I love the practice, which makes popping a top a little more magical.

The little circular print jobs are called "crown ticklers," according to a cool website that shows the answers to hundreds of bubbly puzzles that have appeared on caps for Ranier, Lucky and the like over the years.

I'm glad to see that Anderson Valley -- possibly the world's finest brewery -- is continuing the tradition, although most of AVBC's crown ticklers are goofy slogans ("Honest, Officer, that's hops you smell!") or Boontling riffs that might seem baffling if you're not hip to the weird (and almost dead) regional dialect that sprang up in Anderson Valley in the 1800s. They do throw in some rebuses, though, just to shark a kimmie for a hoot.

Finally, if you're anywhere near California in May (and you like beer), you should make your way to Anderson Valley for the 11th annual Boonville Beer Fest. Best beer fest in the land. Bahl Hornin'!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mad Maggies Perform Live on KRSH

Hear a little bit o' squeeze and a whole lot o' brass (not to mention guitar, drums and bass) this Thursday, March 22, at 8 p.m. when The Mad Maggies play Thursday Night Live. It's a radio show on The Krush Wine Country Radio 95.5 and 95.9 FM. (Don't live in the North Bay? Hear the show stream live by going to the Krush homepage and clicking Listen Live.)

Carri'd Away With Handel

When she's not slumming with a squeezebox rock ensemble, Those Darn Accordions' own Carri Abrahms moonlights with a bunch of rockin' classical musicians. Today she'll be singing two Handel cantatas at Old First Church in San Francisco (Sacramento at Van Ness), making a special guest appearance with the Phantasy Ensemble. Show starts at 4 p.m.

I'm sure this will be great, but I'm guessing Carri will not be kicking either one of her lanky legs above her head with this group, and you can frankly forget about hearing any yodeling whatsoever. (She's saving that action for TDA's CD-release party no doubt.) Get more details about Sunday's show on the Old First site.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Blame It on Those Darn Accordions

It's amazing what a difference a new instrument can make. When I worked on our last CD, Lawnball, I was using a couple of accordions that were literally falling apart as I played them. (Granted, I tend to get a little heavy handed when the spirit moves me).

Before starting on the upcoming CD, I paid a visit to Michael J Arralde Accordions in Kent, Wash., and picked up a beautiful Da Vinci box with handmade reeds and a real sweet tone. He also went through my customized Giulietti "Rockordion" and made it road-worthy again. The upshot of all of this is that I'm actually having fun laying down my accordion parts and experimenting with lots of sounds. I'm finding that the dry tuning of the Da Vinci is perfect for distortion, flanging and chorus, but also has a wonderful tone when I want a straight accordion sound. I think TDA fans are gonna like this. OK, time to put the headphones back on and crank it up!


Friday, March 16, 2007

KTU: Have Accordion, Will 'Yoik'

Stuard Derdeyn's South by Southwest notes from March 15 conclude with a paragraph that raises all kinds of questions in my pre-coffee brain this morning. Here's Derdeyn's intriguing entry (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page on The Vancouver Sun's site):
"What happens when the rhythm section of King Crimson teams up with Helsinki, Finland's Jimi Hendrix of the accordion? KTU, the trio of Kimmo Pohjonen, Warr-guitarist Trey Gunn and Marble Falls, Texas, drummer Pat Mastelotto. The avant-folk/jazz/rock hybrid act wove layer upon layer of complex grooves on top of wildman Pohjonen's electronically processed yoiking (throat-singing) and looked great doing it. If you can picture a guy in a silver and black silk samurai outfit and biker boots dancing around with an accordion, that is."
"Yoiking?" "Finland's Jimi Hendrix of the accordion?" Time to investigate. Wonder if Southwest Airlines has any cheapie flights to Austin ...

A Touch of Accordion Class(ical)

Josef Woodard gives some love to a groundswell of "serious" squeezeboxing in "jazz, classical and other studied, sophisticated forms of music." Read his riff, headlined "The Finer Art of Squeezing," in The Santa Barbara Independent.

(Suprisingly, Woodard did not seek out a Those Darn Accordions representative for his article.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Culann's Hounds Pre-St. Patrick's Day Party

Get your Irish on a little early with Cotati Accordion Festival faves Culann's Hounds this Wednesday at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Button accordion, fiddle, gee-tar and bodhran -- and a whole lot of attitude -- mix to give the group a "punk-Irish-hoedown sensibility," according to

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Accordions: 'Happiness in a Box'

The National Accordion Association's 20th annual convention -- finishing this weekend in Richardson, Texas -- sounds like a good time, what with 250 squeezers from the United States and Canada milling about and remembering the early '50s as the time when the accordion was king (at least in front of the reporters).

But overall, the mood seems upbeat about the role the ol' stomach Steinway plays in today's musical climate. The money quote, from accordionist Louise Kucera (describing her instrument): "It's happiness in a box."

The Dallas Morning News' story on the event rolls out the ol' Rodney Dangerfield intro (accordions "get no respect"). But oh well -- it's nice to see squeezeboxers get their due. Maybe someday Those Darn Accordions will get invited to play one of these conventions where attendees bemoan the guitar's impact on the instrument.

P.S. What's with Texas and accordions, BTW? We've had our eye on San Antonio's International Accordion Festival for years ...

When Guitar Heroes Go Bad

Six-string phenom Eddie Van Halen has checked himself into rehab, and this creepy photo of the 52-year-old guitar whiz offers a glimpse of why he might have made that decision. Good luck, Eddie -- hope you turn things around in time to do the reunion tour with David Lee Roth.

By way of comparison, check out a recent shot of 77-year-old accordion hero Dick Contino. (Of course, maybe Dick's work as an "Infinite Way Spiritual Healing Teacher Practitioner" has something to do with his youthful good looks.)

Friday, March 2, 2007

Ever Fly With an Accordion?

I have. Plenty of times. In fact, wrangling Clyde through SFO with his sleeves rolled up (tattoos showing, of course) and his squeezebox strapped to his chest is one of the enduring TDA images I'll take with my grave.

Also memorable? Endless disputes about carrying on accordions with folks at the check-in counter, the baggage screening machine, etc. To make matters worse, the whole thing is extremely variable. One flight it's fine; the next time there's no way the terminal bureaucrats are going to let you get an accordion on a plane as carry-on baggage.

The American Federation of Musicians wants to make this all easier. The union's making a push to ease all musicians' airport nightmares, and they want your stories to help back up their action.

Here's the word from the union:
"For years, AFM members have had problems bringing musical instruments aboard planes as carry-on luggage. Recently, discussions with the airlines trade association and Congress have picked up to the point where an acceptable solution to the problem is possible. However, we need to show that there is urgency to the problem. We would appreciate it if you would describe your recent experiences when traveling with instruments to us so we can show the seriousness of the situation for musicians. Please send your recent airline experience to me at Thank you."
If you've got a story to tell, please do.

Double-Timer Squeezes and Blows

Here's something you don't see too often -- a 79-year-old guy playing accordion and harmonica at the same time. The Charleston Gazette's nice profile of John Crist (including a video of the man in action) makes the doubler sound like quite the character.

"I bought my first accordion, and I had two dogs and the old lady leave," Crist tells the Gazette. "They came back after I got to playing a little better."

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Catch a Black Donnellys Encore

The Black Donnellys, NBC's new Irish crime show that everyone's talking about (and that just happens to feature a song called "Sleepy Maggie" by The Mad Maggies), is ready for a round of repeats.

The pilot shows again March 1 at 10 p.m. on NBC (that's tonight), March 6 at midnight on USA and March 11 at 4 p.m. on Bravo.

Says Maggie: "About 7 minutes into the show there’s a bar scene that turns into a brawl -- 'Sleepy Maggie' plays over the slow-motion portion of the fighting and continues the scene.... We're excited! Almost 10 million pairs of ears heard it on Monday night. Wow!"

So tune in this week (or you can just watch the clip below, at least until they yank it from YouTube).