Show Review: Monsters of Accordion Featuring Jason Webley at Slim’s, 12/18/2010

by Gordon Elgart on December 20, 2010

Jason Webley holds a pear over his head. If you're a fan, this makes sense.

At Slim’s Saturday night was the San Francisco stop of the 5th Annual Monsters of Accordion tour. For me, it was my first annual. For although I’ve never been to one of these shows before, I am absolutely sure to go again. This was a fun night with a lively crowd, and something I intend to repeat soon. Very soon, in fact, for there is a secret additional Monsters of Accordion show this Tuesday night in Oakland. Want to know where? Better read on …

Half duck, half Santa, all virtuoso

The first performer tonight was Duckmandu, well, actually, just the Duckman himself. He spent his set alternating between three things: spot-on covers of Dead Kennedys songs from his recording Fresh Duck For Rotting Accordionsists –  a track-by-track cover of Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, playing instrumentals so blindingly fast, I started counting how many buttons his accordion had to figure out just how much harder it is to play this instrument than anything I’ve ever played, and finally, he was reaching into his bag to throw wrapped Christmas presents out to to the audience. I caught one, and it has a battery operated family of ducks! I’ll be dropping this in a toy donation box this week, and someone will be ducking happy to get it!

Featuring the only non-accordionists of the night

Next up on the bill was The Petrojvic Blasting Company, who were the only full band on the bill tonight. They played old-timey music dressed like characters out of The Brothers Bloom, and brought a really classy vibe to the proceedings. Then, they started telling the ribald stories behind some of these actually-less-than-classy songs, and the mood changed to vaudevillian. They were a total treat to the ears, and I’m kicking myself this morning for not buying their album. I’m sure it’s wonderful.

I learned that this is called a button accordion

Renne de la Prade of San Francisco’s Irish rockers, Culann’s Hounds, come on stage solo to play a fierce and lively set of originals and covers. Among the cover songs was her self professed “favorite song of all-time,” Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Why Does the Sun Shine?” a song made famous (but not written by) They Might Be Giants. (This got her biggest ovation, for this was a crowd of nerds, and we nerds do love our TMBG.) She was the only accordionist of the night to play on the button accordion, which she told us is appropriate for rock ‘n roll, punk, Irish music, and the blues, and this is what she stuck to playing.

By far the coolest looking accordion on stage, and a man dressed to match

Corn Mo is a performer that really needs to be seen to appreciate. Although I’m not sure what his songs mean (looking for meaning here is a fool’s errand), and I don’t know if they’re really good songs or not (it’s critic proof stuff), none of this actually matters when the guy is in front of you. He’s awesome to see and hear. He’s got an amazing singing voice, which he shows off not only with his accordion, but also when he sings his “Hava Nagila Monster Song,” along with a pre-recorded musical track (the only time tonight a song would be played sans-accordion.)  In a better world, he’d be a superstar rock vocalist.

Definitely the man people came to see

Jason Webley came on stage and roared through “Dance While the Sky Crashes Down,” biting into an audience-member-proffered pear (see picture above),  before announcing that this was going to be a different set than he usually plays at these Monsters of Accordion shows, as he feels he’s been repeating himself. So we were treated to an original composition called “Free Bird,” a special version of “Elephant Elephant” called “Bacteria,” and a cover version of the soundtrack to Footloose. Not the entire soundtrack, mind you, but enough to be amazing.

Now the audience tonight was plainly here to see a Jason Webley show, and I felt a little sad that I didn’t know every single freaking word of his songs like the rest of his fans did. I was having a great time; they were having an amazing time. I felt like the new guy seeing Phish for the first time, and wondering why everyone is yelling “Wilson!” There’s a joyful energy in the air when he plays that’s the whole reason I go see shows in the first place, so I’ll be there again when he plays again.

And when is that? Why, it’s Tuesday night, December 21, at 21 Grand in Oakland. The place is closing down soon, and the first ever Monsters of Accordion show happened there, so this will be a reunion show of sorts, and I hope to see all of you there. It’ll be a rip roaring good time. And this time, I’ll even know some of the words.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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Duckmandu December 21, 2010 at 9:05 am



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