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Those Darn Accordions a Unique Bunch

Web Posted: 10/11/2007

Jim Beal Jr.
San Antonio Express-News Staff Writer

You expect to hear accordionists at an accordion festival. But not four in one band.

When San Francisco's Those Darn Accordions perform at the International Accordion Festival at La Villita this weekend, Carri Abrahams, Susie Davis, Suzanne Garramone and Paul Rogers will squeeze away with abandon, accompanied by bassist Lewis Wallace and drummer Michael Messer.

Four accordionists seems like bellows overkill until you realize TDA started with about 18 people pumping the stomach Steinways.

"Those Darn Accordions started as a group of musicians who all played something else," said bandleader, accordionist, singer and songwriter Rogers. "The idea was to grab accordions, run into places and play 'Lady of Spain' and 'Viva La Vegas' basically to get thrown out. Then a funny thing happened. Places like Italian restaurants actually wanted us to play. It wasn't really a band. It was a renegade bunch of people."

Those Darn Accordions had been doing guerrilla music for several months before Rogers joined. When he was appointed bandleader, Rogers helped TDA evolve into a band. When the outfit became a bit more organized, there was attrition in the accordion ranks, but there also was a record contract after a '92 South by Southwest appearance and gigs in concert halls and at festivals.

"Who can tell the difference between three and 10 amplified accordions?" Rogers asked, laughing. "I've found four accordions is the right amount to re-create parts for songs. If you ask me to explain the appeal of four amplified accordions on one stage I'd be hard-pressed. There's the novelty, of course, but we work hard to be good."

TDA is working with its new CD, "Squeeze Machine," the band's sixth release. The band isn't bound by styles. TDA's repertoire includes rock, blues, swing, polkas and whatever else moves the songs. "Squeeze Machine" includes originals such as "Glass of Beer Polka," (with Drew Carey), "Vagabond Girl," "Heads and Horns" and "Mr. Saggy Butt" as well as covers of AC/DC's "Back in Black" and "It's Now or Never" from the Elvis Presley set list.

Humor rules during a TDA album and show. But that doesn't mean the players, most of whom double on other instruments, aren't serious musicians.

"It's been an uphill battle," Rogers said. "We were thought of as a bunch of people making fun of the accordion. That's just not true. From the get-go the only way to pull it off was through humor. But everyone in the band is an accomplished musician. If we go up there and we're sloppy, then we're goofing on the whole thing. And, at first, we were goofing, but the key now is to be able to nail the parts."

And to defy a few stereotypes.

"The big challenge was to wear the edge off the novelty part," Rogers said. "We worked at getting the sound together so it doesn't sound like just a whole bunch of accordions. We worked to bring texture in there and we worked on the songwriting."

When accordion and off-the-beaten path music fans started boarding the TDA bandwagon, the group was known for doing accordion-powered renditions of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "Low Rider," "Baba O'Riley" and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy."

"In the beginning we did a lot of covers," Rogers said. "But we didn't want to be another Weird Al band. I introduced more originals, but we still throw in a couple rock classics. We have some pretty off-the-wall songs. We're going to do three sets over two days in San Antonio and they'll all be different. If people come to all three shows they'll get the full taste of Those Darn Accordions."

And it'll be a heaping helping of accordions.


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Posts: 368

These guys have been regulars at the Italian Festival here in Reno for years.  (They didn't make it this year).  They are a sight to behold, and to listen to!

Everyone has a right to my opinion.
Todo mundo tiene el derecho a mi opinion.

Posts: 74

Are there usually any vendors that go to the festival?


Posts: 31
I saw this group play last year at a festival in Johnstown, Pennsylvania...they were very entertaining...who would have thought that Edgar Winters "Frankenstein" could be played by a group of accordions...amazing!

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