Accordion Noir Festival Rendezvous – September 12th, 2014 – Russian Hall, Vancouver, BC

Accordion Noir Fest Part 1- September 12th, 2014 – Vancouver, BC

I always try to sit by the sound folks. The sound is designed to be perfect from the middle of the hall, but it inevitably is just a bit better from where they’re sitting, especially in any show with a lot of people in attendance and instruments changing all the time. It’s also a secondary source of entertainment and, occasionally, a way to learn new and original swearing. That said, damn fine job, dude. That was the hardest working sound person I’ve seen in ages – he put on mileage making sure everything sounded good.

Steve Normandin from Quebec opened up the show. He’s a real virtuoso of an accordion player, going through all the traditional styles. It was a really good choice to open up the night. The crowd loved it and he was called back for an encore.

Ol’ Crocodile did a short taster set for the Squeezebox Rendezvous the following night. It was a great set – only three songs, but enough to make sure folks came back the next night.

The first in the cabaret line-up was Little Miss Risk, who did a Day of the Dead-inspired number in a striking green outfit and red flowers. Demon Squadron backed her up with some great music.

Emcee Jack Garton’s band Demon Squadron was next. They were pulled in at the last minute as Geoff Berner was unable to perform due to a death in the family. With the bands performing his songs, and the toast to him from the whole hall, it felt like a wonderful message of support. Demon Squadron had the whole crowd dancing, and Garton is a great showman – dancing and playing trumpet and accordion at the same time, he really kept the crowd going. Their organist in particular really stood out (despite sitting almost on the floor) for some really complicated work.

A crowd favourite was Geoff Berner’s “Daloy Polizei,” his own take on “Fuck tha Police” about police thuggery in BC. The crowd was singing along to the chorus, shouting “FUCK THE POLICE” with fists in the air.

Our next cabaret number was Magic by Dr. T. I love magic by very few people, I have to admit. Carl-Einar Häckner is the only name I can even come up with, but Dr. T is now on that list! The tricks were funny, and he had the perfect persona to pull them off. Also, I’m not entirely sure how he did them, which is a definite bonus in a magic trick.

Lonesome Leash was up next. I’m not a fan of the one-man-band genre since it tends to focus more on how many instruments someone can play rather than how good they are at doing so. He did a great job, though – the drum and cymbal definitely added to the music, and he was really good at the accordion. At one point, he taped down the keys on the accordion so he could play the trumpet as well, which got a laugh as well as being a good idea. The music was a radical departure from your typical polka or zydeco accordion music, being more of a punk/pop version of Tom Waits. The vocals were heartfelt, but a little odd in parts – it sounded like his accent was changing throughout the set. All in all, a great set and I picked up his EP.

Orkestar Šlivovica began their set combined with all of Demon Squadron and Marsha Dubois sitting in the back drinking a glass of wine. It almost caused the sound guy to implode. Violinist Briga from Montreal led them in a great version of a traditional Serbian song; she was an excellent musician and had a great voice. Accordionist Marsha Dubois from Seattle came up front next, arm-wrestling Jack Garton to take over. Orkestar Šlivovica was fantastic and had the whole crowd on their feet. The way they changed instruments around to allow different folks to sing the songs was excellent, and I really liked how they weren’t static. They played one last Romany song after pleading from the audience and set off for the night.

It was an excellent night at the festival, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it! The feeling from the last dancers in the crowd was like that of my favourite coffee house/music venue back home and it was a real thrill to feel that again. The final night of Accordion Noir is at the Orpheum Annex on Sunday night – don’t miss it!

(Previously published at Bucketlist Music Reviews)

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