Accordion Noir Festival Speakeasy – September 13th, 2014 – Russian Hall, Vancouver, BC

Accordion Noir Festival – Part 2 – September 13th, 2014 – Vancouver, BC

I was in a hurry to get to the show, so I grabbed a quick bite before leaving home… only to find out that they had full-on dinners with things like individual tourtières and pecan bars at the venue. I was stuffed, but they smelled amazing.

They had a dance contest running – during one song for each band, dancers would be judged for a scribbler and an accordion sticker, and it really got more people out dancing, and a lot faster. Excellent idea!

Locals Wintermitts opened the show, starting out with just the accordionist and drummer on stage. Their accordionist Tess came out in knee-high boots and black boxer briefs, which was absolutely the best style choice of the evening. The songs were in French, and the singer Lise’s voice reminds me of Sugarcubes-era Björk mixed with some Natalie Merchant. Each of the musicians played several instruments during the set – trumpet/accordion, xylophone/guitar, guitar/flute, drums/xylophone. Their music was like an upbeat Québécois pop with polka breaks.

The first cabaret number of the night was Dr. Jack’s Accordion Aerobics, and… look, it’s just not that hard to avoid doing lisping gay caricatures. I mean, I’ve never done one, and I don’t feel incredibly deprived or anything. Gay jokes, fat jokes… not an inspired piece of comedy.

The Plodes opened their set with a Straw Dogs joke and despite the costumes confusing me at first, they kicked serious ass. The guitarist and bassist were some of the most technical musicians of the evening. The high school schtick and the music made for a major change of pace, but the jokes were funny and they worked really well together.

The music was great rock and roll, a bit Ramones-esque; it seemed to be a bit much for some of the older audience who started to vanish after a few songs. Traditional polka, this was not.

They have their EP release show on October 17th – I’m choked that I’ll miss it, but you should definitely go.

The next cabaret number was Jack Garton doing a Geoff Berner song. It was a lovely song, “Beautiful in My Eyes”. Then he did “Maginot Line” with Rowan of the Creaking Planks, and they had a great sing-along with the audience.

Ol’ Crocodile from Montreal was excellent. The singer’s voice was rough and suited the music perfectly. All of them were great musicians, and the drummer was both good and creative – playing the drums with his hands and a bike chain – it made for some great sounds.

The “I Hate My Landlord” song went down well in the landlord’s paradise of Vancouver, and everyone was singing along, “Hypocrite, oh hypocrite, I’m not hip to your hypocritic shit.” They had loads of folks dancing, especially for some excellent covers of Tom Waits “Chocolate Jesus” and Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. No, really, they did a great job on Toxic, and the fiddle handled the electronica parts well.

They wrapped up with another original, “Slush Cup”, about a slurpee and vodka mix created because it’s illegal to drink on the streets of Montreal. Hey, busking is hard work!

The third cabaret number was Dr. Jack’s Accordion-Based Medicine, with Polka Sweat. Definite props for doing a Pocari Sweat take-off here. The women were doing your standard messed up hair, wildly rolling eyes, insane asylum thing; I wasn’t a fan. The bit didn’t get a great response, but the dance number was very well-executed and they pulled off some really complicated maneuvers.

The Creaking Planks – “Jug Band of the Damned” – closed out the show, and this was their last year of playing the festival. It was a great set for bringing everyone together, but did feel like a bit of a downshift from the high energy of Ol’ Crocodile.

They had ukulele, mandolin, sax, bass, fiddle, acoustic guitar, drums, and the ubiquitous accordion. The band is made up of a lot of members, and, for shows, their roster is comprised of whoever can show up on a given night.

This show was amazing for the vast range between the different bands. They all had an accordion, but they weren’t even remotely similar. The acts were a brilliant way to showcase the many different ways a single instrument can be used. It was an excellent night! My only complaints would be the cabaret numbers, and I think it would have ended the night better if Ol’ Crocodile had headlined instead of The Creaking Planks.

The folks who stayed until the end of the night had an absolute ball, the last ones dancing stayed until the end when we were all asked to head the heck outside so the volunteers could actually go home. A four day festival has to be completely exhausting for folks working every night. This series was amazing, though, and I’m planning on coming back every year.

(Previously published at Bucketlist Music Reviews)


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