Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This Accordion Life, Chapter I - "strange but possibly well-adjusted"

Chapter I
strange but possibly well-adjusted

I thought i knew myself well. I started playing bass when I was around 20 because Mickie Rat (of the past and future Secretions) showed me how to play a Ramones song. I had been seeing some local bands that were inspiring me to want to play, including a lot of hardcore bands  like Mickie's Nationhood and some other band like The Yahmos. I was really into The Clash and The Germs and X. Originally, I had wanted to be a drummer. There was a band that was coming together which called "Loose Gravel" at the time, because one of the other girls had stolen a roadside sign.

 The guitarist, Anna, was the musical brainchild behind this band and Tania was singing and writing the lyrics to most of the songs. Anna and I had been seeing each other around at shows and we kept cutting our hair the same way with wacky home haircuts.

  Eventually one night outside of the Loft she walked up to me and asked me to be in the band as a drummer. So, I took my first college grant check and bought a drumset and put a bass and amp on layaway on some shop in Rancho Cordova that isn't there anymore.  That place was a rip off. Just as well.
I really sucked at drums, I had no rhythm at all, and I was supposed to follow the bass player who was a Rush-fancying wanker. He was dreadful. And he LOVED to talk. Then he left the band and went to work at a leather coat store. Actually, he worked there already, he always smelled like a dog pissed-on couch.

Other bass players were auditioned, and they were crazy. It's true, those 70's jogging shorts with the pinstripes down the side aren't long enough for people who shouldn't wear them and choose not to wear underwear to boot.  After that, I became the bass player, and Mickie was anxious to be in the band too, so girl's night out riding around listening to Throwing Muses and Bongwater ended and we became The Phlegmings. That is a long story in itself and due for a story of it's own someday, at least, what I can remember of it.

So, I really felt that I was a bass player. I held down the line, came up with some lines.

Then, a while after I joined the Secretions and was singing and writing for them, the guitarist tried on purpose to meet his Maker, and although he was OK he left town and I had to take over second guitar. Or lead, I don't know. I was accustomed to playing downstrokes on guitar, and Molly had learned on an acoustic first, so she knew only folky upstrokes. Between the two of us, at first anyway, we were one guitar between the two of us, she played the upstrokes and I the down. Things went on well but ultimately, it is a poor choice to have girlfriends in this sort of band, which is why The Secretions live on to this day!

After a brief episode of extreme piety following a demon exorcism from my soul and listening to honky tonk gospel and Johnny Cash, I eventually sought out new music, meditation, and finding new songs on the guitar. I even sought out new musical ideas, having a radio show called Slogan's Run on KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, which I am listening to right now.  They had a great selection of music to get exposed to, which is why I went there to spend countless hours putting together music for the show.  I learned a lot about songs listening to bits and clips of so many different songs, finding out what it was about them that was the same to see if they should be played with each other.

After 15 years, I thought guitar was my main instrument. I played a little bass here and there, and for a time ended up being the "house bass player" at Capitol Garage open mics. Around then I played with some folks I worked with, and joined a band called The Grotto. We practiced at Matt Erich's piss-smelling recording studios, the place where two Phlegmings demo tapes were recorded, and where there was never any toilet paper in the bathroom.

The Grotto was a psychadelic rock band and there is a long story behind that too that probably doesn't deserve to be told for everyone's safety who was involved; but I will say that there were a lot of tears, costume changes, leather, and a trip to the loony bin for one of the drummers.  

Later I  played a little for the World Music Ensemble at the local city college. I never really learned the songs, but could play along fairly well by ear. But mostly, I started playing some solo shows, and formed Ranting Manor for a while with Frank French on drums and occasionally playing with some members of The Polymers.The bass player of Ranting Manor was in five bands and seemed unable to learn the songs we played together, and others were starting to agree my sound was best solo. For a year I performed at a kid's entertainment show once a month at The Java Lounge, where I played a number of kid's standards and wrote some originals just for the kiddies, which was pretty new for me. That was great fun, but it was costing me money to perform and promote, and besides, I had just picked up the accordion.

 I was too busy playing "wheels on the bus" on banjo guitar to practice it, but I had gotten obsessed with it earlier this year after seeing a Scottish button accordion player called Melodeon John on Youtube make up his own songs, and they were great, reminded me of bagpipe melodies. Something about a few of his tunes got into my head and I started understanding how to break them down accordion style. My husband had been learning piano accordion for several months at this time and had played as a youth on a Contello. Recently he had picked up a Pancordion and I had been listening to him play it,  and I'm sure that my ear got attuned to it from that as well because I really enjoyed it. So after the kid's show was over, I moved past the crappy 48 bass Weltmeister and playing "Hoist the Colours" from the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie and started teaching myself my songs on my new/old lovely Sonola Rivoli accordion. There were even songs I could play on accordion I had never been able to work out on guitar. How did my fingers know where to go?

Friday, December 11, 2009

This is the first day of the rest of your accordion life.......

Hello and welcome to This Accordion Life. This is your host Julie the Bruce, accordion fan and novice player. I am happy to announce that today is the the day that I have written my first song on the keys of a squeezebox, and a rather pleasing tune it is. It reminds me of my days as a child when I used to ride the carousel and throw brass rings in a cruel clown's mouth. Yes, those were the days.
 I have been playing accordion only since around May. I play a delightful Sonola Rivoli and I am awaiting another great Sonola with 80 bass and musette in a few weeks. It has been very fun learning accordion and I recommend it to anyone.
I have posted a home made video on youtube of the first accordion song I've been able to get through without messing up. Naturally I have practiced it the least! I took the footage from a trip around my neighborhood in Sacramento on my bike this summer.
You can find  it at