Last night I went to see accordion player Dan “Daddy Squeeze” Newton play a concert in my neighbor’s basement. Of my own accord (ha ha), by the way. I mean, I wouldn’t seek out accordion music, but the house concert was hosted by my friends, and if you can’t trust your friend who can you trust? They didn’t disappoint. It was a great evening of friends in music.
First up, no doubt about it, seeing a real concert in someone’s basement is a pretty unusual way to spend an evening, but there are companies set up to do just that. You can search house concerts, there are several sites, and you’ll find artists to come and perform. These are gig-artists, humping around the country trying to make a living in music. You won’t find any chart toppers here. Instead, you’ll find musicians willing to provide a personal musical experience.
You’ll also find tips on how to host a house concert. The hosts provide the performance space (mostly involving clearing a room) and coordinate seating, food and drink, and other details. Because these concerts are often advertised on the House Concert websites, hosts take a chance of strangers showing up in the mix with invited friends and guests. I don’t think this is much of a leap of faith. Someone who wants to do you harm probably isn’t going to sit through an accordion concert first, amirite! Payment for the performer is taken at the door. Last night’s show was 20 bucks. Hosts also get stories they can tell for years.
Newton, who plays regularly in the Minneapolis area, played for a couple of hours with an intermission during which the small crowd (3 dozen or so) mingled and ate desserts. Of course since the evening is very intimate, Dan was available to answer questions and chat.
Outside of a few select places in the U.S. and around the world, accordion playing is not hip. Newton reference this in his version of Johnny B. Goode where he reimagines what this song would have sounded like had Chuck Berry been exposed to the far north of the Mississippi River in Minnesota instead of the far south in Louisiana, turning the song into the Yohnie B. Goode Polka.
His extensive set included Cajun, French musette, and Colombian Cumbia music, with some Beatles and Hank Williams thrown in. Sitting close enough to hear the clicks of the buttons on the accordion as he played, the audience was drawn in. And unlike so many concerts I go to, people actually shut up and listened to the man play.
When I tell people I saw a nice show in a neat venue, they won’t believe I’m talking about an accordion concert in Pam and Tom’s basement. That’s awesome.