Friday, November 20, 2009

An Echo Full of Instruments, Pt. I

Last weekend, the band and I went to Thunder Bay, Ontario to headline an event called Celtic Bash 12.  Put on by The Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay, it's a fundraiser for the pipe band and a celebration of all things Celtic, with highland dancers, three different pipe bands, a more traditional Celtic group, lots of beer, and us.

Thunder Bay is an eight-hour drive east of home, but with the show on a Saturday and people willing to pay for two nights' hotel for us, we had the rare luxury of a whole day just to travel. We packed up the vehicles on Friday morning and hit the road an entirely civilized hour.

We are five people in the band, and we travel in two vehicles: Kevin (a.k.a. LoML) and I and our instruments in my car, Mike, Kyle and Nic and all of their instruments in a borrowed SUV.  Sounds like Kevin and I would have more room, right?  Anyone who has ever packed a drum kit knows the answer.  Getting a drum kit into a car is a challenge at the best of times. Getting Kevin's drum kit into my car is a Jenga-like feat of epic proportions.

For this is my car, a wee 2000 Toyota Echo:

And this is an Echo with one drum kit, one sampler, one accordion, two knitting projects, one suitcase, two pedal cases, and one wireless rig in it (two musicians to come):

Pretty impressive, non?

On Saturday morning, we had breakfast then headed to the venue, to find the stage looking like this:

i.e.: not quite ready for us.  However, the sound tech gave us the happy news that the local music store was having a 50% off EVERYTHING sale.

Now the rest of the band, regularly having to buy strings, rosin, drum heads and the like, gets very excited about this sort of news.  I don't mind music stores, but quite frankly they don't usually cater to musicians of my ilk (i.e. non-male, non-guitar-playing, non-string-buying).  I go along but usually - due mostly to my choice of instrument - don't have the bordering-on-religious experience I've witnessed in my bandmates when they discover a beautiful-sounding thing on sale.  That was about to change.

Two minutes into the outing, I spied this:

Excelsior Accordiana, 120-bass, "women's model" (i.e. smaller and lighter but every bit as beer-swillingly-powerful as her larger polka-king cousin) thing of utter gorgeousness.  I played one chord, and the rest of the band appeared out of the woodwork, like moths to a flame.  (I believe Mike's exact words were "What the $@%# was THAT?") The sound was huge.  HUGE.  Monster.  In that moment, I, for the first time, understood why people turn their amps up to 11, why the guys get that look on their faces when they plug a beautiful instrument into a beautiful system and make a big, beautiful, badass noise.  For the first time, I understood, in a visceral sort of way, why they're called "power chords".

The price tag said $300. That's $150 on sale.  Online, I have seen these babies for $995 and up.  It wasn't even a conversation.

We would make room in the Echo for one more case.


  1. What a beautiful instrument - I hope you spend many happy hours together. And good luck on your move!
    Rhonda from Baddeck

  2. Hello,

    I have almost that same accordian. Mine is black. I'm trying to learn how to play it right now. I'm sort of getting it but I was trying to find a chord chart for all the buttons, which is how I found your blog.

    You're fun to read. :)