As I arrived at Outback Lodge, San Francisco’s Sweet Crude Bill and the Lighthouse Nautical Society were finishing up their second song. As a burst of vocal warbles and aggressive guitar strums punctuated the piece, Peter Agelasto from Monkeyclaus, the Nelson County studio/art farm where the band started out, told me that Bill was the only singer he’d seen record vocals while completely naked.
This tidbit fit Bill and his posse perfectly. The Nautical Society’s cast was peculiar, from the petite female bassist to the lanky, curly-haired guitarist to Bill himself, who towered over the microphone with a presence that was part rockabilly swagger, part David Byrne dance spasm.
Accordion Death Squad dished out some lively and plump tunes at Outback last Thursday night
More odd than the band’s personae, though, was their music. The flyer for the show described them as a "traveling jug band," and maybe that isn’t false, but it’s only one of the countless genres that filled their set. One minute they were laying down an Appalachian banjo stomp, the next they were riffing it like Thin Lizzy, and then bang—a woeful country ballad followed by a psychedelic freak-out. Disorienting? Somewhat. But the band carefully walked the line between nonsense and novelty, and "Satan Is The Pilot on Air Force One," their quality satire of Bush and his cronies, sealed my approval.
|Take a listen to Mt. Olympus by Accordion Death Squad (written by Ian and Sarah):
Accordion Death Squad followed and, after a few minutes of tuning and checking levels, they busted into their self-described "Ratsylvanian gypsy music." From the plink of the tiny toy piano to the booming double bass, the Death Squad sound covered a broad range. But each vibration of strings and breath of accordion worked together to create lively and plump tunes.
The performance wasn’t without its hitches (the guitarist learned one of their new songs as they played it and a few songs needed to be restarted), but, amid the band’s rollicking spirit, they did minimal harm. From traditional gypsy and klezmer songs to compositions by the band members and friends, the Death Squad’s set was rousing and refreshing. During one particularly inspiring number written by accordion player Rat, a few couples joined hands and waltzed.
Their set ended with the crowd wanting a little bit more, but it was getting late on a week night, and, with the band playing often around town, it won’t be long before we can all get our next Accordion Death Squad fix.