Accordion Events – Twin Cities

Lots of cool things go on in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area for accordion lovers. There are, of course, many more accordion events to take in the farther you roam from the metro area. Here is a little sampling of some of the events I would suggest you take in over the summer.

KRAMARCZUK’S DELI: Saturday nights from 6:00 til 8:00 you can hear live accordion music and enjoy terrific old-world food. Dee Langley, Tom Sullivan, and Dan Newton have been the most regular performers. The neat thing about this gig is that audience members and casual players are encouraged to bring their own accordions and sit in. Kramarczuk’s is in Minneapolis, on E. Hennepin and about 2nd St. That’s just across the river from downtown, near Nye’s, Times and Surdyk’s.

NYE’S: Speaking of Nye’s, when you’re finished with your Polish sausage at Kramarczuk’s, you can cross the street in time to hear the Ruth Adams Band warming up in the Polonaise Lounge. This accordion-lead trio has been playing Friday and Saturday nights at Nye’s for about 30 years. The joint has become a real hip venue in the past few years, so don’t expect to get a seat in this tiny bar right away. The dance floor is small, too, but full of happy folks who don’t care if you really know the steps or not.

MARIO’S KELLAR: Let’s stay in Northeast Minneapolis, and continue the polka theme. Though rock bands dominate the schedule on weeknights, Mario’s Kellar becomes a haven for polkaholics on Friday and Saturday nights. The huge dance space, good sound system, and terrific selection of German beers makes this the prime spot in the Minneapolis city limits for polka.Some of the bands that play regularly are Bill Koncar, the Squires, Dale Dahmen and the Beats, and my personal two favorites, Hank Thunander, and Tubby Esquire. When you hear Thunander and Mario’s, it’s like being at a wedding dance. He plays ALL the hits, from Clarinet Polka, Chicken Dance and Hokey Pokey, to Feelings,Memories, and Great Balls of Fire. The crowd dances and “sings” along like they were one big family. The amazing part is the band consists of just Hank and his midi-accordion, and his drummer. Hank’s been doing this forty years in our neck of the woods, and is truly a local treasure. Tubby Esquire won this year’s MMA Award for best polka band. This is a real departure from past years when the award always went to a traditional style band. But just as the Grammy for polka went to Brave Combo in 2000, our local award went to a band that has blended polka with rock. They aren’t your grandparents’ oom-pah band by a long-shot! Mario’s is in the basement of the Gasthoff zur Gemutlicheit restaurant, on University Ave., about 24th Ave NE.

MAYSLACK’S: One more Northeast Minneapolis spot worth mentioning has been serving garlic roast beef sandwiches and beer to a music-loving crowd as long as we can remember. Mayslack’s, originally known as the Polka Lounge, now features contemporary, blues and swing bands Thursday through Saturday nights, but on Sunday evenings, polka still rules the roost. Starting around 5:00 every Sunday, the Polka Pounders, Mayslack’s house polka band, cranks up Polish old time music that’s real down-home. Every time I’ve seen them, they have two trumpets, drums, and one or two concertinas. Sometimes they have additional guests, including Craig Ebel, host of the “It’s Polka Time” radio show. Mayslack’s is on 4th Street NE, (one block east of University Ave.) and about 15th Ave., Minneapolis.

CASTLE ACCORDION: At last! An accordion store in Minneapolis! Until recently a jewelry shop only, owner Randy McPeck has expanded his business to include accordions. This converted classic White Castle hamburger joint used to stand on Central Avenue in northeast, but now sits on the corners of Lyndale and 33rd in south Minneapolis. Castle carries new and used instruments, including Weltmeister, Italo-American, Excelsior, and soon, Zupan. Visit them on-line at www.castleaccordion.com

POLISH AMERICAN CLUB: The P.A.C. has polka bands most Friday or Saturday nights, and occasional Sundays. The cover charges are very reasonable, and the music usually runs between 7-11p.m.This venue gives you a regular opportunity the hear touring polka bands from Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio, as well as some of the better area groups, like Dr.Kielbasa. The Polish American Club is 1003 Arcade St., in the east side of St.Paul.(651)-774-6748.

MAHLER MUSIC CENTER: Mahler Music has been dealing in accordion sales and repairs in St.Paul as long as anybody in the area. A complete line of accessories, sheet music, electronics and used accordions fill the shop. Ken now has his own line of fully-midi, custom designed accordions, called “Planet Squeezebox”. Ken and Lloyd always welcome players of any level to try out a box or two, and spontaneous jams often happen at Mahler Music. Mahler Music is at 907 Randolph Ave. in St.Paul. (651)-224-6943, or visit them on-line at www.accordionheaven.com.

HALF TIME REC: The Rec is home to American-Irish Barroom music Tuesday thru Saturday nights, but on Sundays from 8-11p.m., social dances take over, dominated by the local Cajun and Zydeco bands. If you like hearing this kind of accordion music, check out the Riverside Ramblers, JJ’s Zydeco Paydirt, ZoloGo!, the Bone Tones, and an occasional out-of-towner from Louisiana. Call the Rec at 651-488-8245, or just drop by and pick up a schedule. The Rec is 2 blocks east of Lexington Pkwy., on Front Ave. (Front picks up where Energy Park Dr. ends) St.Paul. Here is a Citysearch Profile

KIERAN’S IRISH PUB: In the heart of downtown Minneapolis you’ll find the best traditional Irish music offered in the Twin Cities. The Titanic Lounge, the back room of Kieran’s, offers such fare as accordion legends Marty Mchugh, Paddy O’Brien, and accordion-driven pan-Celtic trio the Blackbirds. Kieran’s serves up a nice pint, some delicious pub-fare, and does it in a listener-friendly, mostly smoke-free environment. Kieran’s is in the Towle Bldg., 320 2nd Ave. S., Mpls. 612-339-4499. Visit them online at www.kierans.com.