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In the Outsidelands vs Cotati battle, Accordions Win! August 20, 2012

Weekend before last, we spent an ungodly amount of money on the Outsidelands festival (three days of music in Golden Gate Park) and managed to have an okay time despite the odds. It was crowded to the point of ridiculousness. Wine was nine dollars a glass. People stepped on our toes and didn't apologize.


This was the crowd for Alabama Shakes. We were front of middle. I never even saw the band, not even when I jumped.

Last weekend, in contrast, I went to the Cotati Accordion Festival for the first time ever. (Kids, don't be like me. I'd imagined every accordion-player-wanna-be wandering the streets of Cotati, forming pick-up bands and taking on the scourge of small town blight with a one-two oompah beat. I left my accordion in the car when I learned that only the performers bring their instruments. And cars, even parked in shade, are dangerously melty to accordions.)


IT BLEW MY MIND. For $17, I got all-day access to as many accordions as I'd ever wanted to see (which, for the record, is a crap-load). There was festival food (Spiro's Gyros! My favorite! Spiro always calls me "lovely" and makes me blush). There was plenty of lawn space for me and my friends to loll around on. Five dollar glasses of wine, and free tastes! There was music, on three stages, all the time. Polkacide killed it, as they do, bringing the crowds to their feet in a polka-fied frenzy.



But the very, very, very best part of the whole thing? The part that made me feel better about being a member of the human race again? There's this tent, see, a big one, and under the tent was a band. Five men played the accordion along with a piano player and a trumpet player. They played a little of everything, from Lawrence Welk-type tunes to cumbia to Stevie Wonder, under the tent, and what was magical was the dancing. EVERYONE danced. As a friend put it, it felt like we were crashing someone else's wedding. Fathers danced with daughters, friends with friends. I saw a very old man dancing with his ancient mother (seriously, when they spun off the dance floor, he gently placed her in her wheelchair at the side of the tent). A young, tall dark-haired dark-eyed boy waltzed with every female member of his extended family and looked as if he'd been born to do it. A sixty-plus year old couple danced and swayed, crooning the words to each other, and at the end, he dipped and kissed her.

Here's just a sample of what I watched for perhaps an hour: 

A young blond cowboy asked me to dance, and I did, and only THEN did I remember that I've never been able to two-step, but he was all smiles anyway. Everyone was grinning, as a matter of fact. Turns out it's impossible to dance at the Cotati Accordion Festival without smiling.

You can keep your Outsidelands. Next year I'm going to Cotati.


Oh, we had wanted to go to the Accordion Festival but were out of town. Looks so fun! Can Carol and I meet you there next year?? And then maybe the Redwood Cafe for lunch? I will start practicing my two-stepping now, just in case.

Atta girl.

There's not much better than being surrounded by people who know how to have genuine fun. I'm so glad you all had fun and found some more of "your peeps" to hang out with.

Wow what a great time. I would actually love an accordian type festival. I know it sounds crazy but my step-mother had an accordian ( i became a music major in college) when I was a kid a had to learn to play it so I did. I haven't touched one since I was 17 though.

I love to dance but I'm a terrible two-stepper and polka-er and just about anything else because I always want to lead and do my own thing. One of my favorite memories is of an evening with a variety of aunts, uncles & cousins, hitting dance halls all over central Wisconsin (scarce then and pretty much extinct now) -- an accordion in every joint! So much dancing!!

I don't know if you are aware, but there is a fantastic waltz and folk dance scene in the East Bay. I stumble into it last year and it's amazing. There are REAL balls with women in fancy dresses -- hoops, there are HOOPS! -- and men in tuxes or tails and waltzing all night to a brass band. And folk dances like Contra that are so much fun.

Ah, this sounds wonderful.

That looks like so much fun! I wonder if they have them in Atlanta?

Wonderful! I've experienced this something like this magic, contra dancing at folk festivals. Bluegrass music also melts bad moods and creates smiles! This type of thing is def good for the soul!

Cotati sounds great! (Outside Lands sounds horrifically crowded)

More importantly - is your accordion okay?

Well being Cotati adjacent myself, I'm sorry I had to work! Looks like fun and the food in Cotati is usually delish too.

So why did you start something by bring your accordion out to play? You just don't know how many other people had their accordions locked in the car hoping that someone else would start an accordion stampede and they could join in.

Looks like it was a polka full of fun time.

Awesome video! Yes, humans CAN be for good.

I was in Cotati once (while attending a conference at Sonoma State) and stumbled upon a bookstore that had a cafe that served great bottled beer. I had never before found an awesome bookstore with awesome beer. It was in a little strip mall. I hope it's still there for all of the accordion lovers to enjoy.

That makes me think of how great it would be to have a knit shop that served drinks.

I used to live just 2 blocks away from the festival - loved hearing the music all weekend through my open windows. The bookstore/cafe is North Light Books.

Got me a bit teary watching all those lovely people dance. It's always so wonderful to see people enjoying and participating in the simple things. My grandfather (I didn't know him) left my mother a button accordion that she always hoped I'd learn. This, the same mother who felt she'd failed in teaching me to knit, sew or crochet was once again, sadly, destined to be disappointed. I don't know if you remember my email but if you do, I finished the socks and gave them to mum for her birthday this week and she was thrilled. So now I'm nearly finished with a slouchy hat for my daughter's birthday tomorrow. Thankyou sooooooo much Rachael.

Cotati sounds perfectly fabulous! My maiden name is Sobocienski, so I grew up going to a whole lot of Polish weddings. When my twin godsons were born, the first thing I taught them when they could talk was, Me: How long do you polka? Them: You polka til you drop!

... but at least you HEARD the Alambama Shakes - woo hoo! I have their CD on repeat in my car at the moment :D

It's like watching a family wedding reception! I miss playing accordion. I started lessons in first grade (when I could barely carry the darn thing.) I wanted to play with Myron Florin when I grew up.

Cotati looks amazing!! Can't wait til my little one is old enough to go.

I looked up your blog so that I could kvell over your new book, which I picked up by chance at the library, and what do I find? A piece about the Accordion Festival -- I lived in Cotati for 7 years, although Petaluma is actually the home of my heart (for which I am currently yearning as I swelter in North Carolina, where I moved last year to be present to my first grandchild's early life). Such serendipity. At any rate, I read your sweet and lovely book in one gulp (laying on my bed in my skivvies in front of the AC, haha) this evening. Wish I hadn't waited until mid-life to knit, but sure am glad I finally got to it -- and am equally glad I stumbled upon your voice, in print and the blogosphere.

How come we're not friends? I'm visiting your blog for the first time ever this morning. I picked your memoir up from the display at the library because of the knitting on the cover. I'm just getting back into knitting and finding it more satisfying than ever and haven't dived into what's been published since I'd stopped knitting several years ago. The three posts I just read all feel like you are speaking directly to me. I was in Oakland for a couple of days and stopped at A Verb to Keep Warm because I'd read about the Seam Allowance pledge. Loved it and wondering how I can take the pledge myself. At our next stop after that we hung out on the banks of a river late one afternoon, where the only other person nearby played the accordion. I decided then and there I was going to return home to find someone who could teach me to play. We went on to stay with friends in Santa Cruz. The day we were starting our return trip home, they were heading to the Strawberry Festival to see k.d. lang and I wondered if we could get there ourselves next year. I can't wait to read through all the posts of your blog and your other books. The knitting world has changed in such a great way since I was last here.

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