Peter emailed me that the Main Squeeze Orchestra would be playing a free concert at Rockwood Music Hall. He was excited to see an all-female accordion orchestra. He should have known that not only did I know about them but I’ve seen them before.
Since I was early I stopped off at Bereket Turkish Kebab House, a Lower East Side institution. Before the LES became gentrified this was one of the few 24/7 places to grab something to eat when you were that far downtown. I was very disappointed to hear people asking the countermen when they had to leave and if they were going to relocate. There wasn’t any answer about a possible relocation but they have to leave their location in six months.
Another band was performing on Stage 2, so I wasn’t allowed to enter until they were finished. Luckily the evening weather leaned heavily towards lamb instead of lion. A few people got in line and then Peter and I joined them. There were no tables set up and only a few bar stools and, I think, Peter and I got the last two stools. There was a piano on stage that had to be removed so I got to see the contraption that brings the piano up and into the alcove above the stage.
Rockwood’s stage is small and there weren’t as many players as I’ve seen in the past. The two accordions nearest us were playing the bass parts because the big bass accordion was missing.
As soon as they started I could tell that something seemed off both with the conductor/director Walter Kühr and the performers. When they did “Roll Out the Barrel” it almost sounded like a dirge. And Peter said that each performer was playing well but their bellows weren’t synched and that was creating a problem. It was supposed to be a party atmosphere since they were still celebrating Mardi Gras.
For a few of the songs, some of the women provided vocals. A pregnant woman holding a glass of wine and cigarette (but not partaking of either) sang about demon alcohol. If you listen on YouTube to their version of “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” you will smile. Their version last night was not so light and fun. “Jole Blon” was introduced as the Cajun national anthem and also as a blues. But it’s actually a waltz.
One of the women played trumpet, which provided a kick for some of the songs. There was also a drummer in the back. “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” was another fun song as was “Iko, Iko” where we were asked to sing along. I think one of the songs was from Carmen and the last song was “La vie en rose.” The band was joking like when Kühr kept conducting as the band finished and he said he’d just lived his worst nightmare.
Although this wasn’t their best effort, I would see Main Squeeze Orchestra again because I know how great they can be.
By Carene Lydia Lopez