What has three legs, a can of trash, constant jet lag is always in December, and hangs out at The Laurelthirst? Paper Bellows? Please let me explain, or make things even more confusing. I don’t know which way the slippery slope is going to tilt at this point.
The simplest explanation is that Paper Bellows is made up of Mike Danner of Trashcan Joe, Courtney Van Drehle of Three Leg Torso, Jetty Swart of Jet Black Pearl, and Jenny Conlee, a founding member of The Decemberists who all came up with this combo idea at a pub named The Laurelthirst. These four accordionists opted to gather their accordions, take a little time out from their very successful parent acts, and form a quartet of featured accordionists out of the Great Northwest, or Portlandia, whichever prism you want to look through.
Each musician is bringing a background of music from distinctively different acts and is ready to surprise us as to what that creation ends up being on our Cotati stage. Mike Danner brings a vintage jazz, folk, blues and mainly swing element with him all while specializing in improvisation. You can discover more about Mike traveling in his own lane by listening to his podcast, “Accordion Crimes”. Courtney Van Drehle brings music from the fluid netherworld between serious art and pop culture. In that enigmatic statement we find the music of Eastern Europe, Klezmer, and Tango. If that sounds wildly eclectic, it is, because it is exactly that. The music of Three Leg Torso is also some of the best “around the world music” you are going to hear.
Jenny Conlee, part of the foundation of the great band The Decemberists, has already shown us her soloist skills during the Covid shut down. Jenny was one of the acts that we booked for our two virtual shows in 2020. In our two virtual shows we traveled around the world watching the best young international players perform in their homes and eventually landed in Portlandia where Jenny appeared. Jenny tells us that she loved our virtual production and is so thankful that it took place. She enjoyed watching the performers from Russia to Italy to Belgium and beyond.
Jenny will be bringing her Petosa AM-1050 Leggera with her. She feels that the lighter bassoon and clarinet reeds are in a tone chamber giving it the smooth, buttery sound that she is trying to convey. She also will be bringing a history of being on the biggest stages with The Decemberists but this time having the freedom to go deeper into her Paper Bellows world and also will be doing a solo set of her own music.
Jetty Swart, or as we know her in Cotati, Jet Black Pearl, has played for the festival in the past. However, that does not mean that we have any idea as to surprises she is going to bring to the table/stage other than her outstanding bass lines. We have found that the thoroughly creative mind of Jet Black Pearl brings something new and different each time she comes to Cotati. Jetty has a way of making you smile and laugh while listening to quality, original accordion sounds.
We suspect that the accordion playing of Paper Bellows is going to include a little of each person’s strengths. They all are bringing some of their own creations into a collaborative effort. Hence, we are looking forward to their taking the Cotati stage and showing us what four extremely creative and imaginative accordion players can come up with. If that doesn’t get your curiosity going, there is more to their trip. Each one of the group will be doing a solo performance on one of our stages during the weekend of our 2023 festival.
August can’t come soon enough for us, as we are looking forward to our festival on August 19th & 20th. Paper Bellows will be a foundation of new and exciting sounds this year coming out of our seminal Cotati tradition.