Beautiful Bellows: Cotati Accordion Festival

Polish your polka performance and join the summertime sound soiree.

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Katy Raddatz

THAT WONDERFUL WHEEZE: If you were to auralize, in the mind of your ear -- or the ear of your mind, if you prefer -- what sounds and songs went with what cities, where would you begin? You might think of a noir-like surf guitar upon driving into Los Angeles by night. Perhaps a harpsichord would accompany your entry into some of Austria's most noted classical capitals. Mariachi music might be what you hear when pulling into Tucson, and something bluegrass-y would hum through your brain as you toodle into Washington, D.C. (long a noted center of the form). So what's the thrum you feel, along your solar plexus, the place in your chest that senses a beat before your brain, when you arrive in Cotati? There's only one word for it, though many describe it. That one word: accordion. The many words surrounding it: bellows, keys, squeezebox, puff, blow, polka, concertina. It's as fabled as instruments come, and revered, and occasionally satirized, too, though, we think, mostly good-naturedly. Most of all, there's a lot of pure love, love that's on display each August when some of the best and wackiest and most serene accordion maestros and maestras around arrive to make those bellows bellow.

THE COTATI ACCORDION FESTIVAL... steps into the shoulder straps on Saturday, Aug. 22 and Sunday, Aug. 23. Oodles of performers, from large bands to solo artists, will play, and "The Lady of Spain"-A-Ring is an audience participation, all-join-in classic of the weekend (so classic it happens on both Saturday and Sunday). Zydeco and polka will have their major moments, and nobody is expected to sit on their hands, humming along quietly: Dancing and expressive joy are part and parcel where accordions are concerned. Will you hear the "Beer Barrel Polka" at some point? Count on it. Might you attend the Friday kick-off on the 21st? If you're in town, and not polishing your polka, you should look into it. Will you never not hear accordions wafting through your head upon entering the Cotati city limits? Let's hope not. Almost any city hopes to have a certain sound hallmark, but not every place does. Cotati, however, has the accordion wrapped up tight, as tight as folded bellows in a case.

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