It’s accordion time. Now that Halloween is over, the only thing we really have to look forward to until Thanksgiving is T.C. Costello’s Swamp Rabbit Squeezebox Festival at The Velo Fellow this Saturday, Nov. 9-Sunday, Nov. 10.
Costello has long been one of the Upstate’s best-kept secrets; an accordion-playing mad scientist who’s toured the world, written amazing songs that often sound like they’re haunting folk ballads from the 19th century, and created the Squeezebox Festival, a two-day musical shindig with an eclectic slate of performers.
Looking for something weirder-than-usual to get into this weekend? This is the festival for you. In addition to Costello himself, playing mad waltzes, Celtic reel, staggering folk ballads and woozy sea chanteys from his magnificent album “Horizon Songs,” you can catch Greenville’s own eerie, funhouse-mirror folk duo Wasted Wine, the kaleidoscopic Greensboro roots-rockers Tail Light Rebellion, the Asheville “folk-noir” band Resonant Rogues. Plus, and more. Plus, rumor has it that The Velo Fellow is planning on brewing up a special Squeezebox-Fest-themed beer.
The festival will also serve as a fundraiser for Velo Fellow employee Taylor Clerc, who was injured recently in a hit-and-run accident.
And that’s all before you get to the two anchoring events of the festival: the Irish Session Dinner on Saturday; and the Murder Ballad Brunch on Sunday.
The Irish Session Dinner will be a come-one, come-all Celtic-tune-centric singalong led by Costello and Daniel Hendrix, who will be playing the uilleann pipes, otherwise known as an Irish bagpipe.
“I’ve visited Ireland for the last two years,” Costello says, “and I went to a lot of ‘sessions’ with a lot of local people getting together and playing folk songs. The audience members can sing and clap along if they like, and I thought it would be cool to bring that to the festival. Anybody is welcome to join in and sing or play a song.”
The Murder Ballad Brunch will be a bit darker, obviously. It’s an early-afternoon set centering on a ballad form that’s older than the printing press.
“It’s basically an open-mic where people are very strongly encouraged to do murder ballads,” Costello says. “I know I’ll be doing a few of them, and I’m encouraging my friends to do to do them. We’ll see how that works out.”
Costello has been putting on the Swamp Rabbit Squeezebox Festival for three years now, and he’s tried to make each year a mix of old and new.
“I figured it would be kind of foolish not to do it with myself and Wasted Wine,” he says, “because we’re local and we’re kind of obvious choices, but with the regional acts I thought I should work harder to vary it up. I try to ask around and find different people, and luckily there are acts who were more than willing to help me with it.”
And The Velo Fellow seems to be a perfect fit for this edition of the festival, in terms of both ambience and enthusiasm.
“It has kind of old-world-pub-type feel,” Costello says, “and I thought an accordion festival would go really well there. And The Velo Fellow seems to agree; I think they’re really excited about it. They’re actually brewing a special beer for the festival; I’m not sure what they’re going to call it, though we’ve been bouncing names back and forth. And I believe they want to do food specials, too.”
Costello says that the most pleasant surprise he’s encountered over the three years of the festival is the variety of the crowd that attends it.
“It’s brought together lots of people from different age groups,” he says. “We’ve had people in their 60s, people in their 30s, teenagers, all kinds of people. And I think it’s kind of interesting, because you typically think of the accordion as having had its heyday back before rock ‘n’ roll became big. But it’s definitely been making a comeback in the last couple decades with bands like The Decemberists, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys.”
If you go
What: The Swamp Rabbit Squeezebox Festival, with T.C. Costello, Wasted Wine, Tail Light Rebellion, Resonant Rogues, Daniel Hendrix and more
Where: The Velo Fellow, 1 Augusta St., Suite No. 126 Greenville
When: Saturday, Nov. 9-Sunday, Nov. 10
Tickets: $10 suggested donation