Who is Jason Webley? Good question. It’s hard to describe Webley or his work to people who have never encountered either before. That’s just it—Webley isn’t the kind of artist one simply hears about. One encounters him. Perhaps on a street corner, or at a festival, or opening for another band, or while he’s on his now-infamous Monsters of Accordion tour.
San Joseans will have a rare chance to encounter Jason Webley on June 19 when he materializes at Anno Domini. Expect an accordion; Webley is known for raising hell using an accordion and little else. After shuffling around his hometown of Seattle with it for a few years, he released his first four albums on local label Springman Records, then shifted his recording career to his own label in 2007.
Webley’s career so far has been almost solely about performing, not recording—he hardly stays in one place long enough to sleep, let alone lay down an entire album. Webley came to moderate national fame by performing with The Dresden Dolls and later collaborating with singer-pianist Amanda Palmer in a band called Evelyn Evelyn, where he performs as Palmer’s conjoined twin. (With Webley, one learns to not ask questions and just go with it.) Spurred by the sudden, unexpected cool of the accordion and the short-lived ‘gypsy punk’ movement, he spearheaded the Monsters of Accordion tour, a showcase of second-wave accordion’s brightest stars that has traversed the West Coast every summer since 2009.
When one sees Webley perform, one can also expect to do a little work. Webley brings hugely interactive shows to every bar, theater and performance space all over the globe. It’s almost always the same show, but it’s always a good time. No need to worry—when the time comes for the audience to pitch in, he’ll give instructions. Considering the clan of devoted followers he’s amassed over the years, chances are there will be someone standing nearby to help demonstrate.