Arts and Entertainment

Music of the world right outside your door | Patty Luzzi

We met some friends at the Seattle waterfront in February for a nice dinner. Afterward Lenny said he wanted to hear a buddy of his play with a band at Café Racer in Ravenna. It was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do that night, but I decided to be a good sport.

“Did I mention that it’s an accordion band?” he asked. “They call themselves Hell’s Bellows.” I suddenly had the feeling I was severely overdressed, and I was right.

Café Racer is not a large place. It looks like a house that was converted long ago into a neighborhood bar. The place is a fascinating hangout for hip musicians, artists, Vespa riders, rockabillies, and carnival workers.

We snagged two seats at a table with a woman who was waiting for a blind date, and was glad for the company. A college age kid scooted into a seat at our table. She had a sketch book in one hand, and her drawing hand danced constantly as if by magic or some sort of nerve damage.

The artist’s eyes latched on to me throughout the opening act: a yodeling concertina player (I swear I’m not making this up). Eventually she turned the pad around to show it to me. She had actually sketched Lenny before imposing my face next to his. The title was “Doomed from the Start.”

“I hope you don’t mean the relationship?” She blushed and said, “No, I mean the sketch.” I told her that if this was her “doomed” work, she was a talented artist.

Just as Lenny brought two glasses of wine, Hell’s Bellows took the stage. The music was all original compositions. It was the first (and perhaps the last) time I heard a war-protest song played on four accordions. Diversity is a pallid word when applied to Café Racer. I was mesmerized, and glad for it.

So far this year, I have heard a band comprised of toy instruments, a flash mob choreographed to songs from Glee, symphonic and choral Requiems in German and Latin at a church in Lake Forest Park, Japanese music and Tyco drums at Seattle Center’s Cherry Blossom Festival, Phantoms, an alternative rock band at the Hard Rock Café downtown, and of course, my husband’s bands. All live and in person!

The Northwest Folklife Festival begins today at Seattle Center. It’s four days of world music sprawled across 74 acres. You can enjoy scheduled acts as well as buskers and spontaneous jam sessions.

Yes, you will see latent hippies playing jug-band music, but you might catch a glimpse of a 10-year-old violin prodigy playing beneath a blossoming tree. You will see musicians and instruments from around the world. For free.

Sure it’s crowded, but that’s how the world is, and I want to see it all!

Patty Luzzi has lived on the Eastside for 33 years. Readers can contact her at

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