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My Favorite Gear
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My Favorite Gear
Matt Hensley

You own 25 accordions—where do you store all of them?
I own my own pub—Hensley’s Flying Elephant Pub & Grill, in Carlsbad, California—where I display my accordion collection, much to some people’s chagrin. But hey, this is what I do, and I’m proud of it. People I know, like my aunt or my grandmother, will have these old accordions they don’t want to throw away. They know I like them, so they give them to me. I have accordions from the 1880s all they way up to modern ones. Most of my accordions are from the 40s and 50s.

What makes a good accordion?
The way the reeds are made. You can buy some really crappy Chinese-made accordions for relatively less money—maybe from $300 to $800—but (they’re) made with really bad reeds. You’ll play it for a week and the reeds will blow. If you want a good accordion, it’s got to be made either in Germany or Italy, which is probably the most well-known place; and they’ll make really good accordions now in France. My accordion that blew up in Belgium was a $5,500 accordion with a $1,000 microphone system put in it; it’s like a car.

Is it heavy to haul around onstage?
Playing an accordion onstage for an hour-and-a-half, cranking it with everything you have, it takes your whole body to play it. Your left arm, specifically, gets pushed in viciously.

Sounds like a repetitive strain injury waiting to happen.
If I were to look at myself with my shirt off, I’d look like a crazy person, because my left side—my shoulders and stuff—is much bigger than my right. I used to be a professional skateboarder, too, so my right leg is my push leg—it’s bigger than my left leg. Stick a skateboard under my feet and an accordion in my hand and everything’s perfect.

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