June 1, 2012
By Jay Bullock
What do you get when you cross three accordions with ABBA? If you guessed Chill on the Hill headliners The Squeezettes, then give yourself a, um, squeeze.
The Squeezettes are a Milwaukee polka sensation. They’ve played Summerfest. They’re booked to play the exclusive Beer Barons of Milwaukee 9th Annual World of Beer Festival Saturday, June 2. They’re going to polka up Germanfest this July. They just won the Wisconsin Area Music Award (WAMI) for Best Polka Artist. They’re almost done with their sophomore CD, and their first includes the local hit, the “I Closed Wolski’s Polka.”
Lead singer and Squeezettes cofounder Sarah Kozar calls the band’s music “power polka.” “We play polka but we also do Johnny Cash and ABBA medleys in addition to old-school songs like ‘Spanish Eyes’ and ‘Edelweiss,’” she said.
“We’re not a typical polka band, kind of rock-and-roll polka.”
In addition to Kozar, whom you may remember from Milwaukee indie band Sixty-Watt Sarah, Pamela Scesniak and Linda Mueller are Squeezettes members. The three were part of the former Riverwest Accordion Club, known for its broad repertoire beyond polka and other traditional accordion tunes. The club featured up to a dozen accordion players, but it eventually became, in Kozar’s words, “too hard to manage.”
“I called two good girlfriends” from the group, she said, meaning Scesniak and Mueller, “and said ‘Let’s do this novelty act.’”
That was 2007, Kozar said, and the Squeezettes started with just the three women, their accordions, and gigs at parties around town. As they made a name for themselves and started to take off, they added Mike Chaltry, a tuba player, and later, Mike Eells on drums and percussion.
They kept the Riverwest Accordion Club’s non-traditional stock of tunes. “We play maybe 40% old-school polka,” Kozar said. Their first CD The Squeezettes features classics like “Happy Wanderer” and eyebrow-raisers like “99 Red Balloons.”
Bay Viewers had the chance to hear the Squeezettes’ brand of polka at last summer’s Chill on the Hill. But their June 21 date was nearly rained out, with the show moving to the erstwhile Bay View Brew Haus when the skies erupted in a heavy downpour.
“It was still a good turnout,” Kozar said, noting that Chill organizers did everything they could to direct people to the Brew Haus. But she looks forward to this summer’s show in Humboldt Park. “We love the big band shell so much, she said. It’s fun, with the huge stage and the great sound system.”
We’re looking forward to it, too.
The Squeezettes play Chill on the Hill Tuesday, June 19, 6:30 pm, at the band shell.
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