By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
For The Daily Item
MILLHEIM — What’s the difference between chopping up an onion and chopping up a banjo?
You don’t cry when chopping up a banjo.
This humble instrument, the brunt of many a high strung joke, will share the stage and the spotlight Saturday evening when it’s joined by an accordion and washboard for a highly spirited evening of tunes that celebrate the eclectic sounds of zydeco music.
The Elk Creek Caf, Route 45 in Millheim, will be the setting for the return of the ever-popular zydeco-infused band The MacGillicuddies.
“People don’t realize how terrific a banjo and an accordion can sound. Our music is a lot of fun and guaranteed to put you in a great mood and make you want to dance,” said Emelie Peine, a Washington state resident who provides both vocals and washboard tunes for the band that has members scattered across the country.
“We love playing at Elk Creek and have probably played at that location at least a dozen times and we always have a fantastic experience. Our goal is for people to leave our show with a smile on their face and feeling exhausted from dancing so much.”
So, just how does a band, with members scattered some 3,000 miles apart that only performs about one or two gigs a year, end up playing in the sleepy little town of Millheim?
The answer is pretty simple since one of the seven band members teaches at Penn State and lives near the Elk Creek Cafe, a venue that has become a popular destination for music lovers.
“There is always a fantastic crowd at the Elk Creek Cafe and we’re expecting our visit there to be just as great and for the place to be packed,” Peine said. “Our music is very upbeat, very high energy and music you just want to get out of your seat and dance to.”
Peine noted that although many months pass in between their gigs, playing music with her fellow musical cohorts is like riding a bicycle — once you get the hang of it, you just get right on and ride.
Founded 10 years ago by a group of like-minded musicians, The MacGillicuddies has a style that is mainly accordion-based zydeco with occasional roots and Americana undertones woven throughout select tunes.
Playing a mix of covers and originals, the band has become known for some of their more colorful numbers which include a tune that lasts 12 minutes, an original song penned to honor a chicken farm incident and something you don’t hear every day — a tune that pays homage to a male porn star.
Yes, songs about a chicken incident and porn star. Not your typical band playlist.
“Our chicken song, ‘1980s Dead Chicken,’ is definitely one of our most popular songs and one that we have become known for,” Peine said. “The song was written about one of our band members who used to work on a chicken farm and had a very bad experience. It’s one of those songs that just sticks in your head because it is so different.
“It’s all part of a great night of good music,” she said, “and some of the best beer I have ever tasted.”