Jason Webley comes in from the street | AspenTimes.com

Jason Webley comes in from the street

Accordionist Jason Webley opens for Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band at Belly Up Aspen on Sunday, Jan. 6. (Jeff Harms)

After graduating from the University of Washington, Jason Webley took a spirit-numbing job in a crummy, commercial recording studio. Webley says he “went crazy” from the experience, and it’s not clear whether his next career venture was a cure for the craziness or a confirmation of it. Webley took to the streets of Seattle to earn a living as an accordion-playing busker.

To his surprise, he actually did make a living. The plan was to play his accordion on the streets “till I ran out of money,” he said. “It’s been nine years, and I still haven’t run out of money.”

The 33-year-old Webley has turned a few corners in his career. His music is mostly made indoors these days; in Aspen, he isn’t playing on the mall, but at Belly Up Aspen, opening for Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band. When he headlines a show, his act includes more guitar than accordion. But it is the accordion that always makes the impression on listeners.

“There are a lot of accordion players,” he said. “There are not a lot of young men, jumping around and screaming at you while playing the accordion.”

Playing accordion ” left-handed ” with the ferocity of a punk ranks maybe a distant third on the list of Webley’s eccentricities. (Even when he’s playing a cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya.”) There is his percussion instrument of choice ” a plastic vodka bottle filled with coins from around the world.

This one, Webley hardly counts as an oddity. As a street performer, he used a tambourine to keep the beat. He wound up with a sore hand and insufficient volume, so he tried something else. The bottle did not let him down. “It makes a huge, thunderous sound,” he said.

Even Webley admits that his thing for the number 11 is strange. A few years ago, when he began making friends in music circles, he decided to begin a series of collaborative recording projects. There would be 11 such projects, he decreed. (He is currently recording Nos. 5 and 6; No. 3, released last year, was “Two Bottles of Wine,” with Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band.) Each would be a limited edition of 1,111 copies. His label is 11 Records. The current tour runs for 11 dates.

“Obviously I’ve got some weird attachment to the number 11,” he said.

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