Jason Webley brings trickery, twirling and tickle fights to Halloween show

“Does everyone have a carrot? Good. Now we can begin.”

So commenced the evening as the zombies, skeletons, superheroes and jesters surrounding the stage were asked to hold their single baby carrots up in the air and concentrate on them with their eyes closed. After a minute of focus — and a little laughter — the costumed crowd ate their carrots.

Not long after this seemingly random bout of crowd participation, the group erupted in howls and screams fitting of Halloween night, although the screams were not from fright. Instead, they were screams of excitement as accordion player Jason Webley and his band made their way from the back of the room to the stage, hitting drum sticks on shovels as the crowd began to stomp along.

This was Halloween night at WOW Hall, nicknamed “WOW Halloween” by Webley; a little random, a little quirky and focused on crowd participation.

Webley, who has been voted WOW Hall’s “Favorite Male Performer” for two of the past four years,@@[email protected]@ returned to the venue Monday bringing a night of trickery to the dance floor with an active 17-song set.

Abandoning the shovel for an accordion upon reaching the stage, Webley quickly kicked off the set with fan favorite “Dance While the Sky Crashes Down,”@@[email protected]@a high-energy song driven by his accordion, a dramatic viola line and a simple, booming chorus. This dramatic flare carried easily on

through the first half of the set, accentuated skillfully by touches of trumpet and a subtle female vocal harmony while also highlighting unexpected versatility found in the accordion.


Guitarist Billy Barnett played with Mood Area 52 at the WOW Hall on October 31 dressed in costume for Halloween. Mood Area 52, a local neo-tango, folk band, opened for the Jason Webley band and played a variety of songs, inspired from Golden Age Tango, lounge, electronica, and Eastern European music influences. (Ariane Kunze/Freelance Photographer)

After a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and other well known 1980s songs on accordion, Webley calmed the crowd down for “Goodbye Forever Once Again,”@@[email protected]@ a slower song that he dedicated to remembering loved ones, followed closely by the more upbeat “The Graveyard.”@@[email protected]@

“The Graveyard,” a song marked by its beat created by rocks or pennies in water bottles, became a song largely played by the audience, as Webley tossed a bag of water bottle shakers out on the floor, spreading them around until every member of the crowd had one and could play along with the song.

The shakers didn’t stop there, however. Costumed audience members held up their shakers and danced throughout the next three songs, only setting them down for a moment when Webley encouraged the crowd to tickle the people standing around them and later, when he stopped playing for a moment to talk about his recent decision to take a break from touring.

“I want to thank probably my favorite venue in the country for being a home to me and my friends in Eugene for as long as I can remember,” said Webley about WOW Hall, later continuing to explain, “I’m not taking a break because I don’t like what I do … I’m taking a break because a voice inside my head — a voice that’s probably smarter than I am — told me to do that.”

“Last Song” @@[email protected]@closed the set, as crowd members swayed along to Webley’s dry, gravely, voice and kept the beat alongside him. A two-song encore quickly followed, featuring a trumpet-infused and beautifully viola-guided cover of “Hockey Star” by Big Little Dipper Dipper. @@[email protected]@Following this was “Drinking Song,”@@[email protected]@ a fan favorite in which Webley asked the crowd to “get drunk” with him by spinning around in a circle 11 times. This spinning quickly moved in to swaying, as large groups in the crowd formed chains by wrapping their arms around each other.

“Thank you for choosing to spend your Halloween with us,” Webley told the crowd as the uniquely paced performance came to a close. “I’m happy I did.”

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