Monday, June 26, 2006

Brave Combo

Many of the bands I hear on my occasional outings to live music are at best entertaining and mostly forgettable. One band however, is a stand out and thus I am sure to catch them anytime they visit Kansas City.

Brave Combo defies description. A Polka/rock/folk band is the best I can muster. Based in Denton, Texas and founded in 1979 by lead vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist, accordionist Carl Finch, BC has a good sized and loyal following. BC won a Grammy award in 1999 in the Polka album category for their album Polkasonic, and again in 2005 for their album Let's Kiss. Their music incorporates every conceivable style of dance styles, mostly polka, but also rumba, cha-cha-cha, waltz, two-step, twist, meringue, etc. Their style leads to radically different versions of the original. Examples include polka versions of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and "The Coventry Carol Twist", and The Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" as a cha-cha. They recently added a wicked fun instrumental combining the driving "Peter Gunn" theme with Khachaturian's Saber Dance. While their performances have a sense of humor, and frequently include audience participation performances of the "Chicken Dance" and the "Hokey Pokey" they are not a joke. These guys are consummate musicians.

For example, take Jeffrey Barnes the second most senior of the group. Barnes is friendly, he usually can be found at the bar drinking a beer and eating a sandwich before the performance, talking with fans and enjoying himself. Usually dressed in a colorful "hippie" outfit, he plays an astonishing array of winds, harmonica and whistles sometimes in multiple, simultaneous combinations. Yes, he usually plays a melody on one recorder while accompanying himself on the other... truly amazing. Rounding out the current line-up are trumpet and flugelhorn player Danny O'Brien, drummer Alan Emert and Ann Marie Harrop on bass guitar. Last visit we spoke to Ann Marie, the newest member and she professed to be thrilled to death to play with these incredible, yet unpretentious musicians.

You have to hear these guys to believe them. They are funny, amazing, entertaining and talented. Garrison Keillor calls them "entertainers who just won't take no for an answer."

Check out their website for more information and take in a bit of Brave Combo magic. Polka Band, Dance Band, Latin Combo, Night Club act, whatever your musical inclination, I bet you'll be hooked.

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