Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I Came, I Saw, I Polka-ed!
It was surreal. It was incredible. It was exciting. It was just plain-old fun. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said it totally exceeded our expectations by like a million percent.
The four of us--Dale and I, along with my niece Margaux and her BF Aaron, arrived at the Big Red Barn about 4:30pm. The place is aptly named--a houmongous red painted steel barn in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a dirt parking lot filled with big ranch trucks and RV's.
Dale and I could hardly contain ourselves as we walked into the place. The polka music was blasting! We were really there! It does exist! There was Big Joe himself up on the stage!
We sat at one of the long tables and took in the scene:
Lots and lots of old people!
We sat for a while taking it all in and fortified ourselves a bit with the $2 beers and $1 waters. Emboldened, we made our way to the edge of the dance floor. As I was trying to teach Dale how to (sort of) polka, I was whisked away by an elderly gentleman who was going to give me a few pointers on how to dance. OMG, I was freaking out, but this guy was a really good dancer and did give me a few helpful hints. This guy also happened to be one of the "regulars" we had seen many times on the show. His schtik is to wear big, freaky clown ties. We were all pretty humiliated by our lack of dancing talent and decided to just sit and watch after that. I mean seriously, there were people in WALKERS that were better dancers than us!
One of the early bands, Jimmy Brosch and the Country Boys was really good. This one had a lot of people gathered around the stage watching rather than dancing. The leader of this band, Jimmy, is 84 years old and KICKED ASS on sax and harmonica! He was seated as he performed, and after one rather lively song, Joe was joking with him that it looked like he had to rest for a bit to catch his breath..and the guy shoots right back with "I can go as long as I can blow!" You can see the performance HERE
The band before Brave Combo was Mark Halata and Texavia. They are a younger group, like BC, but also more on the traditional Czech side. I have seen them before on The Big Joe show. They played a couple of my favorites: "Aja Sam" and "Amerika" and I think "Praha". Their last song was a really great rendition of "This Land Is Your Land", which had everyone singing along and clapping.
Finally it was time for Brave Combo! How was this going to go? I thought for sure there would be more BC fans attending, but I saw only 20 or so people you could tell came just for BC. Earlier, some old guy in the men's room commented to Aaron that BC's songs are "pretty fast" and that he had hoped they might "slow it down a bit" for the audience in attendance.
Joe cordially introduced the band and there was an easy banter between Joe and Carl. Between songs they talked about the polka bands of old and stuff like that. Joe talked a little about how important it is that bands like BC are bringing in the "young people". The people that were standing next to me were from the PO.L.K. of A. group (which I guess is a organized polka lover's group) and they were very enthusiastic about BC and commented on how great BC is for the future of the genre.
As usual, BC was awesome! They had an extra guy on clarinet and also had a backup drummer. Like I predicted, they stuck to traditional songs. Most people were standing around the stage to watch and man, those oldsters were really digging it! Of course, I was having such a good time that I couldn't write up a set list, but some of the songs they did were "At the Friendly Tavern", "Joy Waltz", "Polish Holiday", "Hosa Dyna", "Kiss Me Sweetheart", "Stan Blout Medley" to name a few. Sheer Polka Heaven!
Carl getting down on the accordion.
We had a great time. Dale, who is not as shy as I am, went and said hi to Joe and had him sign his hat. He also chatted a bit with Joe's daughter Janie who said she'd feature us (as in a solo dance)...but I was too chicken to do it. I know I'm gonna regret that in the future, but we're not that good of dancers and I didn't want to be a lame ass on the tee-vee.
It was pretty interesting to see how the taping was done. Joe chit chats with the bands in between songs, and then does a 3-2-1 countdown and introduces each song as it would be shown in TV. The stage is curtained off into two sections, so one band sets up/breaks down as another band is playing. Pretty smart and no down time. We had our theories on Big Joe's personality. We were thinking he might be having "a few beers" while the bands were playing, but didn't see any of that. But he does run a pretty tight ship. I was pretty surprised that he signed Dale's cap.
Big Joe at the helm:
Of course we had to sample the local delicacies:
Don't know what this is sayin' about polka lovers...
All in all, we had an awesome time. As Big Joe always says..."Happy Music for Happy People"...and boy, were we happy people!