It is officially Dyngus Day! Lent is over, for those of you who observed it. I never have. I grew up in a Baptist family. Baptists didn’t have to do anything special for anything. Catholics carried heavy burdens compared to Baptists. On top of that, I was taught that I could never fall from grace. Over the years, being in a polka band, I’ve been seriously exposed to the Catholic mindset. One time I told Eddie Blazonczyk, the king of the Chicago Push Polish polka style, that it seemed like some polka stars were obsessed with having their picture taken with the Pope. Eddie looked at me very seriously and said, “What’s wrong with that?” I learned something quick. And, although, Baptists could sorta just cruise through life without being too inconvenienced by the demands of the church, Catholics could drink. That same Eddie Blazonczyk once invited Brave Combo to attend one of his concerts at a big Catholic picnic right outside Chicago and everyone was dancing AND drinking, like crazy. In fact, the nuns provided the raffle prize; a huge basket of liquor! I never witnessed dancing and drinking at any party at the First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas. So, Catholics and some other folks give up something during lent and Easter marks the end of the sacrificing or fasting or whatever. For some Polish party people, the Monday after Easter is straight-up rock and roll day. No easing back into the vices for them. Dyngus Day might be an invention of the American-Polish scene. One of the biggest celebrations is in Buffalo, New York. We’ve been honored to headline that raucous event a couple of times and totally love blasting Polish polkas and obereks for a musically aware crowd. Boy, things were a lot more fun before a bunch of jerks decided it would be a good idea to tear people apart and profit from their efforts to polarize our country. Too bad it worked. But no matter what, I love the music, for music’s sake. And that’s that! Call me crazy. I’ll consider it a compliment!
Check this out! A few years ago a popular Japanese punk-pop band, Brahman, covered our song, “Flying Saucer,” playing it quite punky poppy. Now a whole crop of young Japanese guitarists are covering Brahman’s cover of the song. I love this!
Speaking of music and the interesting people who create it, one of Brave Combo’s biggest influences was a South Texas accordionist/genius, named Esteban (Steve) Jordan. He was, let’s say, only interested in making his music his way. And the population, at large, benefitted greatly, from his stubbornness because what he created was, truly, mind-blowing. I probably could not find many things, outside of music, on which Steve and I would agree and his reputation for being downright mean seemed to be based on some truth, but I am so glad he existed. He died a few years ago, but his style, talent, and sheer ability will live on in other Tejano/Conjunto musicians forever. He was a tiny person and almost totally blind, but legend has it he once forced his brother, who was also his drummer, out of their van, at gunpoint, somewhere between South Texas and Monterey, Mexico. I got to see him perform several times and we even played a few shows together. He was always stunning, if not magical, even when he was pissed-off at the monitor guy or one of his musicians. He was what he was. Here are a couple of examples of what I’m talking about.
The reason I bring up Steve Jordan, aside from the fact that his impact on me is immeasurable, is that our good friend (and one of the best interpreters of Steve Jordan’s music) from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, master accordionist/button box player, Danny Jerabek, is coming down to Denton to hang out and play some music and will be performing with us at Rubber Gloves. Now that was quite a packed sentence! The show is on Tuesday, April 26th and you’re an idiot if you don’t come out and hear this guy play. If you like accordion music and you live within 100 miles of our sweet little town, you have no excuses. You must attend, my friend!
And speaking of that, what is up with live music, in general? Does it really fit anymore, on a mainstream commercial level, or is the scene going to become just a bunch of eccentrics getting together for esoteric reasons, of interest to only them. Just wondering, because that’s okay with me. From here on out, it’s all about discovery and learning and simply adding two plus two. Dig? The old templates are cracked and worn and don’t really make sense anymore. Jeez, we’ve all been through a lot. It’s okay and normal to have changing attitudes and perspectives. As a performer, I must try to be aware of the vibe; to feel the flow and sense where humanity is right now and where it’s going. And it’s trickier than ever to know what works, as we enter the second quarter of 2022. Like it or not, we’re all moving toward something new and different, and we don’t know yet if it will be wonderful or thoroughly suck.
I remain optimistic because I have no choice. But that’s just me. “Get on the good foot,” as James Brown used to sing! Here goes nothing!