The long-awaited movie, THE POLKA KING, starring Jack Black, has finally been released. You can see it on Netflix. It’s the bizarre story of polka music star, Jan Lewan, and his fall from, well, everything. I look forward to checking it out myself (as soon as I get about another hundred things done) and, of course, wish it much success. I know several of the musicians involved with the soundtrack and the film’s producers are, apparently, fans of Brave Combo. So, get Netflix, rent THE POLKA KING and make an evening of it. Snacks and all. I just hope it portrays the polka world with sensitivity. Too often the magic is not captured when polka musicians appear on screen. They’re typically one-dimensional characters with no depth. Goofballs. And this inability or unwillingness of the mainstream to understand the essence of polka just contributes to the music’s eternal image problem. I have been a participant in this crazy polka game for almost four decades. Granted, my journey has been unique since I’m not, ethnically, tied to any of the major polka styles. My family wasn’t Czech or Polish or German or Slovenian or Mexican or anything. I don’t even know what we were, although my brother claims, through his research, that our mother actually qualified to be in the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), as our neighbor was. It would’ve been nice if she could have known that. Oh well. Anyway, I just decided one day I was curious about polka music and started checking it out, then put together a band to play it. I didn’t care anything about where it came from. That took years to figure out and sorta understand. I’m an outsider insider. And since I don’t eat meat or even drink much alcohol, those were always two big strikes against me. But, and I go back to this, I sincerely dug the music and cared about it a lot and have proudly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with all my Polish-American, Czech-American, Mexican-American, German-American, Slovenian-American, etc. musician friends around the country. I’ll still take Eddie Blazonczyk or Scrubby over just about any rock or country act of the last 25-30 years. Hell, yeah! You should see my polka LP collection. Whatever, I’ve had the enviable position of having one foot in (enough to clearly “get it”) and one foot out (enough to clearly see what’s wrong). And some aspects just constantly suck. That whole “image problem” problem has been a real stinker for the polka world. Any attempt to break out into the bigger musical scene usually fails miserably. Our friends in the fantastic Chardon Polka Band know, all too well, how terribly wrong things can go when mainstream media tries to interpret polka music for a mainstream audience. They starred in short-lived reality show about the lives of a hard-working polka band. The producers actually interviewed us for the part, as well, but I think we just came off as creatures from Mars to them. We don’t look anything like a normal polka band. Never did. None-the-less, a truly honest television show about the Chardon Polka Band could have been incredibly entertaining. I know these people. They’re smart and charismatic. They see the big picture. And I’m sure myriad goofball day-to-day events occur to them naturally. I would have enjoyed watching them just set up and play a gig and drive home. Hell, a truck stop in the middle of the night between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh or Seattle and Portland could produce enough weird activity for an entire episode of a reality show. If you’re on the road, you can count on having some cool, interesting experiences. There are a bunch of oddballs out there and they’re not all scary and dangerous. I guess it doesn’t really matter what I think, though, about any of this. Polka is probably destined to remain an esoteric joy. It takes a lot to accept it, if you’re encumbered by its reputation of being stupid and shallow. It’s ironic that the music’s critics or poopoo-ers are, in fact, usually the stupid and shallow ones.
Speaking of reality shows, I would like to see a televised debate between moderate Christians and Evangelicals, but that probably won’t happen, because Evangelicals are considered bullies and moderate Christians are considered wimps and wimps are afraid of bullies, so bullies get their way while the wimps allow the actual teachings of their spiritual leader (Jesus) to pretty much fade away. Both of these groups seem to have forgotten that their once-beloved savior was, in fact, God in the form of a man. If I really truly believed that, I wouldn’t be screwing around too much with the essence of the message. Evangelicals and moderate Christians both claim to believe in the existence of Hell, by the way. Or so they say. The Christian fear of Hell is supposed to deter true believers from ignoring the lessons in the New Testament. Hello? I bet Christians own more guns than Atheists. If that is so, I wonder if it’s because their faith is weak. Shouldn’t they be the happiest and nicest people around instead of the grumpiest and meanest? I’m sorry if I’m offending anyone, but seriously you real Christians need to speak up, like your savior would have. It would guarantee you a place in Heaven. Otherwise, well, you know. Listen to your heart.
Speaking of the end of morality, Stormy Daniels said she did and then she said she didn’t. Hmmm, I wonder what made her change her mind.
Speaking of the end of civility, I’m thinking about our next album concept. How does BRAVE COMBO PLAYS THE MUSIC FROM SHITHOLE COUNTRIES sound? The only problem is we’ve already done that.
Speaking of the end of time, you know how it feels to try to reason with an ostrich, right?
THE NEW NORMAL (a timely tale). What about them punks? In the beginning (1979 for Brave Combo) a big hunk of the music scene in the USA was becoming gritty and grimy; intentionally so. Cool live music venues we’re transitioning from sorta safe, almost sports bar-like spaces into dark, grungy dives. And most of the people involved, from the booking agents to the club managers to the bands to the fans were hard; sarcastic and condescending, even if half of them were straight-up posers. The audiences regularly threw stuff at the bands and would occasionally spit on them. It sounds crazy, but something had to happen to save the music. People were choosing difficult lives for the sake of the music (and, of course, to feel hip) because the mainstream embraced blandness and was content to allow rock and roll to become irrelevant. Spontaneity was disappearing. Chance was disappearing. Raw energy was disappearing. But, most of all, authentic emotion was disappearing. And Brave Combo was as untrusting as the punks. And we learned right away if we wanted to have any impact we would have to pay no attention to the weird air of hostility and get on with business. New York City in the early 1980s was a combat zone; a very harsh environment and everyone made art which felt like it was about fighting for survival. The landscape was changing from bands yelling, “Is everybody ready to rock?” to “Eat shit, Assholes.” It was an amazing and wonderful time. Some of the best music ever. And it was, for sure, good to grow thicker skin and duck feathers.
Okay. That’s it for now. Brave Combo is still on vacation for a while. Check our itinerary in a few weeks. Until then, tend to your own worries.