You may or may not know, I moved to Denton a year after graduating from Texas High School, in Texarkana, to attend North Texas State University, mainly because it had a world-class music school and a quite decent fine arts department. My plan was to study graphic design and become a graphic designer and do some sort of commercial art. And to minor in music and have access to all the amazing stuff going on every day in that department. I could draw pretty well and seemed to have an eye for design/composition. Also, Denton had a reputation for being a rather loose, creative environment; simple country folk mixed with the most PHDs, percentage-wise, in the whole country. As well, a friend of mine, who was about to graduate from NTSU, convinced me living in Denton would be the opposite of living in Texarkana, which definitely sounded good. Jeez, I was 19 years old. Of course, anyplace other than Texarkana was appealing.
I’d been playing in rock bands since the 10th grade and, obviously, dug music, but I figured I would never be technically good enough to compete with even average music students at NTSU, on a performance level. Visual arts sounded reasonable and, perhaps, an easier way to make a living. So I did my work and got a degree in graphic design/advertising art. I had two main professors. One was totally old school (learn to use a chisel point pencil and all the crafty things) and the other was totally modern (design is all there is). I leaned toward modern teacher, although crafty teacher was extremely interesting and became a big Brave Combo fan many years later. Anyway, modern teacher opened my eyes to the power of design, which I did find exciting. However, when I finished my bachelor’s degree, I realized I had no desire to move to Dallas or Fort Worth and work in a design studio; a cubicle. In fact, I knew that was not going to happen. Modern teacher was very disappointed in me. But, there I was. So, I thought I could get my master’s degree and teach art and make art at the same time. I liked art history a lot. Still do. So I got my MFA in drawing and painting, but had stopped drawing and painting, by that point, and was working with audio installations and making things which explored the impact of sound and music. Painting with sound. I had an obsession with Muzak and its actual purpose, and was also exploring how to make all music equal, so ego and prejudice wouldn’t get in the way. I used a variety of sound systems with big speakers, little speakers, headphones, drive-in theater speakers, whatever.
After attracting the attention of a few sorta important people in the regional art world, I decided a live band might be the best way to get my point across. But the idea would be the main thing. I was, by that time, already focused on polka music, because it had such a bad reputation in the big ol’ mainstream pop world, which it certainly didn’t deserve. I just had to see what would happen if one played polkas in a rock and roll environment. That’s the basic story of what led up to forming an actual band. One of my painting professors, Bob Wade, came to NTSU as a rather famous Texas artist and became more famous and infamous, while he was there. I apprenticed with him for a couple of years and learned a bunch about making art and why anyone would do it and what it all meant to me. Bob always talked about how the artist simply points at things. He also asked us students, the first day of painting class, “Do you make art or do you make what looks like art.” That question really got to me and is with me every single second while I’m working on my next “masterpiece.” Anyway, to me, Brave Combo is, and has forever been, one very long art piece; a creative experiment. Being in a rock band, after high school, didn’t sound like much fun. Hell, being in any regular band, including a polka band, didn’t sound like much fun. But being part of a thing, which was allowed to play polkas, sounded beyond great. I really wanted to feel the power of the music but had little desire to get too close to the cultural attachments. I don’t need to go nuts over beer and freak out over sausage, especially since I stopped eating meat about 35 years ago. Brave Combo is about music for music’s sake, damn it! And it’s 100% okay to like rock, jazz, gospel, salsa, country hiphop AND polka. Just listen and think for yourself. Try not to knee-jerk so much. First of all, knee-jerking is not attractive. That’s why you rarely see ballet dancers do the knee-jerk. Anyway, the concept behind Brave Combo was pretty simple; rock band plays polkas! From there, somehow, many magical things have sprung forth, at least from my point-of-view.
THE APATHETIC MAJORITY. About 150,000 people live in Denton now. We recently had an election, which included mayor and a couple of city council seats. These people make BIG decisions and those decisions impact Dentonites every day. Only about 10% of the population showed up to vote. And the races were close. A few hundred votes either way could have changed results. I fear I may know many people who got lazy at the wrong time. My wife, Jane, and I, literally zipped by the civic center to early vote one afternoon, on our way to Sonic. It took about ten minutes. And we each got that same little “I Voted” sticker which I immediately stuck to my forehead, as Jane was saying, “Don’t stick that to your forehead.” So shame on 90% of Denton, minus those people too young to vote. So, rather, shame on 90% of 60-70% of the population or something like that. Whatever, no one snagged more than 7,000-8,000 votes, which is pitiful and not deserving of a victory celebration at Applebee’s.
Speaking of Denton, Brave Combo is partnering with a new outdoor venue in town, Red’s Yard, to present an every-Wednesday happening, called “Weird Wednesday with Brave Combo.” It is going to be a brand new form of live entertainment and will be live-streamed, so anyone in the world can watch this new form of live entertainment. Here are some facts.
Brave Combo will be appearing at Red’s Yard every Wednesday evening in June, from around 7:00 to 9:00, on their outside stage. Admission will be free.
The PA will be small and intimate. Think “live background music, which might be more annoying than entertaining….to the audience.” We may spend several minutes just rehearsing something and the audience will be encouraged to eat and drink and enjoy watching and hearing us horsing around, trying out various ideas. We may invite someone from the audience to sing with us if we don’t want to sing. Or we may just talk about something for a long time. And then I might play drums, while Alan plays accordion, for no good reason. One of us may leave the stage for a few minutes and offer no excuse. Then Jeff might tell everyone about something cool he saw recently, while Robert accompanies him on lap steel guitar.
Why would we do this, you ask? Because we want to play, in a rehearsal (meaning “anything goes”) setting, but we want it to be a performance; a presentation of music. It must involve a high degree of chance, but not from a normal improvisational way. Bands come up with most of the cool stuff while they’re freely grasping and imagining and not being self-conscious. Ultimately, perhaps we can make something mildly intriguing and unaffected by normal band/audience ego stuff. This is the best I can do, to explain what to expect, because we don’t know anything, yet, other than it will definitely not be Brave Combo just playing a bunch of well-rehearsed songs. We will be there TO rehearse…and screw around. All for your pleasure…and ours. And, at the end of June, we’ll decide if it’s worth continuing. There’s a good chance it won’t be. But, you never know. Every Weird Wednesday in June. 7-9pm (CST). We hope our souls can touch or, at least, that the live-streaming doesn’t crap out.
Okay, enough words! Think for yourself and be kind!