A show for the servants: Brave Combo leads benefit for West firefighters

BENEFIT FOR THE VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS OF WEST, TEXAS
Who: Brave Combo, Isaac Hoskins & the Charlie Shafter Band
When: 8:30 today
Where: Dan’s Silverleaf, 103 Industrial
How much: a suggested donation of $10, proceeds will benefit the fighfighters who served the town of West following a catastrophic explosion at a fertilizer pant on April 17.
SCHEDULE
8:30 p.m. – Brave Combo
9:30 p.m. – Isaac Hoskins
10:30 p.m. – The Charlie Shafter Band
Grammy Award-winning Denton group, Brave Combo brought their nuclear polka sound to the Dallas Museum of Art atrium during Late Nights at the DMA January 18, 2013. The event celebrated The Dallas Museum of Art's 110th birthday.

Grammy Award-winning Denton group, Brave Combo brought their nuclear polka sound to the Dallas Museum of Art atrium during Late Nights at the DMA January 18, 2013. The event celebrated The Dallas Museum of Art’s 110th birthday.

Denton polka band Brave Combo appears tonight in a benefit concert for firefighters in West. The two-time Grammy-winning band has participated in West Fest since its inception, and founder and front man Carl Finch planned a fundraiser for the town’s public servants. Finch recently took time to field questions about Brave Combo’s long-running commitment to the Denton Arts & Jazz Combo. He also waxed humble about his accordion skills and gave “real” accordion player and Brave Combo member Ginny Mac some serious props. He also talked a little about the band’s late 2012 release, Sounds of the Hollow. 
Littledtx.com: Have you ever felt like BC is an odd headliner for a festival associated so strongly with jazz and blues? Or do you consider BC the deeply “Denton” part of the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest?
Carl Finch: On one hand, I feel like we fit the theme of the festival pretty well, from a musical perspective. From a “Denton” perspective, I think we totally make sense.  How does Denton define jazz, or music, for that matter?  Yeah, we seem to be a good fit with the town.  To be honest, I’ve always thought the word “jazz” in the name of the festival was a little misleading, though it’s certainly the cornerstone.  But, obviously, Brave Combo is not the only band at the festival that isn’t traditional jazz.  And, I say this every year, our set is the family reunion part of the weekend. We’re the comfort food. And we work really hard to do the best show we can. Lots of new songs this year mixed in with the standards.  Lots of people on stage, too.  (Mike Dillon and Joe Cripps chipped in on percussion and Finch’s good friend and NICE MUSICS partner, Danny Jerabek came from Wisconsin to play button box and trombone at the jazz fest.)
Jazz is a huge umbrella, and generally, I think of jazz as being about rhythm — syncopation — and improvisation. Brave Combo is very much distinguished by its approach to polka standards and BC songs in terms of rhythm. And every Brave Combo show I’ve ever been to seemed to have a very improvisational ingredient to it. Do you ever think of Brave Combo as borrowing from jazz – in idea or even in structure – in making music?
If one listens closely to what Brave Combo does, it’s easy to hear a lot of jazz influence, including improvisation, in the BC mix.  We realized a long time ago, decades ago, actually, that making the band a novelty act would not work for long. So we followed our curiosity down as many musical paths as we could, looking for the essence of each and seeing how that fits in a band that’s more like a rock band.  If a listener only wants to hear “The Chicken Dance” or “The Hokey Pokey” there’s not much we can do about that, but most people know that the crazy group dance things represent only about 1 % of what we actually do… The coolest thing about being in Brave Combo is experiencing all the situations where we’re invited to perform, whether it’s a little Polish club in New Jersey, The Getty Museum in Los Angeles or an alternative punk polka festival in Berlin.
Isaac Hoskins plays at 9:30 p.m. today during a benefit for West.

Isaac Hoskins plays at 9:30 p.m. today during a benefit for West.

Here’s a question from the peanut gallery: Ginny Mac. Combo fans are nuts about her. I have always, ALWAYS seen you as the accordion player of Brave Combo. How did you recruit Ginny, and what special something do you think she brings to the group? 
Concerning me being the accordionist for Brave Combo, I can do what I do pretty well.  I know how to make the accordion loud enough to be heard with any band, but I have never been a real accordionist. I have filled the bill, sorta. Ginny is a real accordionist.  We do a few songs where she and I both play accordions and I do get requests for some of my signature tunes, but she’s the real deal and in Brave Combo’s quest to “do it our way but also do it right” she’s a great addition. Makes perfect sense to me, anyway.
 I have been wanting to talk to you about Sounds of the Hollow for eons. As an album, there is a sort of… how do I put this?… a hot intensity to the record. Can you recall what was happening that created an album that wasn’t the sort of signature “fun Brave Combo” recording that feels iconic to Denton Brave Combo fans?
Sounds From The Hollow needed to be made from a practical point of view because Ginny had joined the band. We were playing all these new songs with her and we didn’t have a CD to sell to fans at live shows. So we picked a bunch of the newest things, threw in some BC standards that I’ve always wanted to record and add a few left-field tracks.

Where does the album title come from?

The title comes from an idea I had that music comes from nothing and thqt you can, indeed, make music from nothing.  Basically, it just is, like air.

There’s something very American about this record. The Spanish, the Czech, the doo-wop, the ‘Snowflake Reel’ – they all bring a feeling of American sprawl to them. Did Brave Combo set out to do that, or is it more the result of the band’s many trips to town festivals and cross-country drives?

As well, these modern times are redefining music and the role of music in society.  But it’s like non-news. We should probably talk about this when we have more time, but that’s basically it.

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