Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando • 2.7.98
When associate editor DeeAnn Jennings asked me if there was anything musical going on that weekend that she could take her sister to, the answer was easy. No “how old is your sister” or “what kind of music does your sister like” — Brave Combo’s appeal is so universal that I can’t think of anyone who wants to hear music being disappointed with their live performance.
First and foremost, Brave Combo is about fun. Consummate wedding musicians, the band understands that most people don’t pay attention to a band to discern its artistic merits — they just want to have a good time, and some music to go along with it. Accordingly, Brave Combo shows are notoriously interactive. This time out, the band was in tour to support Group Dance Epidemic, their latest release on Rounder Records. Group Dance Epidemic contains the soundtrack to the plague mentioned in the disc’s title, with selections from around the world. “The Chicken Dance” is there. So is the “Hokey Pokey.” Both of these have long been staples of a Brave Combo show, and this show was no exception. That night’s “Hokey Pokey” was a powerhouse stew of funk, hip-hop and metal, and band members gladly took turns calling out instructions for insertion and extraction. “You put your elbows in, you put your elbows out… “
On top of all the stage and dance-floor antics, Brave Combo simply happen to be extremely talented musicians. Able to shift from style to style effortlessly and without pause, it’s not unusual to hear things like Bach in the middle of “Skokiaan” (a South African song about pineapple beer) or the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” played as a cha cha cha — with a bit of Ringo Starr thrown in for the chorus. The band is fluent in just about every music style you can name — from Latin rhythms to Armenian folk songs — and they can quickly throw together anything that’s not on their menu. So you’re guaranteed fun and enlightenment, even if you’re there only to discern the band’s artistic merits.
Of course, no evening with Brave Combo would be complete without polka, and that night had the best polka set I’ve heard in my life. You might not know this, but polka is moshing music back in the Old Country. Joining the band that night for a superlative string of polkas was accordionist Joe Oberaitis, who mangled that box and floated his fingers to produce some of the brightest, snappiest music I’ve ever heard. Even the band was in awe alongside the audience. Still, Brave Combo are no slouches, and kept the polka level at a dangerously high setting for the rest of the evening, even after Joe had left the stage to a standing ovation. Did DeeAnn’s sister enjoy the show? She personally thanked me halfway through the first set. Shucks, the band did all the work.
If you have an open mind towards music, you owe it to yourself to witness this band live the next time they come through. Keep an eye on their aptly-named web site for touring information: http://www.brave.com/bo