I do not know how many Brave Combo concerts I have been too over the last 3 decades. This I do know.
The show at WestFest 2021 was by far the rowdiest, funnest and also, most dangerous.
I made my second trek in three weeks to Tulsa, OK for Labor Day weekend. The trip plans included Ann, Robert and I driving down to West, TX to see Brave Combo at their annual Labor Day WestFest.
I first attended WestFest in 2014 with my son Stensen. We had two days of fun eating and hanging with Brave Combo. We loved it. The energy was high, the music amazing as always and we got lots of fun pix and video. You can read and see it all here: Saturday and Sunday.
This trip to WestFest was special for many reasons. It was the first time in many years that Robert and I were able to see them together. It was also the first time that Ann was able to see them. To be clear, she is NOT a Brave Combo fan like Robert and I are. (We are not sure what is wrong with her, but it is serious whatever it is!) It was also special because I was bringing some images that I made a few weeks earlier and that I made at WestFest 2014. I was bringing my favorite picture of Carl Finch (the band leader) to give to him. I also has a poster size of it that I was asking him to sign.
When I saw them a few weeks earlier at the Bartlett Arboretum in KS, a rare thing happened – we were able to take a group shot of the band after the show. So I brought a copy of one of those shots and was able to get the band to sign it.
When we arrived, there was lots of traffic and the lots all around the WestFest event were full. We luckily found a street parking spot partially in someone’s yard. Robert gave them some money and we had a decent spot that wa about a half mile away from the event.
It was definitely more crowded than 2014.
When we made our way to the East Pavillion, where Brave Combo was going to play, we could hear another band finishing their set. Oddly, it sounded a bit like Brave Combo. The band was Bohemian Blitz. Their last song was actually one that Brave Combo has recorded.
Another key observation upon arriving at the pavillion was the fact that it was packed wall to wall with people. With Covid raging through the state of Texas, this was a bit concerning and surprising. We all had masks and Robert and I also have been vaccinated. Even so, it was top of mind when we were out on the dance floor.
So I called this post “A Brave Combo at WestFest 2021” because it actually took some courage for the band to perform in such a packed house while at the same time Covid is ravaging the state. It also took courage for us to be there. So there is a “brave combination” of wanting to do something so amazing, whether performing or enjoying a performance, in the face of such awkward and challenging conditions.
As soon as we got there, we say Carl speaking with someone. When he finished his conversation he noticed us standing by the stage and came over to chat. His first words were about Bohemium Blitz and he referred to them as the spawn of Brave Combo. I found that so interesting that he was thinking that after I had noted a similarity in sound.
We had a great conversation, introduced him to Ann and then, at his request, took a picture of him with the pickle and Robert. At Robert’s request, I am not posting any of the pickle pictures here.
We grabbed some food while Bohemium Blitz was clearing the stage. It was good. We had pork on a stick, mushrooms on a stick and an $8 slice of pizza.
When Brave Combo started setting up their gear on the stage and doing their sound check, I hopped up to take a few pix. I had a fun moment with Alan Emert, their drummer. He was pounding out some beats and then asked me to name the song. I was thrown off a bit because I wasn’t sure if it was a Brave Combo song or someone else’s. He played it several times and kept asking me to name it. He gave me a hint eventually by saying it was from the early 90s. I didn’t guess it. He chuckled.
Once the show started, the venue turned into a place of slightly controlled chaos. People of all ages were dancing around, and many were holding beers.
Robert, Ann and I danced, took pic and video and had a terrific time. The highlight for me was dancing to the song “Waltz Across Texas” with Ann. I have always wanted to dance to that song, as it is one of my faves. We had a lot of fun weaving in and out of the crowd in a pinball bumping around kind of way. You can get a sense of it by watching the Conga line video below.
During the show I focused more on video and dancing than I did taking pix. I am include several fun videos at the end of the post. Robert was willing to share a few pix of his and one of them is below.
I spent a lot of time on stage during the show. Sadly, since I was focused on video, I only took 3 snaps of the crowd. This was a big miss on my part. The crowd was truly one of the key components of the Brave Combo experience.
At the beginning of the show at 9p, the age range was from child to senior citizen. However, after the first set was over, the average age dropped signifcantly to the early 20s by my estimate. To be clear, the number of people did not diminish, it seemes as if more younger folks came out as the night got later. This actually made me quite happy as I am thrilled to see people of all ages get connected to Brave Combo.
A perennial crowd and family favorite of Brave Combo is their ever-changing version of the classic “Hokey Pokey.” I still remember their version from 2014. It was by far the best I have ever heard. I believe it was matched on this night. The 2014 version has great drums by Alan and Little Jack Melody on bass was smokin’. Why don’t you listed to both and let me know which one is your fave?
One of the first songs that I fell in love with from Brave Combo is from the “NO, NO, NO, CHA CHA CHA” album. The song is Hernando’s Hideaway and it is terrific. In fact, the entire album is gold, simply amazing. Below is their WestFest 2021 version of Hernando’s Hideway and Apples, Peaches Pumpkin Pie (from the Polkasonic album), which is also one of my all-time faves.
The show was pure fire. The audience was treated to a special night of master-crafted performances including polka, waltzes, dance crazes, lions, tigers and bears, oh my.
We hung around after the show and spoke with all the band members. One of the comments that Carl made was that during the show, as the crowd was getting rowdier, he called for a few more tamer songs so that things did not get out of hand. He was concerned both with the beer flying everywhere combined with Covid flying everywhere. Rightfully so!
The good news for the band was that they HUGE fans on stage blew the air off of the downstage area and kepts the beer and hoepfully the germs away from them.
Robert and I helped them load up their gear as they were anxious to get rest. They were performing again at WestFest the next day at 4p.
I really enjoyed the time after the show. I was able to get Carl to sign my poster and the band photo. They are both now hanging in my office. I could literally cover the ways with just Brave Combo pix I have taken over the years. But since I have family, I have to share some of the wall space with them! And I do so happily!
As I have mentioned in previous posts here on this blog, there are few things in life that bring me joy that way that being with Brave Combo does. It is a form of a spiritual experience into the pure consciousness of joy. In many ways it is sacred, and yet, I cannot help but try to share it with as many people as possible.
After have the blessing of seeing Brave Combo twice within 1 month, I am now plotting my next show. I am targeting hitting one of the Octoberfest that are upcoming. I will reach out to Carl and ask for his opinion as to which one would be best.
Let me know if you would like to join me!