New Release: Brave Combo @ Blob's Park

By Theresa Parker

Brave Combo celebrated its 35th anniversary all year long last year with shows at various venues. The most anticipated that didn’t disappoint was the band’s sold-out performance at the Kessler Theater in Dallas in August. It was the only performance by the original band members – Carl Finch, Tim Walsh, Lyle Atkinson and Dave Cameron. Three more reunion shows in December featured Carl and early band members Bubba Hernandez, Mitch Marine and Jeffrey Barnes (still with the group). And they are just wrapping up a series of shows in the Denton and Dallas area in March.

The band recently released a new CD – Live at Blob’s Park (denTone). All part of the 35th anniversary celebration? “We had not planned to record an album this year, but we hadn't planned to not record one either,” Carl says.

THE Place for East Coast Polka
Live at Blob’s Park is a good news/bad news release. The good news: it showcases some of the band’s best party tunes. The bad news: it marks the end of an era as two weeks after their performance, the popular Blob’s Park dance hall in Jessup, Maryland, was razed to make way for a mega church.

Blob’s Park was built by Max Blob in 1933. It became THE place to play for Northeast polka bands like the Rheinlanders. Brave Combo had been playing rock venues in the DC/Baltimore area and had built a good fan base in both cities by the time they had their first gig at Blob's. “A lot of our fans up there really love to dance. And many of them are quite good at it. So, Blob's was a perfect spot for many reasons. It was between the two cities in a quiet and safe area, had a great dance floor and lots of parking,” Carl recalls.

As Brave Combo continued to play at Blob’s over the years, their audience grew and the little ol’ band from Texas became one of the best draws at the club, pulling in polka fans and non-polka fans. “Playing at Blob's meant you had made it in a certain corner of the polka market. That was definitely gratifying,” Carl says.

Oddball Gigs
Brave Combo, whose music has been described as nuclear polka and polka on acid, has had many gratifying moments during the past 35 years. Carl says it’s impossible to narrow it down to a Top 10. “All our performances are important and stand out for different reasons. Some of my favorite performances didn't have anything to do with career advancement, just art, like when we marched in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or when we played on the Labor Day Telethon and Jerry Lewis introduced us, or when we played at The Simpsons 200th episode party on Sunset Strip. Our first few gigs in NYC were amazing and really humbling. This list of oddball gigs could go on for days,” he says.

Like being the house band for the annual Halloween Costume Contest in Boston thrown by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, better known as Click and Clack, syndicated columnists and Car Talk radio hosts. The band can count other media personalities as fans, like Drew Carey. Brave Combo played for seven of Drew’s Vegas shows last year.

A few international performances stand out as well.

“One gig that really blew my mind was when we played Berlin, headlining an alternative polka festival. The band before us, a polka band from Berlin, opened their set with one of our original songs. We had never played Germany before. A week later we were playing at Westfest and a couple of members of that band just happened to be in Texas with a documentary film crew, shooting various bands at Westfest,” Carl says. 

Brave Combo's history is full of strange, unique events. 

They played a concert in Holland with a Brave Combo tribute band, named Strange Combo. And on their first trip to Japan, they were presented with the same kimonos as The Beatles were presented when they performed in Japan. “The same company sponsored both the Beatles tour and ours. Our promoters had super high hopes,” Carl says. 

Back in Texas, Brave Combo is always a big draw at the National Polka Festival in Ennis every Memorial Day weekend and Westfest in West every Labor Day weekend. “Our very first gig at Westfest was a mind-blower,” Carl says. “We talked C.W. Cernosek into letting us set up in a corner of a little tent on plywood. People went immediately nuts. That was a very important moment.”

A moment that would establish Brave Combo’s acceptance by the traditional polka community.

The current band features Carl, Jeffrey, who has been with the BC for more than 30 years, Alan Emert Mansfield and Danny O’Brien who joined in the early 1990s and Little Jack Melody who has been with the band since 2009.

Blob’s Park CD is available in the Polka On! Store.

Polka for the Park

WEST 2 Invite Final 2 on page testA group of Houston polka lovers are hosting a benefit on Friday, November, 8 to raise money for their family and friends who were affected by the plant explosion in West, Texas. The Polka for the Park event will be held at SPJST Lodge 88 in the Heights and the evening of fundraising will be full of entertainment, including an auction and dance. Grammy-winning band Brave Combo will be headlining the event. Proceeds will help West residents rebuild their city park honoring First Responders. Table underwriters will be invited to a pre-event reception with the guests of honor West Mayor Tommy Muska and his wife, Lisa. Polkabeat visited with Karen Carr, one of the organizers to find out more about the event.

Who all is involved in planning the event? Family and friends of West residents. There are 12 of us that have worked together to plan the event. My mom, Barbara Fisher, was raised in West and the mayor, Tommy Muska, is our cousin. In no time at all we had people eager to pitch in and help.

Why did y'all decide to hold the event? image001Several of us went to West several days after the explosion to help in any way we could. There were tremendous relief efforts in place but we still wanted to do something more. We thought this event would be a nice way to keep the momentum going and to allow those that could not make it to West to show support in Houston.

Why did you select the park as the beneficiary? image002Tommy mentioned that this would be a gift the whole town could benefit from. The park was destroyed in the blast. Then when we learned about Parker’s Park Project, we knew it was the right thing to do. Parker’s father Joey, is one of the fallen first responders. It’s Parker’s wish to rebuild the city park, a project his father was a strong supporter of. He has a great “grass roots” effort, and the support is swelling.

Why Brave Combo? Brave Combo has been a part of the Westfest lineup for years. The tent is always packed and the band is legendary. They play polka, salsa, rock, zydeco and bring their own infectious fun to every event that they headline.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at

Polka News: Jazzy Polka, Mardi Gras Polka, Mollie B Polka

Jazzy Polka: Jazz musician with polka roots, Ben Pokluda, will bring his band Jazz Forever, to SPJST Lodge 88 on Sunday, January 27, from 1 to 6 p.m. Big band dress code applies (sigh). Ben is originally from Flatonia and has studied trumpet with a Rice University professor. His group fuses traditional New Orleans Ragtime with Big Band music. Maybe he'll even slip in a polka or two!!! Mardi Gras Polka: It only makes sense that happy music such as polka should be part of Mardi Gras madness. Two performances in Texas on Fat Tuesday (February 12) give you the chance to have your polka and swing to it to! In Dallas, Brave Combo will perform at the Meyerson Symphony Center with the Dallas Wind Symphony at 8 PM. Buy tickets! In New Braunfels, Alex Meixner Band will perform at the Brauntex Theatre at 8 PM. Buy tickets!

Mollie B Polka: Mollie B and Ted said their Squeezebox Texas Tour was GREAT!!! In fact, they say Texas would be a great place to live. Well, yeah! Come on down! After Mollie and Ted get back from their cruise, they'll be taping Mollie B's Polka Party in Ennis from February 21-24. Eight bands each day from 1 to 9 PM. Red Ravens have just been added to the lineup, which includes Squeezebox with Mollie B, Czech and Then Some, Kenny Brandt Band, Matt Hodek and the Dakota Dutchmen, Jerry Haisler & Melody 5, Ennis Czech Boys, Jodie Mikula Orchestra, Jim Busta Band, Das Ist Lustig, Texas Tribute Band, Chris Rybak Band, Shiner Hobo Band, Alpenfest, Texas Dutchmen and The Royal Klobasneks. Valina and Ross of Das Ist Lustig will provide dance lessons on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 to 11:30 AM. Valina says dancers will learn some fun social folk dances that will be part of the live taping. Cool! Tickets to Mollie B's Polka Party are $15 a day ($20 at the door) or get a 4-day pass for $50. Buy tickets!