Brave Combo shakes up the Gramophone

A Beatle Bob spotting in St. Louis means one of two things: he is either coming from a show or on his way to one. Last Thursday, Beatle Bob shuffled down Taylor Ave on his way to the Grove’s the Gramophone, complete in his legendary plaid jacket despite the one-hundred-degree heat. That night, Bob was going to see Brave Combo, a Grammy-awarded band from Denton, Texas that is just as eclectic as the iconic St. Louis music fan himself. These five guys are aptly named — a mash-up of styles and content, often starting an old standard like Peggy Lee’s Fever in lazy wedding singer style and then exploding into a rock-fueled madness. They defy simple categorization and beg for hyphenated hybrids– Mariachi-Funk? Polka-Rock? Gypsy-Pop-Blues? It didn’t seem to matter to the mix of die-hards and newcomers on the dance floor, and those newcomers, perhaps skeptical of polka at first, found themselves rockin’ out to a honky tonk version of Hokey Pokey that brought the roof down and made the whole joint “shake it all about.”

I can see why the Talking Head’s David Byrne had these guys as his wedding band, since they combine inter-generational appeal with musical chutzpah. At one point, I swear founder and lead guitarist Carl Finch busted out the words to Aqua Teen Hunger Force rap-style over guitar-riffs and polka swing, but it was there and gone, a brief burst of musical inventiveness and tongue-in-cheek pop culture reverence. Highlights: a two-flutes-at-one-time performance by band member Jeffrey Barnes, and the song Bumble Bee, a Brave Combo original off their 2004 LP Let’s Kiss. Polka made cool? Brave Combo takes it off the shelf and off the hook.