Tales of Conquest and Humility 

The 2018: Summer of Criminals tour has wound down and now we look ahead to the Riot!

Starting in Sheboygan at the Craft30 Summer Solstice festival and ending in Milwaukee at Summerfest on the Rebel Stage we played at least two shows every weekend for 3 weeks in a row. Big time, nationally touring acts might chuckle at my calling this rigorous. However, I think working class bands that still have to function at their “real jobs”  and make rent should appreciate the juggling of schedules and the careful planning (“what time are we meeting up again?”)

Sound check in Sheboygan with John Gleisner on drums

We met a lot of great people, drank a lot of great beer (and Mead!), and we learned a lot. First of all much love to John Gleisner for helping record parts of The Black Hand EP AND for coming along with us to Sheboygan and Racine to fill in for Kevin KC Christensen. You may have noticed we altered the crew  section of our website to include KC as well as (bass face!) Mike Ritter. We’ve been fortunate to have them along on so many gigs over the years and then to collaborate with them on The Great War. We’ve sort of held the belief that if you’ve ever rocked a whole set with us you are an official band member (looking at you Nick Lang, Killa Kutz and Ryan Claxton) but when it came down to who has helped us craft our sound and create pathways of polka hip hop as well offering really good advice on gigs etc… well these two guys have been indispensable.

We were in full strength at five for a number of shows but we actually (believe it or not) had to do a set without one of our MCs! We got a last minute confirmation of a booking for McCarty Park but our own Spade ONE had a big booking in Detroit!


McCarty Park in West Allis featured DJ Brumeister

With little time to prepare we took a look at our options. We didn’t want to lose the chance to play in front of  a new crowd in West Allis. And the other great part of the Traveling Beer Garden was that it was a chance to play outdoors in front of an all ages crowd. This did however mean we had to clean up the act a little… or a lot. So with a third less verses in our songs and 33% of NTSC’s vocabulary censored we had to put together a THREE HOUR SET!!! Could we do it? Of course we could! By combining two abridged versions of  a Criminals set sandwiched with a NTSC solo polka set AND a set DJ set of polka records we showed our versatility and ability to cover for each other in order to ensure the success of the group. Kevin and Mike did their thing and smoothed us out and soon we had over a dozen picnic table raising beers and singing alongwith the Beer Barrel Polka!


Summerfest 2018 AS TOLD TO Bru by everyone else…

Our gigs Westallion, McAuliffe’s and Bos Meadery in Madison was like visiting old friends even if the Meadery was a first time gig we had plenty of familiar faces with Forro Fo Sho and Swill opening the show!

I was reminded how my appearance and demeanor are judged on stage by everyone at all times following the Summerfest gig at the Rebel Stage. The video I saw sounded good and I was told we sounded great. On stage however I could not hear anything except NTSC’s melodeon and the high hat from the drums. I had finished a bottle of mead before going on and now all I could hear was the top range at the loudest volumes and I was not a happy Bru! Sadly, I didn’t handle this well and flipped NTSC off a couple times and as we were unable to get the stage monitors turned down (a gremlin in a cable most likely) I shouted a verse out at the top of my lungs. Professionalism is not my forte at all times but I was clearly too abrasive to many onlookers. While it was not my finest hour and I have apologized to my band mates for having emotions – I mean- expressing myself- I mean… shit this is tough…. for being rude and unprofessional (there) I still felt like anyone that cares enough to read this blog and was also there at Summerfest might deserve at least an explanation for what went down.  So to sum it up: I was mean because I couldn’t tell what was going on. (Old age will be fun!)

With a three week break from three weeks of gigs we were able to put some of the last touches on three songs for the upcoming EP The Black Hand. We were also very well versed in how we wanted to attack the stage at Brady Street Fest.

Being in front of a home crowd of hundreds with people dancing every kind of dance from booty shaking to polka, was one of the most rewarding things we as a band have ever been a part of.  We were even able to deal with a last moment change to the set list and make it feel like part of the show. But really rolling with the punches and taking what comes is part of who we are. You don’t have a band like this without being flexible and you can’t be in a band like this without occasionally having to check your ego. It’s not always easy and it isn’t always pretty (I’ve never been called pretty…well maybe my hair) but it always going to be necessary in order for the group to be at its best even when one of us may not be.

One last thing… during the world cup we played a show at Nomad Nacional. Summerfest was already in full swing AND we were in the middle of a heat wave where we averaged 105 degrees on the heat index… I never felt like we were NOT going to play to our absolute best ability and true indeed the two dozen or so people that came were more than appreciative. To those folks I want to say thanks for crossing the street to see us before you got on the bus! I hope you all make it out to the MILWAUKEE POLKA RIOT!

The November Criminals following the hottest gig in town!