By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Combo pairs up: Even the weirdest and most remarkable bands are tough to write about repeatedly. Case in point: Denton's Brave Combo grabs our attention with interesting news every few months, yet we always come up with the same canned story--Grammy-winning local polka band that loves "The Chicken Dance" and Matt Groening--that you've certainly heard before. So it's nice to see the little Denton band that could surprise even us for a change. This weekend, the band performs its first-ever concert with a backing symphony...and immediately afterward, its second and third. The decades-old quintet performs with the Las Colinas Symphonyin Arlington on Thursday, Garland on Friday and Las Colinas on Saturday.
"Like a lot of things, [this show] was decided for us," says multi-instrumentalist Jeff Barnes. The group was approached last year by the LCS to perform these concerts, and after agreeing, the band picked songs for Abilene resident Ed George to rewrite for the sake of a full-piece concert. "The opportunity presented itself, and we said, 'Why not? Let's do it.'"
When asked what fans should expect from the symphonic Combo, Barnes isn't shy: "We have no idea what we're in for." As of Tuesday morning, the band hadn't even played its first rehearsal, scheduled for later that afternoon, but Barnes at least confirmed the schedule: At each show, Brave Combo will play a normal set, then the orchestra will play a traditional set of its own. For the finale, the two will join for a set of about a dozen Brave Combo songs, including "Flying Saucer" and "A Night on Earth," arranged for a full symphony.
No, there will not be a strings-and-woodwinds version of "The Chicken Dance," but the band doesn't see this show as much of a stretch. "Some of [our old songs] we made like we were an orchestra in some cases, synthesizing string parts and such," Barnes says, and it's fair to call the eccentric quintet a "little orchestra" even without the fine hands of Las Colinas supporting 'em. Just don't be afraid to dance at the concert halls.
A few more local acts landed on the SXSW list in recent weeks, including the sonic soldiers of Midlake, and right before going to press, we got a call from the Happy Bullets' Jason Roberts, announcing their last-minute add to the fest as well. What took 'em so long? Apparently, they listed bassist Andrea Roberts as their contact, and, well, another band with an Andrea Roberts was contacted by mistake. Word to the wise, bands: Always put the weirdest last name on the application. Another word to the wise: See the Bullets perform on Friday at the Cavern, opening for Austin's white-hot Voxtrot.