I'll Never Wash That Ear Again

May 27, 1999

On our way to the Bottom Line that night a couple of years ago, I told Laura that I didn't want to sit up front like we usually do. "It's a pain in the neck, literally, the way you sit sideways to the stage instead of head on." Reluctantly, she agreed.

Of course, when we got to the club, the usher showed to seats right up front.

At least they were a little off to the left, and we were on the same side, and wouldn't have to crane our necks too much to see the band. Brave Combo, the 20 year old nuclear polka band, was playing that night, opening for the Klezmatics (who I described to a couple of visiting Irishmen at our table who were unfamiliar with them as "Jewish jazz". I was corrected by a gentleman in his 40s or 50s that it was "Jewish soul". I'm not sure that helped the Irish guys, who probably had visions of Wilson Pickett in their heads until the band came on....) We were seated just to the left of Carl Finch's spot on the stage. Great!


Carl spent most of the set playing guitar instead of accordion. Into an amplifier. Right by my head.

After these many years of abuse, in close proximity to loud sound my ears tend to go weirdly non-linear. I usually bring ear plugs when I see a band nowadays, but it hadn't occurred to me to do so for a polka band, even a nuclear polka band like Brave Combo. So I was sitting there, 3 feet from the stage (Laura was right up against it, so she was closer) and maybe 6 feet from Carl's amp, with a finger in my ear.

Carl noticed.

And he did something I've never seen a musician do in my life.

He went over to his bag, grabbed a couple of earplugs, and handed them to us.

Laura didn't quite understand why, and was trying to pass them on to other people until I stopped her and explained that they were for us, or more particularly, for me. Given the seating arrangements, we each took one and put them in our left ears; I figured that since our right ears were facing away from the stage and had much bone and grey matter between them and the waves of guitar assaulting us to protect them that Laura need an earplug for her left ear more than I needed one for my right ear.

(As if to underline just how cool Brave Combo is, they have one of the neatest URLs for their web site: <http://brave.com/bo/>.)

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