About two hours before Bolzen Beer Band’s Friday night Lincoln Exposed set, singer Dave Socha sits in his living room in a white robe and camouflage pants.
A growler of an unreleased Modern Monks American Pale Ale shares coffee-table space with a Hofbräuhaus stein; a setlist that includes songs from the band’s aptly, aptly titled album “Sex Drugs Polka"; and a marked-up chart that depicts the notes on an accordion -- an instrument Socha learned to play with the help of his classically trained bandmate, tuba player Brian Brazier, who taught Socha to treat it like a giant Nintendo controller.
A Slayer record, Dio and He-Man posters, and a drawing of a skull folded into the bellows of an accordion adorn the walls.
A remix of Nicki Minaj’s “Beez in the Trap” blasts from a set of speakers.
A lot of the aforementioned musicians, items and beverages infuse the Bolzen Beer Band’s version of polka music, and there’s a lot more than music infusing the band’s live performances.
At 7:53 p.m., Socha -- dressed in custom-fitted lederhosen delivered to him from a friend in Germany -- packs up two accordions, a bag of gummy bears and the growler and heads one house over on Vine Street, where Brazier lives.
Here's how the rest of a pretty normal night in the life of a polka punk band goes (They'll be on stage again Thursday at the Zoo Bar):
8:01 p.m. -- Socha needs help duct-taping the straps of his stage lederhosen together.
“That’s the thing with lederhosen,” he says. “It’s a lot of upkeep.”
“I’ve gone through three pairs of lederhosen,” says Brazier, who bought his on eBay, the same place he put down $600 for his once pristine and now dented-up tuba which he tosses into the van after waxing his mustache.
“Only for shows do I curl it,” he says of his facial hair.
8:25 p.m. -- Socha hauls the last crate of gear into the Bourbon Theatre from the 1400 block of O Street where they toss it from an idling van. The Bourbon doorman notices the copies of “Sex Drugs Polka,” which the band released earlier this month. When Socha reaches him, he passes the doorman a disc.
“It’s all yours,” he says.
“Seriously?” the doorman answers.
“We can’t sell it,” drummer Voughn Falos says.
In Wisconsin recently, they couldn’t hand them out fast enough, but that hasn't been the case thus far in Lincoln.
Still, even though they're not selling CDs on their home turf, they've become quite successful. Brazier no longer works full time, so he can tour and gig with Bolzen. They've booked that many dates.
In a few weeks, they’ll go down to Austin with Orion Walsh’s band and play South by Southwest. The Bolzen Beer Band’s first trip to Austin last year couldn’t have gone much better.
As they’ve done in Husker tailgating parking lots and Czech festivals past, they busked and busked in Austin.
"I bet we made more money at South by (Southwest) than maybe 95 percent of the bands," Socha says.
The tuba, as it tends to, draws crowds. Among the highlights from last year -- getting a picture in The New York Times and convincing about 50 people on Sixth Street to do the Hokey Pokey.
8:45 p.m. -- Brazier takes turns practice-blowing into the tuba mouthpiece and twisting the six waxed antennae of his mustache.
9:16 p.m. - Falos cracks open a Red Bull, and Socha asks the audience, which has filled up much of the Bourbon's Rye Room, “You guys hear that accordion out there?”
9:22 p.m. -- They start playing a super-speed version of the “Pennsylvania Polka.”
9:25 p.m. -- Everyone on stage is sweating.
9:26 p.m. -- Brazier loses his shirt.
9:29 p.m. -- There’s a wedding reception going on in the main room of the Bourbon, and the punk polka has lured more than a few members of the wedding party to watch the Bolzen set. Brazier plays a few bars of “Here Comes the Bride” on the tuba, one of many ditties he’s learned for the weddings, birthday parties and other four-hour gigs they play.
Their guitarist recently left to go sail the world playing nightclub music on a Carnival Cruise liner, and they’re looking for a new one. But the three-piece band manages just fine as a sans-guitar band for the night.
9:37 p.m. -- Dave invites all the girls out to come party in the band’s purple van.
9:45 p.m. -- Here's a sampling of audience chatter that the band’s performance has thus far elicited:
“This is awesome.”
“You can’t beat this.”
“I want to learn how to play tuba so I can do that.”
“I think the first time I saw them was in an alley.”
9:51 p.m. -- They close with an original polka rap song, “Servus."
During the entire set, Brazier gestures with his free hand -- Are tuba players supposed to have a free hand? -- in a manner not unlike a rapper punctuating a rhyme. All the while, he points his eyes upward in a way that goes from suggesting that he’s looking at a cartoon safe falling at him from the sky to a jaded DMV employee waiting for someone to fish current proof of insurance out of his cargo pants.
All of this is practiced and purposeful, Brazier says as he sits, exhausted, by the Bolzen Beer Band’s merch box after the set concludes. The mustache, the eye movements, the one wool sock pulled up to his left knee and the other crumpled at his right ankle -- it all adds to the visual experience of the show.
When the band plays the Bourbon’s Rye Room stage, Brazier says he has to go easy on the onstage jumping, since the ceiling’s so low.
“I look at all the things I can do,” he says. “It’s almost like an obstacle course.”
So that’s why he ran up the stairs and blasted the tuba at the gawking faces of crowd members in the middle of the slightly more spacious barroom floor.
“I’ve seen that a million times,” Brazier says. “The grins start to creep, and the phones come out.”
Reach Cory Matteson at 402-473-7438 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @LJSMatteson.