Like almost any band that’s been around more than 35 years, Denton’s Brave Combo has undergone some personnel changes. One of the biggest came in early 2015, when longtime multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Barnes announced that he was leaving after 31 years.
Somewhat more quietly, bassist Steve Carter, better-known as Little Jack Melody, also departed. Carter had been in the band since 2009.
But this is Brave Combo, and a couple of departures aren’t going to stop Carl Finch, the leader and co-founder of the Denton “Nuclear Polka” band. The band is coming to the tail end of a series of 35th-anniversary concerts with a show Friday night at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton, featuring its original lineup of Finch, Lisa (fomerly Dave) Cameron, Tim Walsh and Lyle Atkinson.
That lineup performed Thursday night at the Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge in Fort Worth. Here’s a clip from that show. Things really start going around the 55-second mark.
As much as the original lineup has played together recently, though, things have to move forward — spring festival season is about to start, and beginning in late March, the band will be very busy, including an April 10 appearance at the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival, the first time the band has played the fest in several years.
In the latest edition of the band’s The Machine’s Pump newsletter, Finch addresses Barnes and Carter’s departures, and names their replacements — although don’t be surprised if Barnes still pops in occasionally.
“His last gig as a member” was in December, but he continues to perform here and there as a special guest of the band in the North Texas area, with several ‘Jeff-included’ blowouts scheduled through the spring,” Finch writes. “Come out a let him know how much you dig his crazy bag of tricks.”
Replacing Carter on bass will be none other than Lyle Atkinson, from the original BC lineup. Denton-based Robert Hokamp — who plays guitar, bass and trumpet — will fill the spot left by Barnes’ departure. Trumpeter Danny O’Brien and drummer Alan Emert remain with the band.