26 Nov 09 Will Polka for Beer
The one thing that is a constant in Texas is that if it is Friday night, there is music playing somewhere. It’s not always the Stevie Ray Vaughan or ZZ Top wannabes that you find. In fact, in many bars, grills and restaurants, you can hear some really talented people performing either their own songs, music written by others but with a personal interpretation, or even songs that are part of their national heritage. Texas, being the cultural crossroads of many styles of music, allows us to experience virtually any type of domestic or international music.
When I entered the Bavarian Grill (www.bavariangrill.com) on Friday night last, two things immediately were quite evident, the friendliness of the staff, and the lively music filling the cafe (I’ll speak more about the Bavarian Grill below). Luckily, we were seated virtually in front of the musicians, Alan Walling (accordion, vocals) and Wolfgang Lackner (guitar, vocals) – AlpenMusikanten. Walling and Lackner punctuated the evening of music with a humor that made the whole experience wunderbar. An example of their humor comes from the Walling’s bio on the AlpenMusikanten website (www.willpolkaforbeer.com) – you thought I made up the polka reference didn’t you. He tells us that he is from the Alpine region of Houston. Now those of you not from Texas may not see the humor in this, but considering that the highest point in Houston (not in a building) is probably standing on one of the overpasses of I-10, you get the point! What’s even more fun is the musicians made the evening an audience participation event. They constantly asked the audience for suggestions of music, or reasons to celebrate with another beer! When a young boy asked if they could play any rock, the two musicians showed their versatility by breaking out in a rock tune. BTW, you haven’t heard “Proud Mary” until you have experienced it the AlpenMusikanten way.
Alan Walling began playing the accordion at age 7 when he was six feet tall (he is certainly the tallest member of the band, or the audience, or probably the north-side of Plano). He began playing professionally at age 16 with his his career culminating in AlpenMusikanten. His bio says that “singing, yodeling and having a knack for being in the wrong place at the right time has driven his career to dizzying heights.” Though Walling’s humor provides a comedic transition between songs (and during songs) throughout the evening, his accordion work is exceptional. His seemingly effortless playing shows that Walling has mastered the instrument.
Wolfgang Lackner from the Steiermark in Austria is quite an artist in his own right. Both an excellent vocalist and guitarist, Lackner plays off of Walling’s accordion and vocals providing a playful entertaining performance. Lackner plays both bass and guitar. He has also entertained as a member of the Stratton Mountain Boys and the Sauerkrauts. The combined musicianship of Walling and Lackner was a real treat.
There are three other members of Alpenmusikanten: Paul Durapau, Manfred Zehentmayr, and Gordon Strand. As they provide percussion and horn support to the band, it would have been fun to listen to the whole group. Those who would like to see the entire band can do so on December 19th at 7:30 PM in the indoor Biergarten of the Bavarian Grill. Though the Biergarten is spacious, call the Bavarian Grill (972-881-0705) for reservations to ensure that you have a seat for the show.
You can hear the whole band on their two albums: Desperate Times and Live at Helen, GA (a two disc album). Both albums are enjoyable to listen to. In addition to the music, you can experience the humor that the band intersperses into the program. I purchased both albums and have enjoyed them immensely. Check out Auf der Jodler Alm, Wolfgang’s Appenzeller Jodler, Lili Marlene and all of the other selections. Whether live or on CD, you’ll find yourself tapping your feet. If you would like to order the albums, find out where the group is playing, or book the band, contact Alan Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Alpenmusikanten, “Will Polka for Beer” is more than a tagline, it’s a musical genre and performance style that is entertaining for both them and the audience. Buy the boys a beer and enjoy an entertaining night of music.
Now the plug for the #1 German restaurant in America (seriously). Bavarian Grill (www.bavariangrill.com) in Plano was selected recently as the #1 German eatery in America. Having eaten there many times, I can independently validate the voting! In fact, I have eaten at both the #1 and #2 (Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford, FL) restaurants. Both offer great fare and music. However, I have to give the nod to the Bavarian Grill. It has a wider menu selection with excellent specials (particularly around Oktoberfest). Bavarian Grill also has a larger selection of German beers.
One thing that I really enjoyed this evening was the friendliness of the staff. From the warmth and cheerfulness of Connie, my waitress for the evening, to those bringing out the food, everyone on the staff treats you as family. In combination with some excellent food, excellent beer and great music, the staff of the restaurant made for a complete dining experience.
If you enjoy a fine German Beer, Bavarian Grill has a Stein Club (www.bavariangrill.com/stein_club) for those that complete drinking all of the beers listed on a card available at each table. They have a diverse selection of 50-plus light and dark beers that provides something for everyone’s taste. I am working on my stein, but I have a way to go yet. Texas Music Journal reminds you to drink responsibly. Don’t try to complete the Stein Club card in one evening! Members of the Stein Club get to experience German beer beyond drinking it. Representatives of various breweries often meet with the group to discuss their breweries and their particular beverages. The club also does many good things for the community like food drives.
I can summarize the evening – good music, good food, good beer and great staff ; truly a Texas experience with a Bavarian flair.