True North

Gravenhurst. Huntsville. North Bay. Sudbury. Gogama. Chapleau. Wawa. White River. Marathon. Thunder Bay. Our crazy-assed manager Bananas Foster booked The New Polka Kings into joints across Northern Ontario. And it was a kick too, let me tell you. Those were some of the best days I had with the band.

We had this beat up old school bus, plenty big enough to hold the band and all our crap. It was a real old shitter if you know what I mean, with one of those engines that just ran forever. What it didn’t do was go fast, and it seemed like we spent a sonofabitchin lot of time rattling around in that thing.

In the city we had some good crowds, especially since the punkers kind of adopted us, but up in those northern mining towns and pulp and paper towns, it was always a fantastic party. I don’t know, Maybe The Kings just connected with northern audiences in some special way or maybe it’s like that for rock bands playing up there too. I just know I loved every minute of it.

One night we were playing in, oh Jesus I can’t remember which town now. It was at some joint with a name like the Empire Hotel, and if it wasn’t the only bar in town it was one of maybe two. The band was cooking, and the dance floor was crowded and everyone was just having a great time.

Between sets, we were standing around, chatting with the locals, and I see this big guy lumbering towards me. He’s got an armful of beers, Labatts 50s if it matters, and when I say an armful, I mean he’s got to have more than a dozen bottles and he’s locked his arms around them and he’s somehow holding them up by pressure or maybe divine intervention. I could see he was aiming for a table just past where we were standing. His buddies were over there, laughing and having a good time. I’m seeing all this while I’m talking to somebody about his Uncle Clem who used to play accordion. Anyway, this guy is just a couple feet in front of me and he stubs his toe on something and he’s lost his balance and I can see he’s going to go ass over tea kettle, beers akimbo.

I abandoned Clem’s nephew and pivoted around and grabbed this guy and his beers, but the beers were popping out and we were spinning around and and the both of us were grabbing bottles. Staashu saw what was going on and he joined our crazy little dance. The three of us somehow or another spun to a stop over at the guy’s table without spilling a drop.

I guess a bunch of people noticed what was going on because they started to cheer and once a few people started to cheer, everybody started to cheer. Beer guy, who was very drunk, held up a bottle and shouted at the top of his lungs “POLKA IS GOD” then drained his beer in one fabulous gulp. The crowd cheered so he did it again and at this point everybody is clapping together and I look at beer guy and I can see the glint in his eye and I know he’s not done yet.

Beer guy grabbed another bottle of 50 and danced his way onto the stage, with the crowd urging him on. He started into a drunken parody of a burlesque dancer, and began stripping off his clothes, first shoes, then socks, then shirt and  trousers. He was whirling the clothing around his head, hurling each item from the stage into the cheering crowd. Buddy was down to his jockeys by the time his friends led him down from the stage toward the front door of the bar.

I turned to Staash and said I think it’s time to play some music, and we headed for the stage. Ndidi, Boom-Boom and Maggie were right behind us. Well the crowd was amped right up and everyone was dancing and having a fantastic time. Man what a set.

At the end of the night, I was exhausted, dragging my ass down the three steps from the stage, when this woman approached me, and she’s got one of beer guy’s socks and one of those heavy duty black markers and she wants me to autograph the sock, which of course I did. In fact I got the whole band to sign it. Why the hell not.

Now I never thought another thing about that sock until one day a guy I know calls me up and says there’s a New Polka Kings bootleg out. I didn’t know anything about it and Staashu didn’t know nothing either, so I go down to where he tells me and it’s a head shop on Yonge Street. Seriously, a head shop, where they sell bongs and shit. I go in there and I say, um do u sell records? And the guy he looks at me like I’m from Mars and points to a corner at the back of the place.

There it was, right at the front of the rack. The back cover had a picture of our old bus, and on the front there were 3 letters across the top – NPK – and below that, a photo of the sock, with all our signatures on it.