Scandinavian Cyber-Posten

Welcome to the Scandinavian Cyber-Posten!

The Scandinavian Cyber-Posten is my blog for the band. Ever since I started reading The Machine's Pump on the Brave Combo website I've wanted my own blog. After all, I'm a creative and intelligent person and I have thoughts on a lot of things. Here's a place where you can read what I think about a variety of topics. I hope you enjoy what you read. If you have any feedback on what I've written, email me at toby@smilinscandinavians.com

Thursday, May 26

Greetings, Scandinavian fans!

Our twenty-first year of existence has begun with some profound events.  Our long-delayed album is nearing completion and we're booked at one of the country's biggest polka festivals.  Those are some pretty big accomplishments.

We started recording our album in January 2010.  We got as far as completing the rhythm section tracks before we were derailed by life events.  My well pump died, my grandfather became seriously ill, I was in an auto accident.  Those events, along with other things, made it seriously difficult to concentrate on the album.  There were stretches of more than a year at a time when nothing happened with the recording.  Eventually, though, we got back on track and were able to complete the recording.  It's currently in the mixing phase and should be ready around the first of July.  To that end, we're going to be hosting a release party and concert at Third Place Books on July 2nd.  You can get all of the details on our Upcoming Gigs page.

As if releasing our long-awaited album isn't enough news, we're also going to be starting off 2017 with a performance at the Southwest Polka Party in Las Vegas.  It's one of the biggest and most popular polka fests in the country.  It's a huge honor to be selected to perform at this prestigious party.  We'll be sharing the stage with some of the best polka bands in the country, including the Joey Tomsick Orchestra, the Top Notchmen, Julie Lee and her White Rose Band, the Gruber Family Band, and Wayne Appelhans and the Dutch Hops.  We would love to see all of you down in Las Vegas to join us for the festival.  All the information you need is available at the Southwest Polka Party website.

That's all the news from the Smilin' Scandinavians for now.  Be sure and drop us a line every now and then just so we know if you're paying attention. ;)

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Sunday, October 25

Auf wiederseh'n, Oktoberfest! 

Greetings, Scandinavian fans!

We have survived another Oktoberfest season.  It has been very busy.  We started on September 19th on Lopez Island for an Oktoberfest-themed wedding and we finished on October 24th at the Queen Anne Beer Hall.  In between there were several private events, a number of small gigs at retirement centers, and three trips over the mountains to Leavenworth.  It was a lot of fun but it was also a lot of work.  Some weeks we played five gigs in seven days.  That's a lot of playing in a short time.  It's also a lot of administrative work.  Every gig we play requires booking, organizing, contacting musicians, loading gear, hauling gear, and unloading gear.  The fans never get to see any of that work (after all, do they really want to watch me answer emails and talk to people on the phone?) but it has to happen for each and every gig.  Normally, when we're playing a couple gigs a month that's manageable.  However, when they all happen in quick succession, it becomes a huge amount of work in a short period of time.

There were some definite highlights of this year's Oktoberfest season.  The wedding on Lopez Island was super fun.  The couple was laid back and relaxed and we were able to pick our favorite music to play.  The trip to and from the island is beautiful; if you've ever been to the San Juan Islands you'll know exactly how beautiful the trip is.

Another highlight of the season was our performance at the Lynden Music Festival.  The town of Lynden is a real treasure up in Whatcom County; it's an adorable little Dutch village and the whole town turns out to support the music festival.  The concert was held in the Lynden Pioneer Museum which is a really cool place just in and of itself.  It was a wonderful venue for a concert and the audience has a lot of appreciation for all of the performers who come to their town for the festival.

The Leavenworth Oktoberfest is always a highlight.  It's a huge event and it's always fun to be a part of it even though it's the most demanding performance of the season.  It takes a lot of time and energy to do the shows in Leavenworth but it's worth it.  Few things are as thrilling as getting a crowd of several hundred people up and dancing.

With Oktoberfest season completed we can get some rest and turn our attention back to finishing the album.  Eric Likkel finished all of his clarinet and saxophone tracks in a couple of recording sessions in September.  That leaves just some of the vocals and then editing, mixing, and mastering.  Hopefully we'll be finishing that up in November.  Once it's all done we'll be sure and let you all know.

That's all from us here in the band.  Enjoy the remainder of autumn!

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Tuesday, August 18

Getting closer to October... 

Greetings, Scandinavian Fans!

Booking Oktoberfest performances is in full swing right now.  I'm cramming every last performing opportunity into the months of September and October that I possibly can.  After all, it's the magical time of year when, as my late friend Lynn Schaefer used to say, "People may not like accordion music, but they tolerate it."  This is the one time of year that polka bands become rock stars and are in demand for their ability to play the Chicken Dance and Beer Barrel Polka.  In June nobody much cares if there's a polka band around but once fall arrives it's time to roll out the barrel.

The big events usually book several months in advance.  Those include the Leavenworth Oktoberfest.  The smaller local events usually start booking in July while the private parties wait until mid-August.  Right now I'm in the thick of sorting out all of the small events that we do during the week to fill in our performance calendar.  It's tricky to keep everything lined up and get musicians to fill in for all of the gigs since there are so many of them.  Not everyone in the band is able to make every gig which means I get to spend a lot of time on scheduling.  All of the time that I put into sorting out who is playing what on which gig is why I pay myself a bandleader's cut for most gigs.  Somebody has to spend their time contacting clients, writing contracts, sending information to musicians, and organizing everything.  Sometimes it's maddening tracking down all of the details but every time I step out on stage with the band I'm reminded of just how much it's worth it to do this part of the job.

Those purists among you have likely already paused to consider the question of why a nominally Scandinavian band is playing a German event like Oktoberfest.  The answer is because it's fun and pays well.  Oktoberfest is just another opportunity to have fun and share music.  We've got the right instruments and players to play Oktoberfest music so why not do it and have some fun at the same time?  I'll admit that it confuses some people to have a Scandinavian band play at Oktoberfest but almost everyone is willing to just go with it once they hear us play.

ALBUM UPDATE:  I finished all of the accordion tracks last week.  Our engineer, David Conley, is busy throwing down some guitar tracks.  Hopefully by Labor Day we'll have that done along with most of the vocals and clarinet/sax parts.  After that there will be a few more tracks that need to be finished but it should mostly be mixing and mastering by that point.  Hopefully we can finish the whole thing and have a completed product ready to sell by the end of the year.  Keep your eyes open for updates about the album as they come along.

That's all from me.  I have to get back to writing schedules.

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Monday, August 3

Late-summer News 

Greetings, Scandinavian Fans!

August has rolled around to the Pacific Northwest.  This has been a hot and dry summer so far.  Some people enjoy that weather; I get tired of it after a little while.  I wouldn't mind a few cool, rainy days thrown in periodically for variety.  It has also been a dry spell for the band.  We haven't had many gigs this summer.  There were a few in June and then nothing until yesterday at the Swedish Club Pancake Breakfast.  After that we're not playing again until September when Oktoberfest season starts.  While the downside of not playing much is obvious, the upside is that we get to work on things that we wouldn't normally otherwise have time for.

One of the things which we haven't been working on is our long-stalled new album.  We started working on it in January 2010.  Numerous life challenged intervened between then and now.  We stopped work on the album in March of that same year and never had the opportunity to recommence work on it.  With a slow summer schedule we're taking advantage of the downtime and going back to work.  Tentatively, we'll go back into the studio on August 10th to work on the tracks.  First up will be recording the accordion parts.  After that we'll go to work on the vocals, horn parts, and any other small musical details.  Hopefully we'll be able to get it all finished up by early autumn and be ready for a release party later in the year.

At the same time, we're working on booking our usual slate of Oktoberfests.  As we get those confirmed they will be posted here on our website and also on Facebook so keep your eyes peeled!

That's all for now.  We hope to see you all out at our upcoming performances!

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Monday, June 1

Leavenworth Behind The Scenes 

Greetings, Scandinavian Fans!

This past weekend the band was over in Leavenworth, Washington playing at the Gazebo downtown.  What the audience sees is us performing a few songs while they stroll around town.  From our perspective, though, it's a much larger undertaking.

The process begins a few months before the performance when I'm contacted by the Chamber of Commerce to schedule out performers for the summer season.  I choose the available dates and then sign the contract.  Once everything is set on that end I contact the musicians in the band to see who is available to make the trip.  If the regulars aren't available I contact subs and get everyone scheduled.  After I have the personnel decided I make hotel reservations in Wenatchee so we have a place to stay while we're on that side of the mountains.

The day before we leave I load up all of the equipment into the Suburban and pack everything else I might need like clothes and overnight supplies.  Early on the morning of the performance I climb into the truck and head out over the mountains.  I usually arrive in Leavenworth about an hour before the start of the show so I can get everything unloaded and set up.  Having performed in the Gazebo many times in the past I'm familiar with everything I need to have and how to set everything up.

Once the sound system is set up and everyone is ready to play we can begin the show.  On Saturdays we play about six hours with breaks thrown in to keep us fresh.  It can be quite grueling to play music for so long a time.  Taking regular breaks keeps us fresh and allows the crowd time to circulate and travel around town.  It's important for them to have time to visit the various shops and restaurants around town.  After all, the tourists generate the economic activity that pays for us to be in town.

After we're done with our shows for the day we pack up all of our equipment and lock it safely in the basement of the Gazebo for safe keeping.  Once the Gazebo is cleared of our stuff we can go get dinner.  Leavenworth has a whole bunch of delicious restaurants at which to eat.  For this trip we chose one of the excellent German-style restaurants.  After dinner we retired to our hotel in Wenatchee for the evening to rest up and prepare for the next day's work.

Sunday morning we have a hearty breakfast and then head to the stage about an hour before showtime to set up the sound system for the day.  Having all of our equipment in the basement of the Gazebo helps speed things up on Sunday.  Once everything is set up Sunday goes pretty much the same as Saturday with us entertaining the crowds as they circulate through the town.

At the conclusion of the last show at 6pm Sunday we break down all of our gear, pack it up into its cases, load it into the Suburban, and head to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner before making the drive home.  This particular time we got a pizza before leaving town.

For you, as an audience member, our performance may be a little bit of music and fun while you're wandering through town.  For us, as performers, it's two days of hard work and dedication.  It's all worth it to do all of that work.  Each of us in the band truly enjoys playing this music in front of a live audience.  It's a real thrill to display our musicianship for the passers-by.  It's the most fulfilling when we get to see a response from the audience; it may just be a smile, a nod, or a smattering of applause but it's incredibly meaningful to us.

We will be back in Leavenworth playing at the Gazebo over Labor Day Weekend in September.  You'll have another opportunity to enjoy the fruits of our labors.  Rest assured, we'll be prepared for it.

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Tuesday, May 5

What I do in between gigs 

Greetings, Scandinavian Fans!

We're coming up on our Twentieth Anniversary gigs starting this weekend at the Dakota Club.  But what have we been doing between our last gig on March 7th and now?  While I can't speak for the rest of the band, I can tell you what I've been up to.

April was a *VERY* busy month for me.  I started out by flying to New York City to serve as music director for an off-Broadway production of The Polish Diva From Milwaukee, a brilliant one-woman musical by my friend Terry Palasz.  The production was a huge success.  It was hectic and a lot of hard work but the experience was priceless.  Working with top theater professionals in New York was a real treat for me.

The day after returning from New York I performed at the Washington State Spring Fair in Puyallup with another of the bands I play with, Cowgirl's Dream.  We did two sets with a break in between for the chainsaw carver to perform his carving.  If you enjoy some traditional Western swing and country western music this is the band for you!  It's a really fun band with great musicians.

Two days after that I was in Tacoma at the Temple Theater playing accordion with my friend Heidi Stoermer for Adventures In Oz, a burlesque version of the beloved Wizard Of Oz.  It was a fabulous performance with some really amazing dancers and, of course, a couple of great songs.  This was my second year playing with the Gritty City Sirens and their show.  They did a fantastic job!

The following week I was back with one of my other ensembles, the Valse Café Orchestra, performing for an afternoon dance at the Century Ballroom in Seattle followed immediately by a performance at the Star Chefs fundraiser at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma.  It was a really amazing experience!  The Pantages was transformed into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory for the fundraiser and we provided all the music for the evening, playing a lot of the music that people remembered from the original movie.

Last weekend I began the month of May with Valse Café again, only this time we were providing music for Recipe For Love II in Redmond.  Lucia Neare, the company's director, always makes amazing performances with singing, dancing, acting, and cakes.  The performances are all-encompassing and immerse the audience in the action.  If you've never been to one there's just no way to adequately describe it.  I was privileged to be playing piano and accordion and leading the orchestra.  I also wrote all of the arrangements of the music for the show which was a feat in and of itself.

With all of those performances behind me I can finally turn my attention back to celebrating the Twentieth Anniversary of the Smilin' Scandinavians.  I hope that each and every one of you is able to come out and join us for one of the celebrations coming up in the next month!

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Wednesday, March 18

Twentieth Anniversary Plans 

Greetings, Scandinavian Fans!

Although it doesn't seem like it to me, in May it will have been twenty years since the beginning of this band.  To me, it's just a group of guys who get together and play music every so often.  However, a milestone like this gives me the opportunity to look back on what all has happened and ascribe some meanings to it.

The first thing it means is that I'm stubborn.  No matter how many times there have been challenges, like the trip to Kimberley, BC in 2010 when the van broke down three times, I refused to give up and stop running the band.  Every time there was a problem or difficult issue I just kept plowing through as if I had good sense.  A smarter or less persistent person may have thrown in the towel.  I possess the stubbornness of several generations of Scandinavians so I'm not inclined to give up on anything.

The next thing it means is that what we have done has become meaningful to many people, particularly many dancers.  When we first started out the main goal I had was to play for dances at the local polka clubs.  It took about two years to achieve that goal.  Since that time we've been playing for the Western Washington Dance Club, the Minnesota-Dakota Club, the Sno-Valley Club, and the Dakota Club.  We have come to be one of the favorite bands of the polka clubs and that's a very meaningful accomplishment.

Another thing that our twentieth anniversary means is that we've got a reason to celebrate our accomplishment.  To that end, we've got a couple of events coming up where you can participate in the anniversary celebration:

May 9th we're going to be at the Dakota Club Dance at the Renton VFW Hall.  Come join the fine folks of the Dakota Club as they dance the night away.  They enjoy having new dancers come in so don't be shy about joining in.  If you want to learn any of the dances just ask!

May 24th we will make a return visit to the Northwest Folklife Festival.  Folklife is one of the best events in the Pacific Northwest.  It's a giant family reunion for musicians and we're honored to be a part of it again.  We're in the Center House (now called the Armory) at 6pm.

May 30th and 31st we're going to be back in Leavenworth playing at the Gazebo entertaining the folks in town for the weekend.  Leavenworth is always a blast; it's the best gig any polka band around here can get and we all enjoy spending the weekend there.

June 6th we're doing our "Official" 20th Anniversary Concert at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.  It's one of our favorite local venues.  We always enjoy seeing all of our fans who come out to visit and hear our music.  There was no better possible place to hold our Anniversary Concert.  It's at 7:30pm.  Come early to grab a seat up close.

June 7th we celebrate again at the Swedish Club Pancake Breakfast.  There are few things as much fun as a room full of Swedes eating pancakes.  We start playing at 11:45am.  Come down, have some ham, and do some dancing.  I guarantee we'll play at least one hambo.

All the details about these gigs are on our schedule page at http://upcominggigs.smilinscandinavians.com/.  Take a look at the schedule and come join us for one or all of the celebrations!

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Tuesday, March 10

It has been a while... 

Greetings, Scandinavian fans!

If you're good at reading dates you'll no doubt notice that I've written nothing in this space for almost two years.  This brings up two questions: why have I written nothing during that time and why did I decide to write something now?  I'll address those questions individually...

Question 1: Why have I written nothing for this blog during the past two years?

There are a few reasons for not having written anything for two years.  I'm not overly vain.  I don't really believe that what the Smilin' Scandinavians do is very noteworthy.  Part of that is selection bias; since I'm the leader of the band pretty much everything we do is routine to me because I've planned it out and made it happen.  Part of that is the need to keep posting new content on our Facebook page.  The ubiquity of Facebook means I have to keep up our profile and make sure there's always new content for our fans to view.  Since people (including myself) see Facebook on a regular basis I have to keep posting new things about what we're doing.  Focusing on Facebook leaves me feeling like there's nothing left to say here.

Google Analytics tells me that people are still looking at this blog which acts as a great reminder that there are fans who want to see more long-form, in-depth information about the band and what we do.  To me, it's not all that interesting when I have to print a new copy of "Kulkurin Kaiho" for the tuba book because somehow the previous copy got lost.  That's just a normal duty for a bandleader so I don't think of it as being different or exceptional enough to warrant mention here on the Cyber-Posten.  I'm learning from talking to you, the fans, that you actually like to know more about what happens between performances.  (You also want to know about the five-year-delayed new album.)

With that in mind I'm going to try and share more about what we do as a band and what it takes to make things happen.  In this modern era where communication is so rapid and so regular, fans are accustomed to having more access to information about what their favored performers do.  Since you've taken an interest in what we do here I think it's only fair that I try to give you more information about what happens.  If it's boring then just skip to another post or go to one of your other favorite websites.  If it's interesting, keep reading.  If you have questions, email me and I'll try to answer.

Over the weekend we did a new promo photo.  Despite what I wrote above, I know it's a big deal.  I know that because it has taken twelve years to make it happen.  Life has given so many intervening challenges between that time and last Saturday that it was very difficult to get everyone together at the same time in the same place to take pictures.  We worked with a really great photographer, Tino Tran, who had some fun and creative ideas for the new pictures.  Most importantly, we *FINALLY* did a promo picture in our German outfits that we use at Oktoberfest.  Booking agents and other venues have been asking for a proper Oktoberfest picture for several years and we're finally going to have one.

Another reason this picture is a big deal is because it will be the first actual promo photo with our current banjo player in it.  Glenn Dudley joined the band in 2005 playing banjo but since it was only a couple years after our last photo we didn't see a need to do a new photo right away.  Ten years later, he's been playing with us without ever having been in our promo picture.  That means he was never on any posters or signs.  We're going to fix that with this new picture.  Henceforth his smiling face will be in all our promo materials.

Question 2: Why did I decide to write something now?

It's late winter.  Winter is the slowest time for me as a performer so I take the opportunity to do a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that it takes to run a band.  I do taxes, write new charts, edit the books, book gigs for the year, and review promo materials.  Part of that process of reviewing promo materials is reconnecting with what we're already doing for promotion.  When I looked at this blog I saw that nothing had been posted in almost two years.  Despite it being so out-of-date it's still getting views.  Since it's still getting views that means fans are still looking at it which would imply that I need to give them something worth looking at.  I need to remember that what seems mundane and uninteresting to me can be quite interesting and enlightening to fans.

Sunday I went up to Sequim with my friend Tom Demski to visit the accordion social and say good bye to my friends Steve and Jeannie Berg who are moving to North Carolina to be closer to family.  I've known Steve and Jeannie for more than ten years through our involvement with the accordion community.  They have both been tireless workers for the Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration.  They also began the accordion socials in Sequim, which is why Sunday's accordion social became an opportunity for everyone to gather together and bid them a fond farewell.  Steve and Jeannie exemplify why I enjoy being a part of the accordion community: they are exceptionally nice people.  I always enjoy performing for my fellow accordionists.  The crowd was appreciative and supportive, as expected.  Steve and Jeannie were very happy to see so many of their friends before they leave for the East Coast.  I had a lot of fun traveling with Demski.  Most importantly, I got to keep my skills sharp by giving a solo performance in between appearances with the band.  Regular playing is good for me and, by extension, good for you fans of the band.

Postscript: About the album...

About that... The rhythm tracks are all done.  It's been five years since we started recording it.  There have been many times where life has intruded on my ability to complete the recording.  One of the biggest intrusions was the need to fix failing, dysfunctional bathrooms here at my house.  That finally happened in February thanks to my friend Mark Wolford.  He's a fine drummer and also a very fine carpenter.  By his efforts I now have two functional, beautiful bathrooms in my home.  With that issue resolved I can now turn my attention back to the recording.  I need to go back and listen to the tracks to get back to where I with production a couple of years ago.  Once I do that we can start going forward with recording some accordion and vocal tracks.  Will that happen soon?  I hope so.  When it does you'll be one of the first to know.

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Sunday, April 14

One of these days... 

Greetings, Scandinavian Fans!

The most common question I have been getting lately is "When are you going to get the new album done?"  The short, flippant answer is "I'll get it done as soon as I can."  The detailed, more accurate answer is as follows...

Back in November 2009 I talked to the guys in the band about the possibility of going into the studio the following January to start a new recording.  They blocked out the time in their schedules and we set a date to start recording.  We got the rhythm tracks done in a couple weeks.  After that things started to get challenging.

The week after we finished the rhythm tracks I was in an auto accident.  I was fine but my vehicle was totaled.  A month after that the pump in my well died and required replacement.  The following week my grandfather became very ill.  Later in the year we had a mechanically-challenged trip to Kimberley, BC for a performance at the Accordion Celebration.

One by one, the problems kept coming.  We were able to get a little bit of work done here and there but it's still only about half done.  It's now 2013 and we're more than three years into this recording.  Hopefully this summer we will have the time to finish up the recording and turn it over to David Conley for mixing and mastering.  We still need to do all the lead tracks like accordion, clarinet, and sax.  We also need to do the vocals.  I promise that my wife will be singing a few songs on this recording.

I'll keep you all posted on how this progresses.  It has been slow but I hope that the relaxed pace will produce an excellent recording.

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Tuesday, November 9

Another Oktoberfest in the books

Greetings, Scandinavian Fans!

Once again autumn has graced the Pacific Northwest with rain. If we are to believe what the meteorologists are telling us, we'll have a rough winter. Time will only tell what the weather will bring over the coming months. For now, I'm enjoying the rain and falling leaves and time at home in my easy chair.

Oktoberfest season has once again come and gone. This year, 2010, marks the bicentennial of the Munich Oktoberfest. We had our hands full celebrating Oktoberfests all around our area. There were several interesting occurrences this year. The first came at the Meadowbrook Oktoberfest put on by Maple Leaf Lutheran Church. About two hours into our performance the Seattle Police showed up to tell us we were too loud. We had to finish the show acoustically. That didn't affect us too much since we we're basically an acoustic band. I didn't sing anything while the amplifiers were off. Other than that the show went on as planned. I never expected that a polka band would generate a noise complaint and be shut down by the cops. That's a badge of honor.

The following weekend at the Enumclaw Oktoberfest we had a great time. The crowd was very lively. A couple guys in the crowd were a little bit too lively and jumped on stage with me to sing. I like an enthusiastic crowd but those guys were a little over the top. I don't like people jumping on the stage to join in the show. Worst of all, one of the guys had bought a pickle from the Pickle Wench. He had eaten half of it before he jumped on stage. He tried to shove the other half of the pickle in my mouth while I was singing. I hate pickles. I am horrified of strange pickles being inserted in my mouth involuntarily.

In Leavenworth we were getting ready for our second show on Saturday in the Tanzhalle. Just as we were getting ready to move our equipment up on stage the power went out. Security had to evacuate the hall and get everyone safely out. We and the production staff had to stay behind at the stage and wait to see what was going to happen. We waited an hour and a half in the dark and then we left to get dinner. The power did come back on but not until after the end of our set. We had the time to get a good dinner at one of the restaurants in town.

From there on the Oktoberfests were pretty routine. We played and people drank and danced. We had a lot of fun. The bicentennial of Oktoberfest was celebrated very well across the Northwest and we were proud to be a part of that.

Now we have some time off. Perhaps I can get the recording finished in that time...

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Sunday, August 1

I will not miss July

Greetings, Scandinavian fans!

The month of August is here. Traditionally it's the warmest month of the year in Western Washington. We have thirty-one days of enjoying the sun and warm weather before school starts again and Oktoberfest season beckons. I'm especially glad to see August this year because it means that a very challenging month of July has ended.

July began with good intentions. I started a project back in June to fix up a 1993 GMC Jimmy for use on smaller gigs. There were a lot of small issues: bad heater control relay, burned out bulbs, old spark plugs. There was nothing too difficult. One major issue came up while I was in the process of fixing all the little things. The transmission was leaking at various times. I took the Jimmy over to a shop and they replaced the front pump seal and the torque converter bushing and now it leaks constantly. That's incredibly frustrating. I've put much work into the Jimmy and I have nothing to show for it yet.

Just before the trip to Kimberley I set the Jimmy aside to do some work on the venerable Polka Van. It has given good, reliable service for the past six years. It's a 1992 GMC Vandura and has been amazingly reliable. It takes us to all of our gigs where we need a big PA system or we're traveling out of town. It had just turned over 100,000 miles so I decided a full tune-up was in order: new plugs, wires, cap and rotor. I also replaced the serpentine belt, changed oil & filter, replaced some of the vacuum lines and flushed the cooling system. All systems were functioning properly. It passed emissions with flying colors and got relicensed in time for the trip.

On the way to Kimberley the Polka Van decided to throw all kinds of problems at us. The radiator cap came apart in Sandpoint, ID. I walked to the auto parts store and bought a new one. The coolant temperature sensor died in Bonners Ferry, ID. Thanks to some *VERY* helpful locals we were able to get that fixed and back on the road. The alternator died in Cranbrook, BC which required an overnight stay in the local hotel and a great deal of monkeywrenching to get the new one on. We made it to Kimberley on time, though, and played the gig. It was a great success and the people of Canada were very gracious hosts and hostesses for us. They make a great audience, too!

The following day we headed home. The tread came off the right front tire just before we got to Cle Elum. I pulled off the freeway and into the parking lot of the Twin Pines Drive In. The band members jumped out of the van and we got the tire changed and back on the highway in ten minutes. Not only are they great musicians, they're a pretty good pit crew as well. We finally made it home and we were very glad to be there!

The other major event of July was the Finn Fest in Naselle. It was a wonderful event! There were many young dancers there who did a great job with both the traditional Finnish dances and some of the more contemporary offerings. The crowd stayed right up to midnight and danced the whole time. That made it a really fun trip.

With all the challenges of the trip to Kimberley it was a very stressful month. I'm looking forward to August and some of the more relaxed events upcoming like the Jefferson County Fair and the Bremerton Blackberry Festival. Gigs on peninsulas are always good for us. Until then, enjoy the remainder of the summer and plan ahead for Oktoberfest!

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Monday, June 28

Summertime and the livin' is easy

Greetings, Scandinavian fans!

At long last, summer appears to be arriving in Western Washington. On Saturday, June 26th we played at the Emerald Queen Casino Taste of Tacoma and the weather was just glorious! It was sunny and 72° F and wonderful to be outside. Personally, I don't mind cool, cloudy weather. Even when that kind of weather gets me down I like to remember how much more extreme the weather can be in the Midwest. Out here on the coast we don't have to worry about tornadoes or blizzards. I will gladly endure 100 days in a row of overcast weather in exchange. Besides, 3+ months of March weather just helps us to appreciate the seven weeks of sunshine we get in July and August.

The album is still coming along, albeit slowly. It has been a challenging winter and spring around here. In March the pump and pressure tank for our well died and I had to replace it. I was very grateful for the help from Dan, a friend of my cousin, and Rachel, a friend of my wife. Between the three of us we managed to pull the old pump from the well and replace the wiring, piping and control box for the entire operation. Dan is a master electrician in the truest sense of the word. I've also been working on the fleet of vehicles around here. I rebuilt a Pontiac Grand Am for my loving wife in April and I'm working on a 1993 GMC Jimmy for myself. With all of those projects going on I haven't had enough time to work on the new album. I had originally wanted it in the can by April but that month came and went with very little progress. Now, however, with the end in sight for the various projects, I will be able to get back to work on the album and hopefully finish it up in July. That would have it ready in time for Oktoberfest season which is something I'm really looking forward to.

We're getting up-to-date with communication here at Scandinavian World Headquarters. We now have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. If you're on Facebook you can search for us and "like" the Smilin' Scandinavians. If you're on Twitter you can follow "smilinscandinav" and get all the info about our upcoming performances. We try to keep on top of all new technologies for communicating with our fans. After all, we wouldn't have made it fifteen years without all of you!

Now I must return to my labors. I have to get the van ready to make the trip up to Kimberley next week for the accordion championships. We're playing the Tuesday night dance and it's going to be fantastic!

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Wednesday, April 28

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Thursday, January 21

At long last, a new album in the works!

Greetings, Scandinavian fans!

Yes, the headline is correct. Last week I took the rhythm section (Glenn, Erick, Mike) into the studio to start cutting new tracks for the new album. I also had our favorite bass player, Dennis Staskowski, come in and play on a couple tracks. I was blown away by how well everyone played in the sessions. I had expected to take a couple weeks to get all the tracks down. However, we got all the rhythm tracks done in three sessions. That's three sessions for sixteen tunes. In studio time that's quite amazing. I know that the members of this band are exceptionally talented but sometimes I forget just how good they really are. It's nice to have these kinds of reminders.

This is our first studio album since 2002. We released Northwest Polka Country in 2003. That was an amazing album that showcased what was going on with our band at that time. But that was nearly eight years ago. Our personnel has changed and we've had many more musical experiences since that time. This new album will be a more bare-bones album than the previous one; it will be a very close representation of our live sound. We'll have a few friends stop by and add their musical talents but, for the most part, it will be the same thing you would hear us play live on stage.

We haven't chosen a name for the album yet. It's going to be dedicated to my grandfather, Ray Hanson, and my wife's late grandfather, Les Price. Many of you know that my grandfather has played a central role in my life and especially my musical life, having bought me my accordion and my van and paid for my accordion lessons. He's made it possible for me to do what it is that I do as a musician. My wife's grandfather, who passed away in 2008, was one of her biggest fans and supporters and a wonderful lover of music. I was only privileged to know Les for a few years but in that time I got a glimpse of the clever, special person that he was in his life. These two wonderful men have had a huge impact on the lives of my wife and myself and this album will be a way for both of us to express how much we love and appreciate them.

Aside from the studio work, we are doing some playing over the winter. Friday, February 12th we're making our first appearance at Sonny Newman's Dance Hall in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood for his Waltz Night. I've played there with some of my other groups like the Valse Café Orchestra. This will be the first opportunity to show off the Smilin' Scandinavians for the Seattle waltzing community. They're a wonderful group of dancers and I look forward to playing for them. We're also making our annual appearance at Day of the Accordion at the Seattle Center House. That will be Sunday, February 28th. We'll be sharing the stage with many other great groups from the area like the Folkvoice Band, the Northwest Accordionaires and Bonnie Birch. Come out and bask in the glory that is accordion music.

That's all from me for this edition of the Cyber-posten. Enjoy the rest of winter!

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Thursday, September 3

The most wonderful time of the polka year!

Greetings, Scandinavian fans!

September has come to the Pacific Northwest with its cool, cloudy mornings and its warm afternoons. I like this weather; I can wear a heavier shirt in the morning and switch to a light t-shirt around 1pm. It's nice. July was too hot for my comfort and so was much of August. September is the end of summer; it's when the best fruit is ripe and juicy and the kids finally go back to school. It's also the beginning of that most wonderful of all seasons: Oktoberfest! In Bavaria the Oktoberfest is celebrated in September as it has been for nearly 200 years. In this country, however, it's celebrated pretty much any time from the beginning of September to early November. For our band that's a good thing. It means two months out of the year when, as my late friend Lynn Schaefer used to say, "People may not like accordion music but at least they tolerate it." The Smilin' Scandinavians have always found that when we play people love it!

This weekend we're kicking off the Oktoberfest season at the Bremerton Blackberry Festival. We'll be on the Boardwalk on Sunday, September 6th starting at 10am. Our next event is our triumphal return to the Fremont Oktoberfest on September 19th. They're one of the cutting-edge Oktoberfests, and I'm not referring just to their chainsaw pumpkin-carving contest. The Fremont Oktoberfest has their own iPhone App! I've already downloaded it and installed it on my iPhone. You can find it at the App Store on iTunes. The app gives all the necessary information about the Fremont Oktoberfest (including the music schedule) right on you iPhone!

We'll be playing the following weekend at perhaps one of the best Oktoberfests in the Pacific Northwest. The Swiss Sportsman's Park in Bonney Lake is hosting their Oktoberfest on September 26th. It's a fantastic event at their park and dance hall. They have souvenir beer steins and they put on a fantastic dinner of fresh crab or traditional sausages and sauerkraut. It's $25 for tickets but that includes dinner and the stein. What a deal! Be sure and buy your tickets early. They tend to sell out close to the event.

October 3rd has us in Seattle's Meadowbrook neighborhood for the Maple Leaf Lutheran Church Oktoberfest. As Martin Luther once said, "It is better to think of church in the ale house than the ale house in church." Ol' Martin was a good beer drinking German himself. I'm sure he would love this event so much that he'd write 95 Theses extolling its virtues. This event is doubly good because it's only a couple blocks from the banjo player's house. Short commutes make for more beer drinking.

October 9th-11th is our busiest weekend of the year. We're doing four gigs that weekend. We'll be back at Oktoberfest Northwest at the Puyallup Fairgrounds on the 9th and 10th. We go to Fort Lewis to bring a little bit of Bavaria to our troops the evening of the 9th. We're up in Enumclaw for their Oktoberfest the evening of the 10th. And on the 11th we return to the Fairgrounds in Puyallup for the Scandinavian Heritage Festival. It's our one non-Bavarian gig of the season and we enjoy it very much.

We have a lot of private engagements set for this season which will be keeping us very busy right through the end of October. I choose not to list our private gigs because I don't feel there's any reason to promote events that the public cannot attend. Why should I tantalize you with performances that you can't go to? It just doesn't seem fair. Rest assured, we are keeping busy. You can get all the details about our upcoming performances on our website at http://www.smilinscandinavians.com/upcoming.html. All the info you need is right there.

So that's the plan. Before you know it the magical season of beer and bratwurst will be upon us. Please take the opportunity to come out and see us perform. You'll be glad you did.

Skål!

Or, in German...

Prost!

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