Archives for June 2011

Day-by-Day in Buffalo with the Batalion

Whoo!  You know, upon returning from our odyssey to Buffalo, Pete acting in his role as artistic director, reminded us all of an important detail we missed in all of our passion-infused rhetoric about storms, fronts, thunder, and the like.  As much as we all love the imagery, the rainbow that comes at the storm’s end leaves a little to be desired for our intimidating, no holds barred image.  Oh well.  So yes, the storm has dissipated for now, but only after a huge success in Buffalo!  We let loose a downpour on Buffalo, and had a great time too.  In case you were wondering what exactly goes on for one of our gigs, here’s a day-by-day blog of our excursion to Buffalo’s Polish Heritage Festival.

Wednesday.

It began it began like any other day in high anticipation of a “Burza” gig; sleeping in and last minute errands.  Tying up local loose ends ahead of a five-day gig was an important factor in setting our departure time and moreover, packing for this specific trip was a bit of a challenge.  James over in Buffalo was nice enough to save us the trouble of bringing tables, thus saving us a decent chunk of space in the cargo hold.  But, because we committed to a full presentation with the entire display, we still had to pack all the heavy gear along with the Spanish Knights.  know what they are?  Check this.  Yep, they’re big, ugly, sharp, and we found out later that they work quite well (more on that later).  I still have no idea how the hell we packed 3 knights, two busts, an mg34 with AA hardware, enough gear and period clothing for 5 people, and all the usual “Burza” equipage into a Dodge B-1500.  Let’s hear it for packing skills!

While JJ and Jenny put the final touches on the van, Jeff was hard at work rounding up some Polish candy and road snacks.  When he returned with an armload of chocolate bars, an assorted collection of canned fish products, and a giant jar of pickles, we were set to pick up Pete in Dearborn and hot the road.  With  an expected 7.5 hour drive time, our target hour for liftoff was a decent 2pm, which added up to pulling out of my driveway at around 6pm.  That’s what we call Burza-perfect time, because hey, you never can predict exactly when the storm will strike.

Alright, I promise to be done with the weather references.

With the notorious Ohio Turnpike speed traps successfully dodged, the team made it to Buffalo fast and in good order.  Despite our building enthusiasm, we all hit the sack early in to rest up for our TV interview at 7am.

Thursday.

I’ll be honest, it felt a little funny being some of the only guests at the Tallyho-tel.  (The name says it all, by the way)  A long line of rooms, a ton of empty parking spaces, and our ersatz band of AK hooligans.  At least we knew we’d have the pool to ourselves.  In any case, Pete and I had the privilege and honor of violently ripping our traveling buddies out of a pleasant and much needed slumber (always fun!) as we kitted up around 6:30am to meet James for our slot on TV. Let me tell you, it’s rough trying to be witty for the camera that early in the morning, but I think we did a pretty good job bouncing off James and the TV Personality on Buffalo’s channel 4.  The worst part of it all was having to stand by while they shot a cooking segment–watching folks prepare a chicken pizza with caviar, sour cream, and dill while on an empty stomach was beyond frustrating, but they were kind enough to share aft the cameras stopped rolling.  Upon our return to the notable Tallyho, Pete and I extracted Jeff and Jenny from the rooms, and we hit Denny’s for a champion-size breakfast.  Then, to the event site!

Pulling into the fairgrounds was a pretty nifty experience: it was the Erie County Fairgrounds, which brandishes the proud distinction of hosting the largest county fair in the country.  Ever been to a fair with a permanent casino?  Yeah, it was pretty large.  James was a good man for giving us a prime spot amidst all the other exhibitors, and with our location scouted, it was time to get busy with the Spanish Knights.  Those things are such a pain in the @$$ to build, but they provide some very cool atmosphere for our story, and that’s why we make ’em.  In practically every picture you see of a German-occupied urban area in WWII, you can find some knights strewn about blocking roads, etc.  That’s a pretty powerful image that generates a lot of feelings, sometimes eerie, sometimes reverent, sometimes even triumphant now that we know it’s a thing of the past.  The atmosphere we create with those things sparks a sobering reminder of the past, and we love to start our presentations that way.  After suffering a few pokes from the barbed wire, it was time to calibrate the MG34.  It was working fine after just a few attempts at finding the right BFA diameter, and before we knew it, the sun was setting and we were late for an important engagement with some hot wings at the Anchor Bar.

Friday.

Go time.  Zero-hour.  D-Day.  W-Hour.  We made sure to arrive with plenty of time to arrange the display.  You can imagine how confusing it might be to deal with a big number of priceless WWII artifacts, lots of firearms, all the period clothing and equipage, and the other components of our setup, but for us, it’s what we do–like a well-oiled machine, we were off and running for the very first guests.  As far as we’re concerned, an event like this was a great opportunity to inspire Polish-American people to re-examine their own heritage, as opposed to other events where the audience is primary non-Polish, then the delivery of our message changes a little.  A very healthy amount of people visited us through the day, and our team made sure everyone left with a good experience.  Speaking of which, good experiences were especially plentiful when the crowd could watch us shoot a vintage K98, our hear the MG34 eat a belt of rounds during the firearms demo.  Because of our close proximity to the fairgrounds’ stable, we only had time for one demo before the horses were turned out for the night.  Way to conserve ammo: Każdy pocisk – jeden Niemiec

Saturday.

More of the same, only this time with lots more people, and firing demos on the hour…talk about busy!  Other than that, we had a very special guest: Alexandros.  You may not have heard if him, but to us, he’s a hero.  When he visited us wearing a blue collared shirt and a dapper fishing hat, we greeted him like any other guest: introducing ourselves, thanking him for coming by, and starting to talk about the 1944.  Anyone could tell by his accent that he was Polish, and his age told us that he was one of the greatest generation.  Sure enough, Alex was a young boy  of 17 when the Rising broke out, and recalled the exodus through Warsaw’s kanals toward the time of surrender.  It’s people like him that truly drive what we do; Alex and his friends and comrades are the real heroes.  Only they are the real deal.

All in all, Buffalo was a successful every way you look at it.

Thanks for a great time, Buffalo.  See you next year.