They’re tight-knit. They’re super fun. They’re musical. They are the Gruber Family Band, and they will be the ones getting you up and dancing at tonight’s Oktoberfest in Lodi. They’ve made a lifestyle around polka and waltzes, and they will share their best with Lodi.
Here, Toni Gruber-Kramar talks about their family traditions and what she expects from tonight’s shindig.
Is the Gruber Family Band really a family?
We’re all family. My brother Peter and I have been playing polka and waltzes for over 37 years. My dad, Al Gruber, retired after 60 years of being a musician. My oldest son Michael plays accordion, and our newest member is my son Martin. He plays saxophone, clarinet and keyboard.
Do you mainly sing?
All of us sing, and I play saxophone and clarinet.
How would you describe your style of musical to someone who has never heard it?
Fun! We play polkas and waltzes, but we play pretty much anything. We have a few rock and a few country songs.
You play a lot of events; is Oktoberfest one of the best?
Our busiest time of year is Oktoberfest (season). We play all year long. We’re booked through the entire two months. People like to come out and have a good time. The people are always wonderful, and there’s never any trouble. We always have kids at our event. Many generations will come out and have a good time.
When you perform at Oktoberfest, is there a certain type of German food you like to eat?
We like all kinds of food. My parents had a restaurant/bar business for 25 years — that’s how Peter and I were raised. We grew up on bread, dumplings, Hungarian dumplings ... all the tasty treats of Europe.
You perform all over the country. Where do you and the band members call home?
Peter lives in Sonoma, Michael is in Folsom, Martin lives in Novato and I’m from Cameron Park.
Wow, your band is spread out. Do you meet on some weeknights and weekends to play?
We’ve been playing together so long (that we can just play). We add songs as we go along. My father hand-wrote hundreds of songs. When he retired, the four of us decided to keep family tradition going.
Is the band a full-time gig for each of you?
No, we each have full-time jobs. I’m an analyst at UC Davis, Peter is a mechanical engineer, Michael is a spa technician and music student at night, and Martin is a machinist.
When you guys are hanging out together, like at Thanksgiving or Christmas, does the group always break out in song?
It’s funny you mention that. Right after Christmas dinner, the first thing we do is pull out instruments and play them.
What makes a good audience? What would you expect from the Lodi audience?
There’s one rule for Oktoberfest: Don’t be boring. Prepare to have fun. We won’t let you sit there and be bored.