Austrian Express, a locally based party band that plays German and Austrian music, has been performing around the country for nearly 40 years but always returns to Milwaukee this time of year. Bruce Schuetz, the manager and guitarist of the six-member group, agreed to share the band’s story with us.
When did you start playing music?
In grade school. I started with the orchestra, played the viola for many years through grade school and high school. I also played trumpet starting in grade school with one of the German youth bands here in Milwaukee.
When did the band start playing for Oktoberfest?
Back in 1980. We’ve played pretty much every year at all the different Oktoberfests in the area. … We’ve played as far west as Colorado and as far east as New York, as far south as Florida and as far north as Minnesota.
Is there a large German/Austrian music community?
There was years ago, but the musicians are all getting older; some guys just want to retire. The more authentic German bands are few and far between. There’s a lot of bands out there that claim to do German music, but it’s really not. Everybody thinks nowadays that if you put on a pair of lederhosen, you’re a German band, and it’s really not that.