O’Kraut can’t wait to get back to live performances

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It’s been a while since local musical group O’Kraut stepped onto a stage in Prince Albert, but that hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm.

Band members Don Bendig, Mario Kaun, Jim McKillop and Ren Kreig will be on stage Saturday in Memorial Square when O’Kraut performs for the first time since COVID-19 began. Bendig said the band were happy to return to play, but it will take some getting used to.

“It’s been hard on the fingers so far,” he said with a chuckle. “So far I haven’t played live – we’re just getting fit for it, training etc – but I’m looking forward to it, I’ll tell you.”

Like most bands, O’Kraut had few opportunities to play music during the outbreak, and no opportunities to perform live. Bendig said the goal was never to make money, so it didn’t hurt them financially, but they missed the camaraderie of playing together.

“We have been practically closed for two years. There was nothing, really,” he explained.

“Monetarily it hasn’t really affected me, but for those of us who like to play music, it’s been a little frustrating.”

O’Kraut returns Saturday with another local band, The Grassy Blues, to Memorial Square. The two groups plan to alternate one-hour sets from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The original plan was to play two hours in a row, but Bendig said they were trying to backtrack by changing every hour.

“In the days before COVID, playing a two-hour block wouldn’t have been a big deal,” he explained. “Today the fingers are a little tender.”

Known locally as “the German guys who play Irish music”, O’Kraut got their start as a two-member band playing at McKee’s Irish Pub in Prince Albert. At the time, Bendig and bandmate Mario Kaun had little ambition to play more music. It was pub owner Pat McKee who gave them the boost they needed.

“Pat wanted to do some publicity to let people know what was going on, so he asked us what the name of the band was,” Bendig recalled. “At the time, we didn’t even have a name. We didn’t even consider ourselves a band, but suddenly I found (a name). Germans playing Irish music? Alright, (we are) O’Kraut.

The band have since added two new members and expanded their set list beyond the Irish songs they love to sing. Bendig said audiences could hear a lot of those tunes in Memorial Square on Saturday.

“Our repertoire has expanded a bit,” he said. “We still do quite a bit of Irish, but certainly more fully, so don’t be afraid to drop by if you’re looking for something other than Irish (music).

O’Kraut and The Grassy Blues perform Saturday at the downtown sidewalk sale. The event will include activities for children, live art demonstrations and a food and history tour.

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