How do you say "Welcome to the North Side" in German?
Eins, zwei, g'suffa.
Tonight, you can follow the lederhosen to Penn Brewery, where Karl Lukitsch and Autobahn will be putting the oomph into the oom-pah music.
"We have music every Friday and Saturday night, and sometimes we have another German band on some Wednesdays," said Linda Nyman, the marketing director at Penn Brewery for the past four years. "It's a big attraction. Penn Brewery is that authentic German beer hall, and a beer hall is supposed to be lively and fun. And music is part of the environment."
Not that it's always German music. Sometimes it's Polish or Slovenian music. Or reggae.
"We do try to mix up the music," Ms. Nyman said. "Blues, reggae, acoustic. Really we run the gamut. People are looking to have a good time and music plays a part in that."
Although it's hard to imagine mixing schweinebraten and salsa music.
"Of course, when we have our Oktoberfest, it's all about the oom-pah bands and the strolling accordion players," Ms. Nyman said.
Penn Brewery has been pumping out foamy fermented delight since 1986. The restaurant opened in 1989, and it wasn't long before they squeezed in a squeeze box.
"Autobahn is the classic German band that speaks to our heritage," Ms. Nyman said.
Karl Lukitsch and Autobahn have been playing "beer-drinking, stein-swaying, prost-pounding, pretzel-munching, boot-slapping sing-a-longs" for 15 years. Mr. Lukitsch might be a used car salesman, but this son of an Austrian immigrant was born to play the accordion.
"I won the talent show at Wilkinsburg High in 1973 playing an accordion," he said with distinct pride. "And I've had bands since 1974. The bands I've been in have re-invented ourselves so many times and played so many kinds of music. But that's the beauty of playing music.
"It's a hobby, and it's the greatest hobby in the world. First off, we have a blast. Second, we get paid to do it. And third of all, they expect you to drink beer."
It's not all suds and swaying. There are intricate differences between the polkas.
"Polkas were invented in Czechoslovakia," Mr. Lukitsch said. "German polkas are just a different style. They're a little slower than Slovenian polkas and Slovenian polkas are a little faster than Polish polkas. The instrumentation is mainly what separates them. And, of course, the languages.
"The accordion is featured more in German polkas. Horns are more Polish style. They're all the same, but they have different intonations. Most of the time it comes down to the tempo, the speed."
But they all blend together pretty well on the North Side.
Autobahn tends toward the high-energy Slovenian style polkas and waltzes. This style also is known as "Cleveland style." In fact, Karl Lukitsch and Autobahn were nominated in 1997 for "Best New Band" at the Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame in Euclid. (Eleven musical miles from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)
Pittsburgh, however, is Autobahn's home.
"Pittsburgh, being the melting pot with the mills and everybody that settled here from Europe, we play everywhere throughout this area -- north, south, east and west -- and polkas go over very well," Mr. Lukitsch said.
Autobahn -- featuring John Yukovich and Jerry Zagar -- plays at Penn Brewery, 800 Vinial St., on the fourth Friday of every month at 7 p.m. If you miss them tonight, you can catch them Saturday at 8 p.m. at Hunter's Roadhouse in New Kensington.
You'll know them when you see them. They'll be the guys wearing lederhosen.
"The music would be the same without it, but you gotta put on a show," Mr. Lukitsch said. "If I were up there dressed like MC Hammer, people probably wouldn't respect it as much."
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at email@example.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/