Hoop dee-doo for Ruth

Nye’s celebrates another year in the life of the famed accordion player, Ruth Adams

by Amber Schadewald

;Wanted: Energetic yet well-mannered party persons for fun in sparkly vinyl seats, groovin’ to the ones and twos and slammin’ whiskey.

Me: Polish. A classy 57. Loud. Retro. Best with booze.

You: Good hopping and clapping skills. Experimental. Fan of P.D.A. and your grandparents’ record collection.

Popped collars, skanky dancers and snooty attitudes need not apply. Two-step skills appreciated.

Finding that special bar can be difficult, but the folks at Nye’s Polonaise Room have got the answer: The World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band and a musical goodie-bag that somehow appeals to just about everyone and their mother, and especially their grandmother.

More specifically, they have Ruth Adams.

Ruth Adams is kind of a big deal. The only original member in the current polka band, Adams dazzles audiences with her accordion skills.

Greg Peterson, a monthly visitor to the “Nordeast” hangout, said he doesn’t listen to polka on his iPod, but can’t resist Adams and the band.

“I’d never go out with a girl who said she wouldn’t go to Nye’s,” he said with a convincing smirk.

With fans coming from as far as Lakeville and as close as Dinkytown, Adams is a Minneapolis icon.

“People know me,” she admits.

The band, which has its own documentary, has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “The Rachael Ray Show” and will soon appear on the Food Network.

When asked how she feels about being such a celebrity, Adams replied with a meek “OK,” then took another bite of her prime rib sandwich, well done, on pumpernickel.

A few weeks ago, some young guy (who was apparently around 35 years old) proposed to Ruth. She said no.

Adams and her band aren’t getting any younger, but their aged sound and faces are what continue to impress the crowds who come to see them kick it.

Over the hill and back again, these old geezers put age back in tune.

Turning a fabulous 75 on Feb. 26, the Twin Cities’ best accordion player celebrated another year well spent on the stage with the 18th annual “Not Such a Surprise-Surprise Birthday” party Saturday night.

By 10:45 p.m., the tiny bar and dance floor were packed shoulder to shoulder as the band blasted “The Hokey Pokey” to a crowd with an average age of 30 and average blood alcohol level of .08.

Esquire Magazine’s Best Bar in America 2006 is known for attracting a wide range of weekend party animals – from dreadlocks to receding hairlines, hipsters to regular Joes, hooded sweatshirts to stilettos and married couples to sassy singles.

The stage shines bright, located next to the bathrooms and tucked tight into the corner.

Across the room, Christmas lights line the ceiling over the bar, while the comfy booths glow a dark red, both easy on the eyes and a little sexy.As the bachelorette party in front of the stage put their right hand in, a few classic Minnesotan accents could still be heard slicing through the oompa-pahs, including a “For crying out loud,” from one man who was pushed up against the wall during the song’s “shake it all around” lyric.

At 11:30 Adams made her way off the stage, slowly pushing through the crowd, who by this time were wearing Sponge Bob birthday hats and playing “Happy Birthday” on kazoos.

A big cake decorated with music notes flickered with only about a third of the candles it would take to represent Adams’ age.

She blew out all but three in the first breath, causing someone to shout from the crowd, “Ruth has three boyfriends.”

With enough cake for everyone in the bar, frosting-faced beer drinkers enjoyed the sweet treat as they raised their glasses to Adams.

After two pieces, Joe Hayden – the band’s trumpet player/vocalist – hurried Adams back up to her seat on the stage as she licked the frosting off her fingers.

Birthday or not, Adams didn’t let the excitement affect her playing. Toes tappin’ in her Velcro shoes, a dead stare and tightly pressed lips were evidence of deep concentration throughout the five-hour set. That’s just the way she does it, and, apparently, just the way the people like it.

Dancing his own version of the polka – a jig consisting of hops, fist pumping and turns – John Klesk, a Carlson MBA student, was wearing a World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band T-shirt while he danced to the blasting trumpet sounds.

“This is my second shirt. I wore my first one out,” he said with a big grin.

Wearing a white T-shirt with glittery notes, Adams, along with Hayden sat down in one of the monstrous booths on Nye’s bar side to discuss their legendary careers as polka professionals.

Adams grew up in Mound, hating school and loving music.

“Music was always easy for me. I’d hear a piece and I could go and play it,” she said.

By kindergarten she was playing piano, learning the basics from one of her sisters and then taking lessons for a decade.

In 1946, Adams met a shoemaker who introduced her to the ol’ squeezebox, (a.k.a. the accordion) filled with buttons and a whole new world of possibilities.

“I thought, boy, it looks easy,” Ruth said when she first saw the instrument. “But then I found out it wasn’t.”

Determined, Adams started lessons and relentlessly practiced every day after school, one hour on the piano and two on the accordion.

After graduation she took classes at a couple accordion schools in Minneapolis, started playing a few gigs and ended up with the weekend spot at Nye’s – 32 years later, she’s still there and has no plans of calling it quits. Adams rarely misses a note, much less a performance.

“If the Gophers had as much dedication as Ruth, we’d win a National Championship,” Klesk insisted I write down.

Every Friday and Saturday the band plays till 1:30 a.m., hours after your average 50-year-old turns off the “Late Show” and hits the hay.

Hell, that’s later than the average freshman can hold their liquor.

But do her fingers ever get tired? Nope. How about her voice? No way.

“If you love music, you don’t get tired playing it,” Hayden answered for Adams.

Occasionally Adams has been known to fall asleep onstage (which they claim is part of the show), but the playing doesn’t stop. The snoring only adds to the band’s crazy repertoire of sound effects.

Adams also barks, Chihuahua style, during the “Barking Dog Polka,” causing a few of the newbies on Saturday night to search the room for a small pooch under their table.

Hip with every genre, Adams does a mean impersonation of Gene Simmons and even raps a little ditty during the “Too Fat Polka,” with lyrics that would be at home on an MTV music video.

“I don’t want her, you can have her, she’s too fat for me,” she huffs into the mic.

“Nobody else can pull this stuff off,” Hayden said, “but Ruthie can.”