I propose that we officially make March 4th 'Alternative Marching Band Day.' March 4th = March Forth. Geddit? And if any traditional American musical style needed alternative-ising, it's the marching band. Long relegated to playing century-old standards at political events and school football games, the genre started to loosen up a bit in the '70s when university bands played the occasional irreverent pop/rock covers amidst the usual Sousa stuff.
In the '80's, a bunch of downtown New York arty-smarties called the Les Miserable Brass Band made a definitive break from both the mainstream and the far more fun (but still traditional) New Orleans styles, interjecting international, modern jazz and experimental influences, and songs like Jimi Hendrix' "Manic Depression." Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, and with the opposite intentions, a gang of drunken Northern Californians called the Ophir Prison Marching Kazoo Band and Temperance Society, LMTD came on like Spike Jones saying "fuck art, let's (polka) dance" with their colorful costumes, stage names, and between-song comedy routines.
In recent years a veritable alt-march explosion has taken place, with numerous bands popping up across the country comprised of former school "band geeks" who still wish to perform, rock and rollers, jazz musicians, non-musicians, and sometimes street performers dancing, walking on stilts, breathing fire, etc, accompanying the blaring brass and thundering drums. No longer relegated to marching across a field at sporting events half-time, they roam city streets, making unscheduled guerilla performances in parks or on subways. They play rock clubs, and show up at political rallies. Some wear a kind of uniform, e.g. red pants & white shirts of any style, and some wear traditional band uniforms, but mis-matched, of any color. Non-traditional instruments (accordions, anyone?) are sometimes thrown into the mix.
I first wrote about this phenomenon after encountering L.A.'s awsome Killsonic crew, and got a number of comments from you fine folks heppin' me to other amazingly talented bands out there (thanks, gang!). Here's a sampling of recent albums now for sale (so go buy 'em) by the new march underground displaying a wide range of styles and sounds.
Avant-March - A Music For Maniacs Compilation
01 Ophir Prison Marching Kazoo Band and Temperance Society, LMTD (Folsom, CA) - Neutron Dance [great cover of a Pointer Sisters song that I'd never really given much thought to before]
02 What Cheer? Brigade (Providence, RI) - Malaguena [Cuban song, with a surf beat - GNARLY]
03 Revolutionary Snake Ensemble (Boston) - Soul Power [hmm, how do they march with that funky poppin' electric bass? Led by a member of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic]
04 Rude Mechanical Orchestra (New York City) - Push It [Salt 'n Peppa never sounded betta]
05 MarchFourth Marching Band (Portland, OR) - Ah Ya Bibit [incredibly powerful ethnic-influenced track - but which country? - from the band that gave this post it's name/concept]
06 Killsonic (Los Angeles) - El Cu Cui [female vox en espanol]
07 Extra Action Marching Band (San Francisco) - Back That Ass Up
08 Infernal Noise Brigade (Seattle) - Gas-No Gas [we posted an entire album by this now defunct but influential outfit HERE]
09 Mucca Pazza (Chicago) - Romanian Dance No1 [Balkan influences are not uncommon with many of these bands]
10 David Byrne - In The Future [the former Talking Head made his 1985 album "The Knee Plays" with the Les Miserable Brass Band]
11 Asphalt Orchestra (New York City) - Zomby Woof [a Zappa cover, courtesy of a Bang On A Can spinoff group]