Live Review, 8/4/12: Itchy-O and Extra Action Marching Bands Throw an Ecstatic Rite at Brick and Mortar

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Itchy-O Marching band at Brick and Mortar on Saturday.
Extra Action Marching Band, Itchy-O Marching Band, Moe! Staiano, Donkey
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Brick & Mortar Music Hall

Better than: Watching some rockstars on a stage.

Saturday night's marching-band experience was all about sensory overload, full mind/body immersion, coming together in ecstatic ritual. The solo warm-up acts set the tone by lining up then summarily subverting expectations. First, Donkey keyed in heavy synth riffs on his laptop and pounded monster grooves on a trap set. He wore a big, blonde, heavy-metal wig. He pretended like the audience wasn't there, and in doing so, he made us voyeurs to his rock godness, which a shirtless Moe! Staiano soon obliterated.

Staiano married savage drums and razor electro-textures with extended techniques (e.g., hammering a baseball bat that hammered his snare; fretting a prone electric guitar with drumsticks). His rebuttal to Donkey: no separation between man and machine. Staiano's performance projected constant forward motion, the ever-flowing rhythm of life: loud, messy, and profound. We watched with wide eyes, gaping mouths, ears already ringing from the immensity of the sound.

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Moe! Staiano

Itchy-O Marching Band tore down the third wall (and the fourth and the fifth) in an all-enveloping performance that aimed to elevate the conscious mind. Tonight, we would realize all dichotomies are false. Nearly three-dozen performers roared from the stage and the dance floor. They weaved among audience members, making us part of the show. At one point, a woman was pinned against the stage by the martial artists, a formidable presence in their militaristic uniforms, facemasks, lit-up helmets, strap-on tom-toms, massive bass drums, alien keyboards. But there was no danger, save losing one's "self," which is all illusion anyway. She gave herself over -- she had no choice -- and became one with Itchy-O and their audio-visual barrage. Many others in the venue did the same.

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Further blasting away the notion of differences, Itchy-O combined cultural forces: Taiko drums, mariachi getups, pseudofascist propaganda, Illuminati cultishness, cyberpunk splatter, alien space jams, full-face hijabs, even a Chinese dragon that writhed about the dance floor in wild abandon throughout the entire set. There was solidarity in our collective acknowledgement of the freakishness of our ways -- all of our ways. Think 21st century drum circle, where cyborg bulls are slaughtered on the altar of Mystery Science Theater 3000. We were blessed by Itchy-O, literally, as they crawled through the audience, anointing our fevered brows with a sacred Itchy "I" in a sweet nod to Ash Wednesday, a celebration of the broken cross, resurrection of a brand new day. These were the bastard progeny of Crash Worship and Savage Republic. Their full-on embrace of the dark vanquished all fear.

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Extra Action Marching Band
Extra Action brought the final wall down by taking off their clothes and marching around the venue throughout their performance. The massive drums and giant brass blasts of trombones, tuba, and trumpets evoked images of football stadiums, minus the dumb jock vibe. This was more like a pan-sexual, pagan dance party: shimmery pom-poms flitting everywhere, freak flags waving high, and more sweaty skin and carnal writhing than you'll find on a good night at the Lusty Lady. Extra Action embodied the fun-loving wildness of the San Francisco high life. They were the glimmery light to Itchy-O's throbbing darkness. The collusion of these forces and the audience playing along every cacophonous step of the way created a healing energy and a sparkle of hope that man may survive the apocalypse after all.

Critic's Notebook

Sad note: This turned out to be Extra Action's last live performance for some time, as they retire their current material and work out a whole new show, which probably means you'll see them again in late 2013 at the earliest.

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Brick & Mortar Music Hall

1710 Mission, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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