While John King created a nice atmosphere in Pioneer Square tonight, it was hard to find the “Extreme” in Extreme Guitar Orchestra, especially given the bar for extremity set by STREB in last year’s public opening performance. As it turns out, thirty-five guitarists don’t actually take up that much space, or sound that much more impressive than say, five or six guitarists. The musicians, dressed in plain clothes, blended nicely with the audience seated around them. At any given moment, it seemed likely a group of bystanders (or by-sitters) might whip out their guitars and join in. They didn’t. Were this an unadvertised stunt it might have worked better. The music filling the square felt natural, like it should always be a backdrop for the last days of summer. The performance didn’t demand my full attention, and as I drifted in and out of conversation, the guitarists just kept on strumming. Nice, but not the spectacular kick-off I’ve learned to expect from TBA.
But then! Bum-bum…bum-bum…bum-da-ba-da-bum-bum! The Last Regiment Syncopated Drummers burst through the doors of the Visitors Center underneath Starbucks, and lead the delightfully surprised crowd through downtown streets, and over the Hawthorne Bridge. LRSD is one bad-ass drum corps! And that was just the beginning! As LRSD started the movement out of the square, they were followed-up by the Get A Life Marching Band, a group of “High stepping, out of shape” adults (many seniors) decked-out with glowstick batons, gold sequined leg warmers, matching shirts with slogans on the back such as, “I’m in shape—round!” and everything you would ever want in a marching band. Golden oldies have never sounded so good.
As we approached the bridge I was struck with an invigorating and strange sensation. A sensation I had never quite felt before, and that came from marching in support of something being created. Rather than marching in protest and in insistence that actions be stopped, we were demonstrating the creation of art. We were demonstrating community. We were demonstrating joy. We followed the drumming because it was the easiest thing to do. We marched politely, and without litter or vulgar signage. We disrupted traffic and took over the south side of the bridge, but drivers were more confused than irritated. I saw a police officer smiling at us.
We paused on the bridge in anticipation of David Eckard’s floating approach. Though his water-bug craft was impressive and the lights from his canoeing escorts beautiful as the sun set, it was unfortunately impossible to hear what was coming out of his signature megaphones. His act of speaking to the crowd, though, did add to the demonstration flavor of the parade. (Later that night as I was biking home along the East Bank Esplanade, I was passed by a biker adorned with several blinky lights and–no joke–an oar sticking out of his pannier. I’m not completely sure what to make of that, but it instantly made Float much more appealing.)
The best part of the parade came as the bands started up again and wound down the east side underneath the mess of bridges to the industrial streets along the waterfront. Underneath the bridge was one giant shower for the drums to sing in. It was loud enough to set off a series of Audi car alarms as we passed.
As we finally approached the WORKS, a few people in the crowd around me finally wondered aloud, “what’s this all about?”
“It’s an art thing or something,” someone else responded. “And there’s a free party inside. Come on.”
Yes, PICA does still know how to get a party started.
posted by: Kirsten Collins